Jobs from Sunny Gitmo

I have just downloaded Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers by bittorrent. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m fascinated by the boom in private military contractors the past couple of decades. You can watch Iraq for Sale on Google Video if you like (links to all of Robert Greenwald’s films, including Outfoxed: Rubert Murdoch’s War on Journalism are at Crooks and Liars). In the meantime, one of the consequences of military privatization is the online jobs search. Companies like CACI, CSC’s Eagle Alliance and L-3 Titan (apparently blocked in China, but by which side?) all advertise jobs online.

Weeks ago there was a small kerfuffle online when a job listing was found for a Guantanamo Librarian. A spokesman said they wanted to enlarge the library to 20,000 books in the next five years… ah, once you get a government contract, keep that sucker rolling as long as you can. Also mentioned was that Arabic-English dictionaries, Hansel and Gretel, Seabiscuit and Macbeth were banned. I understand Macbeth, and I can kinda see Hansel and Gretel – but I’ve never seen or read Seabiscuit. Knowing government bureaucracy though, they probably have 40 copies of the Count of Monte Cristo. The dictionaries are banned so they can’t use English “against our guard force”. Deadly phrases like “have mercy” and “ease up, big guy”, perhaps.

So I went poking around, learning the crazy list of acronyms that are used for intelligence computer systems (CHAMS, ASAS-L) and ominous sounding Pentagon IT groups (G6 Directorate, who are keenly on the look out for their archnemesis Sidney Bristow), and I stumbled upon this job opening (proxy required, reprinted below):

Uyghur Linguist CAT II
Location: Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Req. No.: IOD022520059
Division: International Operations

Provide operational contract linguist support to Joint Task Force-GTMO detainee operations at Naval Air Station Guantanamo, Cuba. Support the full range of day-to-day activities involving interaction between detention Camp military police force and support personnel with Camp detainees. Interpret and translate written and spoken communications. Review correspondence and performing document exploitation. Scan, research, and analyze foreign language documents for key information. Identify and extract information components that meet the criteria contained in the information requirements lists.

(a) minimum
An excellent command of Uyghur, as well as strong verbal and written American English skills (grammar, vocabulary, idioms, spelling) because linguist work products are prepared in English. A 4/4 (i.e., native) or higher Uyghur listening/reading comprehension rating according to the ILR scale and as measured by the DLPT or comparable language test vehicle. Must be a U.S. citizen and holds a current U.S. passport and must have SECRET security clearance or be able to obtain SECRET security clearance. Must undergo a favorable U.S Army counterintelligence screening interview. Must be willing to travel/work local to Naval Air Station Guantanamo, Cuba. Ability to deal unobtrusively with camp personnel and detainees. Familiarity with and ability to conduct oneself in accordance with the Central Asian culture and customs. Willingness to work shifts and extended hours in support of 24 x 7 Operations. Must be able to live and work in a harsh environment.

(b) Desired:
A SECRET security clearance. Secondary language skills in Turkish or Uzbek. Auxiliary skills in related languages, to include: Russian, Tadjik, Georgian, Persian Farsi, and Urdu. A thorough knowledge of cultural, economic, geopolitical, and military issues of the Mid East and Arab-speaking countries within that region. Previous operational experience as linguist in support of government operations. An ability to operate standard and specialized office automation equipment to process foreign language material.

That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. While several Uyghurs detainees were sent off to Albania, which is pretty much a dumping ground for everything unwanted: subsidized European crops, industrial waste and now Gitmo refugees, some are still there. I admit there is a gut-wrenching feeling when reading this advertisement; it is like seeing how sausage is made, the clipped jargon of a military contractor job.

