Interpreters are the life-blood of our Operations in Iraq. Due to the lack of Arabic speakers in the United States and in the Military, we are forced to rely both on contracted U.S. Civilians and on LN Iraqi interpreters. Without these interpreters, we would be unable to communicate with the Iraqi people, and the already substantial cultural barriers that exist between us would be even greater and compounded by the complete inability to share ideas.
We are especially indebted to the Iraqi interpreters. These patriots (who are also doing it for the money) are helping their country while they help themselves as well. They are definitely targets for terrorists who view them as dangerous collaborators who must be punished for working with the infidel. While we might be annoyed at times by the interpreters, though we can communicate, there is still a large chasm between us culturally, socially, and hygienically. Yet, we overcome that and work together because without them we could not conduct any of our day to day operations. They are that essential. These human dictionaries are a combat multiplier in the COIN environment.
We had a great moment this week when one of the interpreters started translating our English into . . . English. He was so used to operating and moving back in forth with language, that he didn't notice it. The confused look of the Iraqis eventually brought about the required Arabic translation.