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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

;


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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To: Demidog; CheneyChick; vikingchick; Victoria Delsoul; WIMom; susangirl; one_particular_harbour
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."

Demidog, since I don't speak or read Arabic, and I'm guessing you don't either, we're both left with the decision of whose translation we should trust.

The excerpt above from your article quotes an "Arabist," a "translator" (for whom?) with an Arabic name, and a German "professor" of Islamic and Arabic Studies. Their backgrounds don't inspire me with confidence. I generally don't trust Arabists or professors of ethnic and cultural studies, and I have no idea of the credentials of this Arab translator.

So, until I'm shown something compelling, and this article falls short of that threshhold, I'm going with the official story as my fall-back position.

However, I'm not closed-minded... what I'd like to see are the Arabic interpretations of the tapes side by side, and the corresponding translations, also side by side. That would be of interest.


51 posted on 01/11/2002 7:11:57 AM PST by Sabertooth
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To: Demidog
What they prove is that the government is lying.

You will allow this same standard of "proof" for others making claims? Two Arabic guys and an oriental specialist (what is that? a guy who studies orientals or an oriental guy who is "special")who may or may not be sympathetic to the terrorists. This sounds like a bad joke. Did you hear the one about the two translators and the oriental specialist?

52 posted on 01/11/2002 7:16:39 AM PST by RGSpincich
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To: Demidog
>>>>>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.<<<<<

<<<<<<>>>>>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"!

Am I missing something, or did you respond to me that you never said that?

53 posted on 01/11/2002 7:17:12 AM PST by irish guard
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To: Demidog
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."

If one removes the word "previous" from the translation the idea of the sentence is unchanged so long as the tense of the rest of the statement is accurate. The word "previous" only serves to specify a particular Thursday, rather than any Thursday prior to 9/11.

Allow me to speculate... Biblical Greek is complex compaired with english. A particular word can have modified meaning depending on its position in a sentence, and even the selection and position of the other words in that sentence. This makes the translation process much more complex than simply substituting word for word. Could this be a similar situation with much ado about nothing?

54 posted on 01/11/2002 7:17:29 AM PST by 70times7
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To: irish guard
I didn't say that. I said that the U.S. used an Egyptian. They also used a Lebanese man biut nowhere do I say that ONLY one translator was used.
55 posted on 01/11/2002 7:28:48 AM PST by Demidog
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To: 70times7
Could be. I am not an expert in Arabic. The fact that the Government may have mis-translated is troubling.
56 posted on 01/11/2002 7:29:58 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Sabertooth
However, I'm not closed-minded... what I'd like to see are the Arabic interpretations of the tapes side by side, and the corresponding translations, also side by side. That would be of interest.

Me too. I'm trying to obtain one.

57 posted on 01/11/2002 7:31:01 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
BUMP
58 posted on 01/11/2002 7:33:49 AM PST by Aurelius
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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.

They didn't prove anything. They said that certain sentences were incorrectly translated, but give no alternate meaning to the sentences. Plus, they admitted to having a difficult time understanding the dialect Bin Laden used. Does that prove the five separate translators in the U.S. were incorrect? Hardly.

59 posted on 01/11/2002 7:34:35 AM PST by SunStar
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To: discostu
Like so many bad conspiracy ideas it fails the brilliant idiot test.

Enron: 'exposing what is wrong with the way the Bush administration is conducting itself these days.' (from the article Bush's whitewater/worse)

Guess this one 'fails the brillian idiot test',too. Right?

60 posted on 01/11/2002 7:34:38 AM PST by Ridin' Shotgun
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To: Demidog
The fact that the Government may have mis-translated is troubling.

Let's not be hasty...

The fact possibility that the Government may have mis-translated is troubling.

Flag me if you find those translations, it would be interesting to see what Arabic-speaking Freepers have to say. Not necessarily persuasive, because they won't have listened to the tapes themselves, and one person's "garbled" may be another's "clear as a bell."

But definitely interesting.


61 posted on 01/11/2002 7:36:39 AM PST by Sabertooth
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To: Ada Coddington
according to Gerry Spence OJ and Bill Clinton were innocent.
62 posted on 01/11/2002 7:40:54 AM PST by Freedom of Speech Wins
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To: mountaineer
"This means a lot, coming from a criminal defense lawyer.

Oh? Are they even worse than other lawyers? Are they likely more dishonest than your typical prosecuting attorney, on his route to higher office, out to win his case at any cost?

63 posted on 01/11/2002 7:42:07 AM PST by Aurelius
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To: Ridin' Shotgun
No that one fails the WTF test. In that Enron got huge during the Clinton administration, went on fine for years without the Clinton FTC and SEC caring. Completely ignored their New York auditors. And now that the Bush administration version of the authorities found massive impropriety all the yahoo's are blaiming Bush. All the crimes were done on somebody else's watch, they actually got CAUGHT on Bush's watch by Bush's people, and yet it's Bush's fault... WTF?!

Although I suppose there is a little brilliant idiocy in the idea that these guys (supposedly with Bush's help, or at least the help of his good friends) would be smart enough to cook the books for years, but dumb enough to not pay of the auditors to look the other way. Which does bring into question just how much this was a conspiracy involving lots of members of the Bush Cabinet and how much it was just a few business leaders getting stupid.

64 posted on 01/11/2002 7:43:31 AM PST by discostu
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To: SunStar
Link here.It seems that some independent translators heard more than others.

