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Help Wanted: Arabic Speakers

Last December, we learned that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad employs 1,000 people, of which six speak Arabic fluently. The good news is the number of Ar

Last December, we learned that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad employs 1,000 people, of which six speak Arabic fluently. The good news is the number of Arabic speakers at the U.S. Embassy has gone up 66%. The bad news is, when you start with six, that kind of increase is still pretty small.

Of the 1,000 U.S. employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, only 10 have a working knowledge of Arabic, according to the State Department.

That is still a slight improvement from last year when, according to the Iraq Study Group, six people in the embassy spoke Arabic.

A 2006 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted the shortage of speakers of Arabic, which the State Department classifies as “superhard,” is acute at U.S. embassies in the Muslim world.

In December, confronted with questions about this, Tony Snow said, “[Y]ou don’t snap your fingers and have the Arabic speakers you need overnight.” Actually, if Bush were willing to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he could have more Arabic speakers overnight.

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