So if you’ve been watching HBO’s phenomenal series Generation Kill (and man, how great was last night’s episode?), you’ll note the problems the 1st Recon Battalion has with its Iraqi translator. The character who represents reporter Evan Wright expresses some surprise to learn that “translator” was singular–as in, the lead battalion going into Iraq only had one. And the translator isn’t even a member of the military. He’s an Arab they’ve hired who steals from Iraqis, is rather unreliable (they have to postpone the invasion due to his tardiness), and he seems prone to “translating” what the Iraqis are saying into grand gestures of praise and thanks for the American liberators. Which of course doesn’t do much good when the Marines need to know what the Iraqis are actually saying.
It leaves you wondering, how the hell could there be no one in the entire military be fluent in Arabic? As it turns out, there were plenty of people who could speak Arabic–probably nowhere near enough, but certainly enough that we could have outfitted our initial invading battalions with more than one.
What happened? Well, thanks to Congress, the military kicked many of them out. Because they’re gay. Worse, even after all of this came out, and after it became known that the troops in Iraq were having communications problems with the Iraqis because of the language barrier, the purges continued. As of May of last year, we’d booted some 58 Arab linguists because they violated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
(An unrelated question is why so homosexuals in the military end up becoming linguists–or why so many military linguists get outted. And please, no “cunning linguist” jokes. I’m trying to make a point, here, dammit.)
All of which brings me to this completely ridiculous story about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hearings on Capitol Hill last week. The “star” of the hearing was barking homophobe Elaine Donnelly, who…well…just read on.
Donnelly treated the panel to an extraordinary exhibition of rage. She warned of “transgenders in the military.” She warned that lesbians would take pictures of people in the shower. She spoke ominously of gays spreading “HIV positivity” through the ranks.
“We’re talking about real consequences for real people,” Donnelly proclaimed. Her written statement added warnings about “inappropriate passive/aggressive actions common in the homosexual community,” the prospects of “forcible sodomy” and “exotic forms of sexual expression,” and the case of “a group of black lesbians who decided to gang-assault” a fellow soldier.
At the witness table with Donnelly, retired Navy Capt. Joan Darrah, a lesbian, rolled her eyes in disbelief. Retired Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, a gay man who was wounded in Iraq, looked as if he would explode.
Inadvertently, Donnelly achieved the opposite of her intended effect. Though there’s no expectation that Congress will repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” and allow gays to serve openly in the military, the display had the effect of increasing bipartisan sympathy for the cause.
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), a veteran of the war in Iraq, called Donnelly’s words “an insult to me and many of the soldiers” by saying they “aren’t professional enough to serve openly with gay troops while successfully completing their military mission.”
Retorted Donnelly: “What would you say to Cynthia Yost, the woman on a training exercise assaulted by a group of lesbians?”
The case Donnelly was referring to allegedly happened in 1974.
Oddly enough, Donnelly’s non-profit is called the Center for Military Readiness.