Imagine my surprise when I came across this item from the Associated Press wire on Friday: "Struggling to find enough doctors, nurses and linguists for the war effort, the Pentagon will temporarily recruit foreigners who have been living in the United States on student and work visas, or with refugee or political asylum status."
That can't be. So I went straight to the Pentagon's Armed Forces Press Service and found that yes, indeed, it's true. Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, made the announcement. Isn't he afraid of Lou Dobbs? What happening with the serious felons the armed forces have been admitting on "moral waivers?" They can't sign up enough of them? Well, I suppose most felons aren't doctors, nurses or linguists. And probably they've already got enough numbers crunchers so no need to recruit any former wizards of Wall Street now on holiday in the various Club Feds around the country.
The new $40,000 sign-up bonuses don't seem to be doing the trick, costly as they are. The Army and the Marine Corps shelled out $640 million for the bonus program in fiscal year 2008 but if they're about to recruit foreigners, apparently they still have a problem. True, $640 million isn't bail-out money but it is getting up there. The next thing you know, they'll be cutting openings in the Great Wall of Mexico - that $49-billion double fence on the 2,000-mile border with our friendly neighbor to the south - so a few illegals can slip through to be recruited. That's right: $49 billion according to Congressional Research Service estimates, and that's for only 700 miles and doesn't include the cost of acquiring private land on both sides of the border or the cost of labor if private contractors are used. If private contractors are used? Who are they kidding? Halliburton better get this one nailed down quick, though, while it's still got friends in high places, and before Blackwater beats it to the punch.
All this would be completely mind-boggling if we hadn't come to regard such bizarre looniness as standard operating procedure for the Bush Administration. And yes, I agree, foreigners on student or work visas are probably at least as good a bet as the serious felons the armed forces have been reduced to chasing after.
Provided they're straight, of course. No gay Arabists, please. Dennis Baron cut to the heart of it in his blog "The Web of Language": "Secretary of Defense Bob Gates sees no irony in the fact that the military finds convicted felons and illiterates less morally problematic than well-educated homosexuals without so much as a parking ticket on their records who might actually be able to understand what the enemy is talking about (not to mention what our Iraqi 'allies' are really saying.)"
How many translators of Arabic and Farsi did the armed forces train and then kick out because of their sexual orientation? I think it was 62 but the actual number isn't important. What's important is that the United States military continues to reject qualified men and women for military service - some of them very highly qualified - and to discharge critically needed service members for one reason alone: they are gay. These shenanigans keep the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network very busy.
You'd think we were living in the 1950s when Senator Joe McCarthy was sniffing out homosexuals in the State Department, ruining careers, ruining lives. Taxpayers spent an estimated $364 million from 1993 to 2005 enforcing Don't Ask, Don't Tell while also discouraging thousands of young Americans each year from signing up.
Was it worth it, just to get rid of someone like the decorated Air Force operating room and flight nurse Major Margaret Witt? Why, Major Witt was actually a poster woman for the Air Force recruiting program in 1993. Oops! Now she's a poster woman for the absurdity of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Incidentally, Major Witt contested her discharge in the courts, and after a decision last Thursday in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to hear the Air Force appeal, the case is headed back to the trial court where it will be decided if Nurse Witt's homosexuality put her military unit at risk.
If she loses she could always go back as a Defense Department civilian contractor where the ABG (Anybody But Gays) policy doesn't hold. Probably for twice the money, too, maybe more.
All this would be funny if it weren't so infuriating. And if it didn't hurt so many patriotic young men and women.