One day before the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, two government-intercepted calls in Arabic foreshadowed the catastrophic event, wrote scholar Nathaniel Frank.
"Tomorrow is zero hour," said one of the voices. "The match is about to begin," came another ominous line.
The only problem was, they weren't translated by the National Security Agency until September 12, 2001, a day after the world was irrevocably changed. In part, that was due to a lack of Arabic speakers in the intelligence community at the time, a shortage that was also putting a squeeze on the military. The epic failing was part of what began to highlight an acute weakness in U.S. defense—a dire shortage in linguists across the board, but especially of those who specialized in Arabic, Farsi, and Korean.
That shortage was one of the reasons an initial 2002 report of the military discharging nine gay soldiers who specialized in Arabic, Korean, and Mandarin captured the attention of mainstream media and began a shift in public opinion about the military's gay ban. It turned out the military had ultimately discharged 757 gay soldiers in "critical occupations" between 1994-2005, including interrogators, translators, intelligence analysts and others, according to Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.
Now we find out the military is at again. Only this time, instead of firing lesbian and gay soldiers from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, it's sacking native speakers of Arabic, Korean, and other languages because they are immigrants. The AP writes:
The service members affected by the recent discharges all enlisted in recent years under a special program aimed at bringing medical specialists and fluent speakers of 44 sought-after languages into the military. The idea, according to the Defense Department, was to “recognize their contribution and sacrifice.”
But under Trump, you can forget about the "contribution and sacrifice" of immigrants who sign up to protect this country—and you can scrap our national security right alongside it. Already, 40 immigrant recruits have been forced out or lapsed into “questionable status.” Knowing the military, that number is likely higher than these initial reports suggest. It's appalling, both morally and strategically, and our country will ultimately pay a heavy, heavy price in blood and treasure for this bigoted and shortsighted farce of a policy, courtesy of Donald Trump.
Trump’s policies are crippling our national security on multiple levels—many of them in ways we cannot see. But "quietly discharging" immigrants who volunteer to take a bullet for this country and were recruited precisely because they could contribute critical skills is a glaring and tangible error of epic proportions perpetrated by a guy who dodged military service over some pesky bone spurs.
Blood will be on his hands. Blood.
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