Saturday, January 15, 2005

Military Homophobia Leads to Discharge of 26 Gay Linguists Who Are Vital to National Security Measures

Military Has Discharged 26 Gay Linguists
By KIM CURTIS, Associated Press Writer
Posted at Yahoo

SAN FRANCISCO - The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group.

The group contends the records show that the military — at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies don't have enough Arabic speakers — is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.

Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The military previously confirmed that seven translators who specialized in Arabic had been discharged between 1998 and 2003 because they were gay. The military did not break down the discharges by year, but said some, but not all, of the additional 13 discharges of Arabic speakers occurred in 2004.

Aaron Belkin, the center's director, said he wants the public to see the real costs of "don't ask, don't tell."

"We had a language problem after 9/11 and we still have a language problem," Belkin said Wednesday.

The military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts.

"The military is placing homophobia well ahead of national security," said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for the rights of gay military members. "It's rather appalling that in the weeks leading up to 9/11 messages were coming in, waiting to be translated ... and at the same time they were firing people who could've done that job."

But others, like Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, a conservative advocacy group that opposes gays serving in the military, said the discharged linguists never should have been accepted at the elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey in the first place.

"Resources unfortunately were used to train young people who were not eligible to be in the military," she said.

In the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 543 Arabic linguists and 166 Farsi linguists graduated from their 63-week courses, according to a DLI spokesman. That was up from 377 and 139, respectively, in the previous year.

Experts have identified the shortage of Arabic linguists as contributing to the government's failure to thwart the Sept. 11 attacks. The independent Sept. 11 commission made similar conclusions.

Ian Finkenbinder, an Army Arabic linguist who graduated from the Defense Language Institute in 2002, was discharged from the military last month after announcing to his superiors that he's gay. Finkenbinder, who said his close friends in the Army already knew he was gay, served eight months in Iraq and was about to return for a second tour when he made the revelation official.

"I looked at myself and said, `Are you willing to go to war with an institution that won't recognize that you have the right to live as you want to,'" said Finkenbinder, 22, who now lives in Baltimore. "It just got to be tiresome to deal with that — to constantly have such a significant part of your life under scrutiny."

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network last month sued the government on behalf of 12 other gay former military members seeking reinstatement. They argue that "don't ask, don't tell" violates their constitutional rights.

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1 comment:

Francis Holland said...

Many gays enter the military in their teens and are faced with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", a policy under which the dismissal of gays from the military has increased rather than decreased, with gay young men and women unable to acknowledge their sexuality at the risk of losing their miltary jobs.

If you want someone to blame for this horrible policy, look no further than ex-military people who raised their voices in apparent unison back in 1993, demanding that Clinton not allow gays to participate in the military. Here's just one example from back then and it comes from a surprising source: Markos Moulitsas, the owner of the DailyKos blog, who was in the military before he started his DailyKos blog. Here's what he wrote and published at his college newspaper for other teenaged gays to read:

"Military Right


It's truly disturbing how much ado has been made over Bill Clinton's campaign promise to lift the ban on homosexuals from the U.S. military. It's ironic how it has taken a president who has never served in the military to make a promise that affects the military in such a negative manner.

Those who have served in the military, such as myself, understand the demands and pressures of military life are incompatible with allowing integration with homosexuals. I'm neither socially conservative or prejudiced, and neither is liberal columnist Mike Royko, Gen. Colin Powell, and influential liberal Democrats Sam Nunn and Les Aspin, all who've come out against lifting the ban.

Under military circumstances, as much has to be done as possible to focus the unit's mission and keep disciplinary problems to a minimum. Worrying about whether the known homosexual sleeping next to you is watching as you change your underwear may seem trivial as you read this, but to the soldier who's short-tempered after three weeks in the field and four hours of daily sleep, it becomes a matter of great importance to his pride and sensibilities. And in any case, there aren't many people who would change clothes in a group of co-workers if members of the opposite sex were in the same room watching. There is something inherently uncomfortable about it.

Such fears would go a long way in disrupting efficiency and morale in a unit.




I think this sort of homophobic nonsense creates hysteria and pressure for gays, especially teenagers in the military, to stay closeted. It also helps put our whole society "let's all fear gays" mood. Here's a petition to sign demanding that the blogger disavow this letter and the views expressed in it:

I've prepared and posted an online petition demanding that Markos Moulitsas publicly disavow the sentiments and policy recommendations he made in this letter.

Please sign the petition and help make it clear that you can't pretend to be a "progressive", "liberal", "leftist" blogger while refusing to disavow crap like the letter posted above. The petition is available at: