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Mistranslated Osama bin Laden Video - the German Press Investigates
Action Report Online ^ | 12/23/2002 | Craig Morris

Posted on 01/11/2002 5:25:08 AM PST by Demidog

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Osama bin Laden

 

Mistranslated Osama bin Laden Video - the German Press Investigates

by Craig Morris

A GERMAN TV show found that the White House's translation of the "confession" video was not only inaccurate, but even "manipulative".

 

ON December 20, 2001, German TV channel "Das Erste" broadcast its analysis of the White House's translation of the OBL video that George Bush has called a "confession of guilt". On the show Monitor, two independent translators and an expert on oriental studies found the White House's translation not only to be inaccurate, but "manipulative".

Arabist Dr. Abdel El M. Husseini, one of the translators, states,

"I have carefully examined the Pentagon's translation. This translation is very problematic. At the most important places where it is held to prove the guilt of Bin Laden, it is not identical with the Arabic."

Whereas the White House would have us believe that OBL admits that "We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy…", translator Dr. Murad Alami finds that:

"'In advance' is not said. The translation is wrong. At least when we look at the original Arabic, and there are no misunderstandings to allow us to read it into the original."

At another point, the White House translation reads: "We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event would take place that day." Dr. Murad Alami:

"'Previous' is never said. The subsequent statement that this event would take place on that day cannot be heard in the original Arabic version."

The White House's version also included the sentence "we asked each of them to go to America", but Alami says the original formulation is in the passive along the lines of "they were required to go". He also say that the sentence afterwards - "they didn't know anything about the operation" - cannot be understood.

Prof. Gernot Rotter, professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at the Asia-Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg sums it up:

"The American translators who listened to the tapes and transcribed them apparently wrote a lot of things in that they wanted to hear but that cannot be heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to it."

Meanwhile the US press has not picked up on this story at all, reporting instead that a new translation has revealed that OBL even mentions the names of some of those involved. But the item is all over the German press, from Germany's Channel One ("Das Erste" - the ones who broke the story, equivalent to NBC or the BBC) to ZDF (Channel Two) to Der Spiegel (the equivalent of Time or The Economist. More surprisingly, as I write the following site appears on Lycos in German: http://www.netzeitung.de/servlets/page?section=1109&item=172422 - but nothing under lycos.com in English.

Instead, we read in The Washington Post of Friday, December 21, 2001 (the day after the German TV show was broadcast) that a new translation done in the US

"also indicates bin Laden had even more knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon than was apparent in the original Defense Department translation.... Although the expanded version does not change the substance of what was released, it provides added details and color to what has been disclosed."

 

TVI'll say. Aren't there any reporters in the US who speak German (or Arabic, for that matter)? An article in USA Today of December 20, 2001 sheds some light on why the original translation might not be accurate: "The first translation was rushed in 12 hours, in a room in the Pentagon".

So why didn't the new US translation find the same discrepancies as the German translators did? Read the article in USA Today against the grain:

"Michael, who is originally Lebanese, translated the tape with Kassem Wahba, an Egyptian. Both men had difficulties with the Saudi dialect bin Laden and his guest use in the tape, Michael said."

Why can a Saudi translator not be found in a multicultural country like the US, especially with the close business relations between the US and Saudi Arabia? [George] Bush Sr. probably knows any number of them himself.

Of course, if we ever hear about the German analysis in the US press, the reactions will be that some will never believe that OBL is behind the attacks no matter what you tell them. But actually, Americans are just as stubborn in refusing to face facts.

One moderator on Fox News complained to his interviewee that the European media were focusing too much on civilian casualties in Afghanistan. (I wondered which European languages this moderator could speak; a few weeks later, he happened to say on his show that he had had "three years of German". This, he claimed, would allow him to "do the show in German.")

His interviewee responded that, yes, the Taliban were very savvy manipulators of the media. So there we have it: Europeans get their information straight from the Taliban Ministry of Propaganda.

Craig Morris is a translator living in Europe. The original broadcast of the German show can be viewed in German at [this link].

 

Related items on this website:

 Article on German TV programme [in German]
 


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1 posted on 01/11/2002 5:25:08 AM PST by Demidog (rfisk@lycos.com)
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To: JohnHuang2
Bump list?
2 posted on 01/11/2002 5:26:33 AM PST by Demidog
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To: OWK;Askel5;Huck;Texasforever;Mercuria;Howlin;Doctor Doom;John Robinson
bump
3 posted on 01/11/2002 5:30:43 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
My understanding is that the video was viewed independently by other "outside" Arab language specialists, including native speakers of Arabic of which there are a good many in the U.S., and they independently confirmed that the translation was correct.
4 posted on 01/11/2002 5:31:56 AM PST by Illbay
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To: nunya bidness;GrandmaC;Washington_minuteman;tex-oma;buffyt;Grampa Dave;Jolly Rodgers
.
5 posted on 01/11/2002 5:32:52 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Illbay
I wouldn't know. I don't speak Arabic or German. I do know that this article was posted before Christmas and not a single media outlet in the States picked this up.
6 posted on 01/11/2002 5:34:09 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
Oh, go translate some more Der Spiegel Hitler diaries, Fritz. When we need your input we'll bomb it out of you, mensch.
7 posted on 01/11/2002 5:35:51 AM PST by struwwelpeter
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To: Demidog
I guess the alterations in the translation proves that bin Laden didn't have a thing to do with it, right?

Jay-sus.

8 posted on 01/11/2002 5:37:35 AM PST by big gray tabby
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To: struwwelpeter
The tape was translated by a Saudi not a german. The US used an Egyptian. Why do you think?
9 posted on 01/11/2002 5:38:02 AM PST by Demidog
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To: big gray tabby
What they prove is that the government is lying. Not that unusual. Does it prove bin Laden is innocent? I wouldn't know. It does make one wonder why such a mistranslation is necessary.
10 posted on 01/11/2002 5:39:33 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Arator;Inspector Harry Callahan;Diotima;Bob J;Mojo;Z2;Navigator;Clinton's a liar;ironword...
.
11 posted on 01/11/2002 5:44:00 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
I was confused that it took so many days to translate, and was shouted down that this was serious work. When I graduated from DLI, we were allowed only seconds to translate aural text - which is quite a bit easier than literature. Of course, one has to know the dialects and slang, which would not be a problem with Osama speaking Arabic to his cohorts.

I lived in Germany for 6 years, and know the scheisse they make up in their anti-US press. The only paper worth reading over there is Die Bild, and only for the naked chix on page 3.

12 posted on 01/11/2002 5:45:26 AM PST by struwwelpeter
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To: CheneyChick; vikingchick; Victoria Delsoul; WIMom; susangirl; one_particular_harbour;Sabertooth
.
13 posted on 01/11/2002 5:45:57 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
Ok then where is their version of the translation.
14 posted on 01/11/2002 5:46:53 AM PST by Mixer
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To: big gray tabby
hi bgt
saw your name and just dropped by to say hi
I didn't know you were on FR
I am happy to see you
Love, Palo
15 posted on 01/11/2002 5:47:29 AM PST by palo verde
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To: Demidog
What they prove is that the government is lying. Not that unusual. Does it prove bin Laden is innocent? I wouldn't know. It does make one wonder why such a mistranslation is necessary.

According to Gerry Spence, the US government never plays it straight. Bad habit to get into.

16 posted on 01/11/2002 5:49:01 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: struwwelpeter
People shouted you down here regarding the 6 days?
17 posted on 01/11/2002 5:49:29 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
What they prove is that the government is lying.

No they don't.

As someone else pointed out, besides the two translators used by the White House, there were MANY others who viewed the tape, and were independently interviewed on MSNBC, FOXNEWS, and CNN and they, to a person, verified the White House translation.

The US media paid no attention to this "cooked up" story by TWO supposed "experts" from Germany because it's pure bullshit.

