Skip to comments.Mistranslated Osama bin Laden Video - the German Press Investigates
Posted on 01/11/2002 5:25:08 AM PST by Demidog
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."
I'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:
So the tape in question was manufactured by the U.S. government with an actor playing bin Laden? Did they use the same sound stage that they used when they filmed the lunar landing in '69?
Why did they bother to mistranslate something they scripted in the first place? (No doubt this was all part of the all-encompassing conspiracy perfectly constructed to hide the fact that the tape was a fraud. Thank goodness you were perceptive enough to see through this.)
I just HATE it when the enemy deliberately prosecutes itself on film and then deliberately plants the damning evidence where it won't be accidentally bombed and can be conveniently 'found' by the 'other' guys.
Either the truth is stranger than fiction ... or we all live in Oz.
Please, don't waste my time with stupid questions. You're incapable of reading much less understanding.
Keep on bending over, though, looking for an excuse to exonerate bin Laden. Who knows, if you bleat like a sheep, Osama might just appreciate it.
I do. The one that's based on Constitutional law, the Bill of Rights and the Golden Rule. That would be the REPUBLIC ... not the Empire. Unfortunately, the Republic is a government in exile at this moment in time, usurped by jerks like you.
I've seen dozens of these threads questioning our real motives and criticizing the methods. So far they've run the gamut between wild conclusions based on minimal and unimpressive "evidence" and out right BS. I haven't seen anything that was even remotely compelling and most of them were a complete waste of the time I spent reading, would have been better spent reading aknowledged fiction at least that has character development and usually a much better use of prose. These charges of false translation are right there in the latter, we've got a whole article picking on 3 or 4 words, no transcript, nothing even "correctly" translating the entire sentence any of the words were in.
I don't doubt that individual words are translated oddly, one of the hardest parts of translating is dealing with catch phrases and colloquialisms. Different cultures don't use the same words to mean the same the same thing. And this wierdness hits at a much lower level than many people think.
I learned this one when I was taking German. Here in America when you want to complain about the heat you'll frequently say "I'm hot", depending on who you're with they might deliberately miscomprehend you but in general it's understood that you feel the room is too warm. In Germany (at least back in the mid-80s) "Ich bin heise (I am hot)" is a come on, if you want to complain about the heat you say "est ist hiese (it is hot)". So if I wanted to translate something to German where somebody said "I'm hot" to complain about the heat I wouldn't translate it "correcly" I would translate it to "it is hot" otherwise my German audience would misunderstand it. But then I'm opening myself to exactly the type of criticism this person has laid out because the word "it" is no where in the sentence that I translated from.
That's always the big quandry in translation, do you translate the words or the meaning? Generally you go for the meaning, an exact word for word translation is usually meaningless, and sometimes impossible not all languages have assigned words to the same thing. You could never translate anything directly from Inuit to English that talked about snow, English doesn't have as many words for snow, you're translator will have to add adjectives and maybe even metaphors to get the different types of snow across. Or he could just say "snow" everytime and you'd get a sentence like "it was definitely snow, far too wet to be snow, but clearly not as wet as snow and far colder than snow" (and of course a proper word for word translation will use the original langauge's sentence structure which just confuses matter even more, especially if you're going into English which has a rather unique sentence structure).
Subsequently all translations have to play a little fast and lose, there's no way around it. You gotta trust somebody sometime. Might as well trust the guy that's telling you OBL is a piece of crap, that was already known this is just quibling on what kind of crap and how stinky.
That statement shows your bias. If we are to be purely objectively about this, both translations are self-serving. The U.S. claims it says what the U.S. needs it to say, and so does this dude in Der Spiegel. It is quite telling then which of these you choose to believe.
"that's based on Constitutional law, the Bill of Rights and the Golden Rule. That would be the REPUBLIC ... not the Empire. Unfortunately, the Republic is a government in exile at this moment in time..."
Doesn't seem supported by this rather obtuse little straw man you posted to Victoria Delsoul at #99:
"Are you seriously suggesting that Clinton blew up the trade center?"
The point of the article, the point which you missed, is that there are serious questions about the Clinton Administration's policy and intelligence failures that certainly seem to have lead up to what happened on 9/11. If ever a President had no respect for the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, it was Bill Clinton. Yet rather than address the point of the article Victoria posted to you, you thought you'd take a shot at her. You had an opportunity then to say what you wanted about Empire, but you chose to deliberately miss the point, post a straw man argument, and take an insulting tone.
Your sincerity is dubious.
Take a look at the posts between Demidog and me on this thread at #10, #51, #57, & #61. I know he's more skeptical than me about the evidence of bin Laden's involvement in 9/11, but we manage to have civil conversations.
What's your malfunction?
theories based on delusional parsing of non-evidence, combined with wholesale ignoring of open and obvious facts
speaking of theories .... speaking of delusional parsing of non-evidence ... speaking of ignoring open and obvious facts.
20 minutes after the planes crashed into the towers we already 'knew' whodunit, despite the 'fact' that we didn't have a clue prior to the attack.
No one has ever explained why the military wasn't scrambled following the attack on the first tower.
No one is even trying to explain, if flight 93 was brought down by a bunch of angry passengers, why was the field of debris spread over an eight mile area as in a shoot down or an on board explosion.
No one is explaining why the names of the alleged terrorists don't appear on any of the planes manifests despite the fact that they were so openly flaunting their passports the night before in bars and strip joints (which no fanatical/fundamentalist Muslim would ever do).
There are dozens of serious questions that no one's even asking ... much less answering.
So pardon me for not swollowing the rest of it in one chunk. Answer some of these questions and I'll acknowledge your sincere desire to reach the truth.
and 99.9% of the rest of the population which obviously you detest. Why don't you move elsewhere if you hate this country so much?
Me: "that's based on Constitutional law, the Bill of Rights and the Golden Rule. That would be the REPUBLIC ... not the Empire. Unfortunately, the Republic is a government in exile at this moment in time..."
You: Doesn't seem supported by this rather obtuse little straw man you posted to Victoria Delsoul at #99:
Me:"Are you seriously suggesting that Clinton blew up the trade center?"
I beg your pardon for a poor attempt at humor. Everything on that link was about clinton, who is perhaps as evil as everyone would like to believe (myself included)but no one seriously believes he blew up the WTC. I'm not even so sure his policies (singularly) are to blame. Please, get serious and deal with the REAL questions I have posed.
It's not my pardon you should be begging. If you inadvertantly insulted anyone, it wasn't me.
Go be a man.
Plus, you know that about a thousand US journalists had this tape reviewed so they could try to embarass the administration. The fact that the usual suspects like CNN, CBS, the NY Times and Salon have been silent is telling.
No, no, no... You claim that your comment at #99 was a bad attempt at humor. I'll take you at your word.
But look at the subsequent posts. NO ONE got it. Everyone else saw it as an insult, including her. If it was humor, once it became clear that your joke fell flat, what should your response have been?
Seems reasonable to me to offer a mea culpa at that point... defuse the whole thing. Instead, you said... "Please don't waste my time with stupid answers. You're incapable of thinking." At that point you went from inadvertent insult to foot-in-mouth disease. That's when you started getting slammed, and not just by her.
If this is a misunderstanding, whose responsibility is that?
So at this point, you don't have the prerogative of deciding whether or not someone you've insulted deserves an apology. You need to step up.
If it'll make you feel better, I apologize for suggesting that you should bleat like a sheep.
I take it you doubt their sincerity. ; )
Not that unusual is true as we all know. Do I think Bin Laden is guilty ? Absolutely with out a doubt. However, as far as the translation goes, yes it is possible ( who knows ?) that it was mis tanslated because we needed a " smoking gun". For people here to absolutely deny the possiblity of mis translation IMO are people who use selective reasoning. They believe our govt has lied on many occasions before but refuse to even think there is a possibility Regarding this tape. Selective reasoning.
Aw hell, I'm sorry, that would require you to approach this issue with even the slightest grain of objectivity.