At a House Armed Services Committee meeting earlier today, Rep. Gary Ackerman told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the United States Military seemed more "afraid of gay people than they are [of] terrorists, but they’re very brave with the terrorists." He also suggested that the State Department consider hiring linguists discharged from the military under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy which prohibits servicemembers from being openly gay or lesbian.
Ackerman was speaking about the miltary's decision to discharge lesbian and gay servicemembers, including linguists who are able to translate Arabic.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network reacted to the news quickly, issuing a statement by Sharon Alexander, the organization's deputy director of policy. "Considering the critical shortage of linguists in the armed forces, a platoon of Arabic-speaking lesbians may be just what the military needs,” she said. “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 added.
Apparently mocking the regulations, Ackerman said "If the terrorists ever got hold of this information, they’d get a platoon of lesbians to chase us out of Baghdad."
According the the SLDN statement, the Government Accountability Office has reported that the Pentagon has discharged 55 Arabic translators. All told, over 300 linguists have been dismissed.
"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," SLDN's Ackerman added.