Playing a Shell Game with the Military

And playing the public for fools. Of course, that part’s working pretty well.

…removing a Brigade from Iraq (or from the schedule to go to Iraq) and replacing it with another Brigade is no way to accomplish a “drawdown” (except in newspaper headlines).

And in newspaper headlines, that is how it was depicted, although no connection was made between the replacement Brigade and the one that was removed under the banner of ‘drawdown.’

Nor did anybody (except Grayhawk in the source post for the above quote) point out that the Brigade removed from Iraq had already spent a year learning Arabic, training, and preparing for Iraqi duty, and now much of the specifics of that training is wasted.

You may remember this gaffe from the campaign:

Obama posited — incorrectly — that Arabic translators deployed in Iraq are needed in Afghanistan — forgetting, momentarily, that Afghans don’t speak Arabic.

“We only have a certain number of them and if they are all in Iraq, then its harder for us to use them in Afghanistan,” Obama said.

The vast majority of military translators in both war zones are drawn from the local population.
Naturally they speak the local language. In Iraq, that’s Arabic or Kurdish. In Afghanistan, it’s any of a half dozen other languages — including Pashtu, Dari, and Farsi.

No sooner did Obama realize his mistake — and correct himself — but he immediately made another.

Actually, his correction wasn’t altogether accurate, either:

As for the point about Arabic translators needed for Afghanistan, the Obama campaign points to the well-documented presence of foreign fighters there, many of whom do speak Arabic. However, these folks are mostly shooting at NATO troops, not talking to them.

No doubt there are a handful of Arabic speakers employed at Bagram and Kandahar and other detention centers to interrogate foreign fighters captured on the battlefield. But I have not seen any reports that there is a shortage of such personnel, or that the need for such translators in Iraq has hamstrung the interrogators in Afghanistan.

Foreign fighters captured in BOTH Iraq and Afghanistan have also been sent to detention centers such as the one in Guantanamo. Is there a shortage of Arabic translators there or at other U.S. detention facilities overseas? That would be an interesting news story. Again, I haven’t seen any proof of it.

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