In a time when Arab linguists are scarce and more necessary than ever, 26 were discharged by the U.S. military based on their sexual preferences. In such light, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy the military has regarding its employees seems more flawed than ever.
British newspaper The Guardian summed it up quite succinctly when it suggested the military appeared to be “putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.” In the article, the paper reported 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers were let go between 1998 and 2004 once it became known they were homosexual. The military had only acknowledged seven so far, but after the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military requested more information based on the Freedom of Information Act, it became known that the number of employees fired for such reasons was larger than had been acknowledged by the military, The Guardian wrote Thursday.
In the investigation done by the 9/11 Commission, it became clear that one primary deficiency that made the Sept. 11 attacks more likely to occur was a shortage of linguists who could analyze the data obtained.
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been in effect since 1993 when it was introduced by President Bill Clinton with help from Colin Powell, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time. It states, “sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender.”
Since the policy’s induction, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has reported 8,409 known cases of military personnel being fired based on their sexual orientation.
The idea was to stop the military from actively searching for homosexuals in its ranks, but it is now becoming more and more obvious that the act is instead forcing individuals to lie about their identity for fear of losing their jobs. Aside from the unnecessary waste of already-sparse specialists — linguists, in this case — it can hardly be the goal of the armed forces of the self-proclaimed freest nation in the world to force its citizens into lying about one of their most basic and identifying characteristics.