18 posted on 01/11/2002 5:49:38 AM PST by sinkspur
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To: Demidog
So, in Arabic, the phrases "How are you?" and "I'm ecstatic that we made their buildings collapse." are virtually identical?
19 posted on 01/11/2002 5:51:37 AM PST by PBRSTREETGANG
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To: Ada Coddington
According to Gerry Spence,

HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

20 posted on 01/11/2002 5:52:23 AM PST by Lucius Cornelius Sulla
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To: PBRSTREETGANG
Huh?
21 posted on 01/11/2002 5:52:35 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
"Why can a Saudi translator not be found in a multicultural country like the US, especially with the close business relations between the US and Saudi Arabia? [George] Bush Sr. probably knows any number of them himself."

"Of course, if we ever hear about the German analysis in the US press, the reactions will be that some will never believe that OBL is behind the attacks no matter what you tell them. But actually, Americans are just as stubborn in refusing to face facts."

All we ever hear about anything is controlled government spin that always makes us saints and any one that disagrees with us sinners.

Absolute power has persuaded them that they can do no wrong. That is why the constitution tried to limit their power. What I can't understand is why our citizen (sheeple)are so willingly step into their cage.

22 posted on 01/11/2002 5:52:55 AM PST by tberry
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To: Ada Coddington
According to Gerry Spence, the US government never plays it straight.

This means a lot, coming from a criminal defense lawyer.

23 posted on 01/11/2002 5:53:09 AM PST by mountaineer
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To: tberry
All we ever hear about anything is controlled government spin that always makes us saints and any one that disagrees with us sinners.

Thank you, Osama, now back to your padded cell!

24 posted on 01/11/2002 5:55:11 AM PST by Lucius Cornelius Sulla
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To: Demidog
What about the part on the tape where OBL says: "Ish bien ah Berliner" ....or something like that and also wanting to be there for October Fest.
25 posted on 01/11/2002 5:55:17 AM PST by TRY ONE
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To: mountaineer
This means a lot, coming from a criminal defense lawyer.

He should know because he's dealt with them. You might remember Spence caught the feds in altering evidence during the Weaver trial in addition to playing games with sending transcripts 4th class mail so that they would arrive late.

26 posted on 01/11/2002 5:57:25 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: Mixer
Amen! I have read several articles denouncing the interpretation by the US but none of them translated the tape in English. That doesn't make sense. Until I see a full translation, I will ignore these types.
27 posted on 01/11/2002 6:01:07 AM PST by Jaidyn
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To: Demidog
Nothing from a foreign language is ever translated 100% into English. I believe he did it, but I also believe he had help from the rest of the Arab nations. I also believe that if we don't act against the Muslim countries now, the west will regret it in the future.
28 posted on 01/11/2002 6:01:24 AM PST by Johnny_Apollo
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To: Illbay
In the Non Verbal Realm, you cannot mistranslate the smiles, laughter and glee when the topic being discussed at that moment by al-Qaida leadership was the slaughter of 3000+ innocent American and international civilians in NYC.
29 posted on 01/11/2002 6:05:59 AM PST by AmericanInTokyo
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To: Demidog
Do you really think the US only used ONE person to translate this? Get a life!
30 posted on 01/11/2002 6:12:15 AM PST by irish guard
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Comment #31 Removed by Moderator

Comment #32 Removed by Moderator

To: irish guard
Do you really think the US only used ONE person to translate this? Get a life! Nope.I don't beleieve I ever said that.
33 posted on 01/11/2002 6:27:33 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Buckhead
I do wish they had published a transcript. I do. Of note however is the errors. It does seem to change the meaning of what was said quite a bit.
34 posted on 01/11/2002 6:29:09 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
>>>>>The tape was translated by a Saudi not a german. The US used an Egyptian. Why do you think? 9 posted on 1/11/02 6:38 AM Pacific by Demidog<<<<<

I guess it depends on the meaning of "an"!