There is some cause to believe a handful, but not likely more, of Uyghurs captured in Afghanistan were indeed terrorists in the true sense of the word. But the requirements for this job strike me as unrealistic and even absurd. How, pray tell, do you have “higher than native language comprehension”, or higher than 4 out of 4? There is nothing wrong in hiring a linguist. I question, however, the efficacy in hiring a private contractor linguist. The job requires SECRET clearance and a counterintelligence screening. These are government and military requirements – why doesn’t the government hire them directly? Why is there a middleman involved here? Presumably Titan pays better than the U.S. government – but then again, Titan is paid by the U.S. government. And why this unnecessary dual loyalty, one to the government and one to the company? While other services rendered by Titan may be of value, this job seems only to exist to waste taxpayers dollars.

A digression: meanwhile, in Xinjiang, the mood has swung from “Bush is great”, a sentiment I heard often only two years ago, to “Bush is anti-Muslim and anti-Uyghur” (at least from long distance contacts, I have not been back to Xinjiang in over a year). The Uyghurs are certainly not Salafist, Wahabi or any other brand of strict Islam you can name. Not simply because of Chinese impositions, but as descendents of the Sufism that brought Islam to Central Asia Uyghurs began as Muslims of a very different stripe than radical Sunnis or Shias today. But by imprisoning their people, without any transparency or evidence, the U.S. in their eyes becomes more like the oppressor they know too well: China. And when the two 800 pound gorillas of the world both seem set against your people, you tend to look for more extreme ways. This story is playing itself over again and again amongst moderate Muslims around the world, and the more people, like the Uyghurs I know, feel boxed in a corner, the more likely it is that extremist ranks will swell. Digression ends.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

Thanks for the great digression – I doubt if many people around the world, let alone in America, have any awareness whatever of how America is radicalizing Uyghurs, just as we are radicalizing Muslims in Iraq who similarly saw us only a few years ago as liberators. How brief a period that was, just like our 15 minutes of global unity and brotherhood and support in the wake of 911 We are all Americans today.

About the help-wanted ads: they’d be richly amusing if they weren’t so damned creepy.

November 6, 2006 @ 7:57 pm | Comment

In what way is the U.S. radicalising Uighurs? I have no knowledge on that subject. Against the West, against the CCCP government, or both?

The latter two would be acceptable to the fascists running the U.S. administration. They surely realise that the 21st is the Chinese Century, just as the 20th was the American. How can they stop that? Direct confrontation with an economic and nuclear power is out of the question. What better way to hobble a rival than by switching on the forces of centripedal momentum within it?

Just as Reagan’s minions did with the Contras and other death squads in Central America, just as Bush’s bastards are doing with the militias in Iraq, the U.S. can do with Uighurs, Tibetans and other groups in China. Spur aggressive rot from within…

(Not that I consider those groups rotten — their is much justice in resisting their oppression. But they can nibble away inside the cracked communist monolith.)

November 6, 2006 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

@Bukko: I didn’t say they were radicalising them. I said they were pushing them into a corner where the only people who seem to offer support and a method of escape are jihadists or other extremists. You appear to have read Richard’s comment without reading my post. I’m not saying they Uyghurs are becoming jihadists, or that they necessarily will, but they have lost faith in the U.S. as a supporter of Uyghur people because they’ve had them locked up in Guantanamo. That has literally flipped the attitudes of the people I know.

As for using the Uyghurs and Tibetans to destabilize China, if the U.S. did want to do that, it’d be harder to do now. But the people who said “I love Bush” in 2004 hoped that after liberating Iraq, Bush would parachute into Xinjiang to liberate them. However, I think that it wouldn’t be a good idea for the U.S. because a) the Uyghurs, Tibetans, etc. would get slaughtered by the enormously more powerful Chinese, b) if caught it would really, really piss off China and possibly spiral out of control and c) the 21st century will probably not belong to China, though China will be a force to be reckoned with. The stakes are not high enough to attempt something with such low returns.

November 6, 2006 @ 10:42 pm | Comment

When I said we were radicalizing them, I didn’t mean we were turning them into Jihadists, but that we were turning people who saw us as friends 24 months earlier into people who hated and mistrusted us. Maybe “radicalizing” was too strong a word, as it seems to have become synonymous to turning one into a suicidal martyr.

November 6, 2006 @ 11:09 pm | Comment

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