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The homosexual translator menace. (last word).

If the newest warnings of a calamitous attack by al-Qaeda come true, you can blame the antigay policies of the U.S. government for the military's failure to detect the details of the latest onslaught before it occurs. According to our government's brilliant policy, you can be a gay assistant secretary of Defense (like former Pentagon spokesman--turned--NBC correspondent Pete Williams) or a gay CIA agent serving in the same foxhole as a Special Forces officer in Afghanistan. But the one thing you cannot be is a gay member of the uniformed armed forces.

Well, as a matter of fact--making this whole scenario even more reminiscent of The Twilight Zone--according to a recent feature in this magazine ["Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Go," November 26], sometimes a gay service member can stay in, as long as his commanding officer considers him butch enough to avoid routine harassment.

But the one thing you can absolutely never be is a gay member of the group most needed to forestall the next terrorist attack: the Army-trained Arabic linguists who might actually understand one of the hundreds of thousands of conversations and E-mails that the government is now authorized to scrutinize under the USA PATRIOT Act, which--believe it or not--is actually an acronym for the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism" Act. Don't you feel safer already?

The shortage of Arabic speakers in the FBI and the CIA was one of the most conspicuous failures leading to the government's inability to connect the dots before the catastrophes at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A few days after September 11, I ran into Robert Morgenthau, the legendary Manhattan district attorney. Morgenthau mentioned that he had one Arabic translator on his staff whom his federal colleagues in New York were constantly trying to borrow because they had no full-time Arabic translators before the attacks.

But as far as the Army is concerned, it's better to have no Arabic translators than to have gay ones. News of the Army's latest effort to protect us from the homosexual translating menace was broken in The New Republic by Nathaniel Frank, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, the superb think tank run by Aaron Belkin at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Frank reported that within one two-month period last fall, "seven fully competent" Arabic linguists had been discharged from the Army's elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., because they were gay. In fact, the number of gay students there may have contributed to a false sense of security among those students. Frank wrote that the institute's Northern California location attracted "a large number" of gay linguists. "There were way too many gay people at DLI for anybody to fear the `don't ask, don't tell' policy," Frank quoted a gay former student as saying. "Sometimes we lived on halls that were more than 50% homosexual."

All of which may explain why Alastair Gamble, who was a star student at DLI, felt comfortable enough to invite his boyfriend and fellow student to spend the night with him after he had completed more than 30 weeks of intensive Arabic training. Unfortunately, that was also the night of a surprise "health and welfare" inspection at 3:30 A.M., and the two men were caught in bed together. Both of them were discharged.

Of course, even if you are as fervently in favor of openly gay people serving in the military as I am, you may still thank Gamble went too far by going to bed with his boyfriend. In that case, think again. Israel and every original member of NATO except Portugal and the United States now allow gays to serve openly in their armies. And the Spanish Civil Guard, founded by Francisco Franco, has just announced a new policy: Any gay couple who have been together for at least two years can sleep together in the guard's barracks.
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Author:Kaiser, Charles
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Jan 21, 2003
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