2.6.12 kernels require gettext if it finds libintl.h? From the uclibc mailing list:
kbuild thing wanted gettext.
I finally hunted down the option to shut this down: add KBUILD_NO_NLS to HOSTCFLAGS.
What's more, if I hadn't built libintl as a separate package, this wouldn't have tripped; that flag gets set if a compile of a test file "#include <libintl.h>" errors out. So my build seems to work with the addition of:
perl -pi -e 's/$/ -DKBUILD_NO_NLS/ if /^HOSTCFLAGS\ss/' Makefile