35 posted on 01/11/2002 6:31:35 AM PST by irish guard
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To: irish guard
We used two according to this article. We used an Egyptian and a former Lebanese according to the USA Today which is quoted here. Neither was Saudi.
36 posted on 01/11/2002 6:34:49 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
Craig Morris is a translator living in Europe and cannot be trusted with matters of U.S. National Security.
37 posted on 01/11/2002 6:34:53 AM PST by a_witness
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To: a_witness
So you think ANY journalist can be trusted with national security? Why are American journalists more trustworthy?
38 posted on 01/11/2002 6:36:46 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
Sounds like OBL has cranked up his propaganda machine. First a videotape that shows him worn, haggard, and perhaps serioulsy injured.....now a translation that "proves" he didn't know about the attacks. Sounds like, "please stop bombing us" to me!!
39 posted on 01/11/2002 6:36:52 AM PST by larry h
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To: larry h
Actually nobody is saying (as far as I know) that this translation proves anything except that the U.S. mis translated.
40 posted on 01/11/2002 6:39:43 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
***The tape was translated by a Saudi not a german. The US used an Egyptian. Why do you think? ***

It's my understand that no fewer than 4 independent translators were used. Yes, one was Egyptian, but the others were Arabic.

41 posted on 01/11/2002 6:42:23 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: Demidog
Consider that it may be these two men are the ones lying. ;o)
42 posted on 01/11/2002 6:43:14 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: homeschool mama
Egyptian and Lebanese we know about for sure on the U.S. team. That would make them all Arabic if I understand how that works.

The point made by this writer is a good one. bin Laden and his visitor were Saudi and dialect can make a big difference.

43 posted on 01/11/2002 6:46:53 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
Of course, CNN (!) had a translation done as well. Unfortunately for the America Haters it proved even more devastating than the Gov. translation so the Bushwhackers ignore that one and try and pretend that the Germans came to a different meaning. Nothing written here shows any significant difference. Sorry. You will have to keep trying.
44 posted on 01/11/2002 6:47:40 AM PST by justshutupandtakeit
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To: Illbay
My understanding is that the video was viewed independently by other "outside" Arab language specialists, including native speakers of Arabic of which there are a good many in the U.S., and they independently confirmed that the translation was correct.

Sahih

45 posted on 01/11/2002 6:47:56 AM PST by a_witness
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To: a_witness
Holy crap. Somebody mark the date and time. A-witness and I are in complete agreement. This is BS. Like so many bad conspiracy ideas it fails the brilliant idiot test. Ie the conspirators would have to be pretty sharp to get all those indepentant translators to hold the story while being interviewed by the various networks; but down right dumb to fudge the translation on a video that lots of people outside the conspiracy (ie our German "friends" here) have access to and could show the translation was fudged.

Any proposed conspiracy where the conspirators would have to be brilliant to pull it off but stupid to have tried in the first place is probably bogus.

46 posted on 01/11/2002 6:59:03 AM PST by discostu
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To: Demidog
When I said Arabic I meant to include Saudi. Sorry. ;o)

The article is interesting but I don't know that I'd trust their opinion. Did they offer their own translation? That'd be a telling thing to see, imo.

47 posted on 01/11/2002 7:05:53 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: Demidog
So you think ANY journalist can be trusted with national security? Why are American journalists more trustworthy?

The article feigns to give more credibility to Craig by calling him a translator. While there are treacherous Americans, in Journalism and even on FR, European journalists are trouble looking for a date.

48 posted on 01/11/2002 7:07:58 AM PST by a_witness
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To: homeschool mama
I wrote to the author to see if I could obtain one. His mailbox was full and my mail bounced. I'm still looking.
49 posted on 01/11/2002 7:08:50 AM PST by Demidog
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To: a_witness
This guy is probably a German translator and I doubt it gives him any credibility here. He's reporting what is being said in the German press.
50 posted on 01/11/2002 7:10:04 AM PST by Demidog
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