Gorilla's Guides is one of the best English-language blogs for straight news, analysis, and eyewitness accounts from Iraq and the region, and is run by a group of former UN soldiers and current Mid-east residents. Siun over at FDL turned me onto them (thanks, Siun!). Markfromireland, the original Gorilla of Gorilla's Guides, caught this Reuters Alert story:
Only six fluent in Arabic at US Iraq embassy-panel 06 Dec 2006 22:20:12 GMTCommunication? Ha! Honestly, I'm impressed this many Arabic speakers made it into the embassy in Iraq, since having any language proficiency or pertinent cultural knowledge was considered to be the veritable Mark of Cain in the Neocon Department. Previously, Doug Feith and others purged Arabic speakers from positions of responsibility and barred new hires with expertise. So maybe the 33 Arabic speakers in the Green Zone were infected in Iraq and "went native." To stop their spying for Al-Qaeda, they'll have to be found, sent home, quarantined, and ritually purified.
Source: Reuters WASHINGTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) -
Among the 1,000 people who work in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, only 33 are Arabic speakers and only six speak the language fluently, according to the Iraq Study Group report released on Wednesday. "All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans' lack of knowledge of language and cultural understanding," the bipartisan panel said in its report. "In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage."
The report, written by five Republicans and five Democrats, recommended the U.S. government give "the highest possible priority to professional language proficiency and cultural training" for officials headed to Iraq.
Note, the ISG Report is available here in .pdf format.