January 12, 2005

Whither Translators

So this evening I stumbled across this depressing old ABC report about how the military badly needs more Arabic translators:
The shortage of Arabic translators in Iraq has made it harder for U.S. soldiers to protect themselves, jeopardized interrogations of suspected al-Qaida terrorists in U.S. custody in Cuba and left almost no one to defend American policy on Arab television stations.
Like I said, depressing. Offhand, I've heard stories of soldiers getting shot at or bombed after walking right past Arabic signs telling all the civilians to keep away. So where the hell are all our translators? Ah, here we go. Deep below the fold, in today's Washington Post front-pager about the now-defunct hunt for Iraq's WMDs:
Several hundred military translators and document experts will continue to sift through millions of pages of documents on paper and computer media sitting in a storeroom on a U.S. military base in Qatar.
Um, what? True, these folks aren't just wasting their time sniffing around for WMDs—instead they're dredging up stuff on war crimes, and possibly the fate of an old fighter pilot shot down a decade ago—but what the f? Intelligence on the Sunni insurgency is awful. Iraq is going to shit. People are dying. Do we honestly have several hundred military translators to spare in a storeroom in Qatar?
-- Brad Plumer 3:36 AM || ||