09 February 2007

Condi and the Cunning Linguists

(This one's a tad long, folks, but stay with me -- it's worth it. Politicians getting their comedy on, and Condi looking like an ass.)

Seems we're facing a "foreign language deficit", according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

No shit! We delay foreign language instruction until high school (middle school if you're lucky) , require only 2 years, and the instruction is, for the most part, in English, hello, because the students "can't understand it" in the language they're learning.


When we lived in Germany, the eldest daughter started 1st grade in a German Immersion program.

"Immersion" meant only German was spoken. She learned.

When we lived in Hungary, those teachers did not play. The offspring had a choice: learn Hungarian or flunk. They learned.

When we returned to the States, daughter #1 continued with German and was floored when the instructor spoke English in class. These were 5th and 6th year honors language students! Now that's just sorry. Daughter #2 started Spanish here, in 8th grade. The teacher still uses English in class, and the kids are just basic conversational level. After 4 years. In most other countries, bilingual is just the basics.

But ... that is not what this post is about.

Turns out Condi was talking about a different kind of "foreign language deficit": seems we're short on translators fluent in Farsi and Arabic.

This is not good news, what with G. Dubya's War and all. No Sir-ee Bob.

Luckily, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) has a solution: Why not hire all those (gasp) gay translators discharged from the military behind the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy? Say! Now that's a heck of an idea!

Over 320 linguists trained in critical languages have been given the old combat boot to the ass, because somebody asked or somebody told. At least 55 of these were fluent in Farsi or Arabic.

(Hey, wait a minute ... isn't Farsi the Persian language spoken in Iran? But, why would Condi be worried about a shortage of Farsi linguists, unless ...)


I looked up the transcript. This is just too good to pass up. Grab the popcorn, y'all -- this is some funny shit!

Ackerman: It seems that the Defense Department has a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" when it comes to homosexuals. You don't have such a prohibition in your agency, do you?"

Condi: No, we do not.

Ackerman: Well, it seems that the military has gone around and fired a whole bunch of people who speak foreign languages — Farsi and Arabic, etc. — after they trained them in their foreign language schools for 63 weeks, and presumably they all pass all kinds of security things, and many of them told on themselves and were fired.

As a former combat boot-ee and top secret security clearance holder, I can tell you there is some serious money involved with getting a TS clearance. And the Defense Language Institute? Cha-ching! It's a 6 year enlistment -- if you qualify -- not 3 or 4, because they invest so much $ into the linguists' training. It would cost $190 million to replace those 322 linguists. $190 million. Not counting the money already spent on the discharged linguists' training.

Ackerman: For some reason, the military seems more afraid of gay people than they are [of] terrorists, because they’re very brave with the terrorists. I mean, if the terrorists ever got a hold of this information, they’d get a platoon of lesbians to chase us out of Baghdad.

Go on Congressman! I about peed myself when I heard that. I bet Condi did too.

Ackerman: The affirmative suggestion that I would make is why can’t the State Department look to pick up all those people that were fired from the military because apparently you don’t have a policy, and put these three dozen Farsi and Arabic people to work doing what you’re suggesting would cost a lot of money to train, etc., because we have them.

Makes sense to me. Here comes the best part:

Ackerman: Can we marry up those two — or maybe that’s the wrong word — can we have some kind of union of those two issues, that you might be willing to –


Condi: Congressman, I’m not aware of the availability of people, but I certainly will look at what we are doing right now.

I just bet she will. No, I'm serious -- recruiters are having a hell of a time keeping the ranks full. What, with G. Dubya's War and all. We need all the Patriots we can get.

Sharon Alexander, deputy director of policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), and a veteran, had this to offer:

Sharon Alexander: Considering the critical shortage of linguists in the armed forces, a platoon of Arabic-speaking lesbians may be just what the military needs.

Ha! No she didn't! This just gets better and better!

Sharon Alexander: In fact, faced with the shortage of language
experts, the military would do well to consider Congressman Ackerman's point. We cannot afford to lose critical personnel because of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. There are many brave gay men and lesbians who report for duty every day, and their contributions are immeasurably important to our national security.

She's got that right. And she wraps it up with this:

Sharon Alexander: Secretary Rice would have no trouble finding gay linguists. In fact, our government could go a long way in addressing the shortage of language expertise by doing just as Congressman Ackerman suggests. SLDN would be happy to introduce Secretary Rice to our many clients who speak Arabic but have been dismissed because of the ban.

Damn! I don't know about you, but I'd buy popcorn and and a ticket to watch that meeting. Who says politics is boring? I found this entertaining as hell.

Oh, by the by, Daughter #1 is currently taking Arabic in college. This'll be her 4th language, how 'bout that? I'm expecting Condi to come a-knockin' on the dorm door any day now.

OK, basically, these linguists were deemed unsuitable for military service, after having gone through extensive training at the Defense Language Institute, and after having been granted a Top Secret (plus) security clearance, both at great expense to Ol' Uncle Sam.

So ... who I sleep with affects my language skills? Who knew?

I'm sorry, but sleeping with men hasn't (so far) had the effect of finely honing my German or Hungarian skills, try as I might. Sometimes my Hungarian did improve after a couple of shots of tequila, but not as a result of sex or relationships with men. Damn.

Well, let's see though, I've got a friend who speaks fluent Spanish. Gay and transgender. Another friend, fluent German, and -- oops -- she's bi. How 'bout that! Oh, did I mention, German-speaker is currently one of the best goddamn First Sergeants in this US Army? (Spanish-speaker got The Boot from the Navy back in the day, before Don't Ask Don't Tell.)

I'm thinking orientation doesn't have shit to do with one's language skills.

If I were one of the ou(s)ted linguists, I'd tell G. Dubya and Co. to go have themselves a slow comfortable screw. I mean, these linguists weren't compatible with military life before, but now that the administration is short on War volunteers, all of a sudden maybe these folks are good enough to translate after all? My, my, my.

Well, we need to know what our "enemies" are up to (I'm sorry, just who would that be this week?) , so how'd you like a warm welcome back to the foxhole, Comrade? I'm just asking.


ashalyn said...

See what being a homophobic freak gets you? In debt.

Your background looks cool.

more cowbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
more cowbell said...

I know, I couldn't believe Ackerman went there! Too good!

Thanks, I learned how to put a background in the html code.

You know, this thing won't let you edit comments? I had to remove one b/c of a typo, then you're left with this big "comment deleted" thing so everyone knows you're a non-spelling individual.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't that gay military linguists are being hunted down and thrown out of the military for being homosexual. The problem is, many homosexual linguists in the service are turning themselves in as a way to slide out of their military commitment AFTER receiving free language training.
I'm sure a few have been investigated and then tossed out, but it seems to me that most of the people "kicked out" were trying to get kicked out.
We should abolish Don't Ask/Don't Tell simply because it is being used by many homosexuals and by some dishonest straight men (who claim to be gay) as a quick and easy way to get out of the military.