Bin Laden named nine hijackers on tape, not one By David Ensor
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) --The original translation of the Osama bin Laden videotape misses the fact that bin Laden identifies nine of the hijackers, a Saudi dissident says and an independent translator hired by CNN confirmed Thursday.

"The translators missed a lot of things on the tape," said Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Saudi Institute, an organization that promotes human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Ahmed said bin Laden identifies nine of the suspected hijackers -- not just Mohamed Atta as had the original translation.

Al-Ahmed and the independent translator -- who did not want to be identified -- said bin Laden named two additional hijackers on the tape: the brothers Nawaf al Hazmi and Salam al Hazmi.

Later, he said four other hijackers were from the Al Ghamdi tribe. He also mentioned two others, both named al Shehri.

Also left out of the translation, they said, were the names of three Saudi clerics who publicly backed the attacks, according to the man speaking with bin Laden on the tape. At least one of those three Saudi clerics was possibly a government official.

One more striking example of detail left out of the government translation, according to Al-Ahmed and the independent translator: Bin Laden's description of exactly what he said to others just before the radio announcement that the first of the attacks had succeeded.

They quoted him as saying he told followers, "When you hear a breaking news announcement on the radio, kneel immediately, and that means they have hit the World Trade Center."

65 posted on 01/11/2002 7:49:55 AM PST by RGSpincich
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To: Demidog
they're right, they're right!

Bin Laden couldn't have dunnit,

must be the CIA and MOSAD.

66 posted on 01/11/2002 7:52:15 AM PST by pollwatcher
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To: pollwatcher
I don't think anyone has claimed that bin Laden couldn't have done it.
67 posted on 01/11/2002 7:53:54 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Aurelius
According to Gerry Spence, the US government never plays it straight.

The problem with Mr. Spence's comment is the word "never." It is a broad generalization lacking supporting evidence. As the old saying goes, "All generalizations are false, including this one."

My response to the original posting was based on my personal experience with some defense attorneys, who very frequently don't play straight with the court or the prosecution, because to be truthful would result in their clients' going to jail. I have no doubt whatsoever that some defense attorneys are honest, so if my previous comment sounded something Spence would say, that is, an unwarranted blanket, broad-brush smear, then I apologize.

I do not believe it's true that the U.S. government never plays it straight, although Ruby Ridge, Waco, etc., clearly demonstrated that some government officials are blatant liars and that the government sometimes doesn't play straight.

68 posted on 01/11/2002 7:54:07 AM PST by mountaineer
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To: discostu
In that Enron got huge during the Clinton administration, went on fine for years without the Clinton FTC and SEC caring.

And of course Bush steps forward to block the Congress from eyeballing anything that might harm Clinton's rep any further (or exact any justice for the people). And of course, Enron was possibly Bush's largest contributor in his quest for Governorship in Texas. and of course ... and of course ... and of course.

How many times are these 'in-bed-together-creeps' gonna pull the wool over your eyes and flat out lie to you before you say 'wait a danged minute, here'?

Go find the side by side photos of Osama and the taped Osama. They're on the web. Take a good look at them and then THINK, for the love of Pete!

BTW ... I am aware that there's a 't' on the end of brilliant. My fingers aren't awake yet.

69 posted on 01/11/2002 7:57:49 AM PST by Ridin' Shotgun
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To: mountaineer
Yes, I guess "never" is a bit strong.
70 posted on 01/11/2002 8:04:52 AM PST by Aurelius
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Comment #71 Removed by Moderator

To: Buckhead
It proves for one that if there's anything to be proven it is that the administration is protecting the Saudis.

This would make sense since the Bush's do alot of personal business with the Saudis.

72 posted on 01/11/2002 8:11:39 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Buckhead
Islamofascist apologists at the Islamofascist nerve center at the Univ. of Hamburg are full of camel sh*t.

Your bigotry is showing, Buck.

73 posted on 01/11/2002 8:16:15 AM PST by Ridin' Shotgun
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To: Demidog
It doesn't prove anything. Do you know anything about the agenda of the Germans who had this transcript done? Do you know anything about the changes in dialect from Arab to Arab? Do you know anything about transcribing audio tapes?

It's not logical to think that the government deliberately mistranslated the tape because it would be too easy for anyone who speaks the language to show them to be lying.

Having transcribed from audio tapes on a regular basis for over a decade, I can tell you that a transcript done in haste will have some inaccuracies. Also you have to understand that different people will hear minor things differently, no matter how much time is available to transcribe it.

This is just more nonsense from people who make money from "exposing scandals." To report a story in a sensational light is more profitable than to report that everything is just fine.

74 posted on 01/11/2002 8:20:53 AM PST by alnick
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To: alnick
Do you know anything about the agenda of the Germans who had this transcript done?

I know that 200,000 Germans held a candlelight vigil in Berlin a couple of days after the attacks in support of the U.S. Pictures were posted here on FR.

That's more than turned out here in the U.S. If you are going to suggest that Germans hate the U.S. you can pick a different fellow to foist that assertion upon.

75 posted on 01/11/2002 8:25:46 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
I know that 200,000 Germans held a candlelight vigil in Berlin a couple of days after the attacks in support of the U.S. Pictures were posted here on FR.

That's got nothing to do with what I said. I said that these people who happen to be German are presumably total strangers to you, yet you take their word as Gospel. Just because 200,000 people who happen to be from the same country as they are held a candlelight vigil is irrelevant.

Again, people who sell newspapers make more money when they can imply something sensational than when they report the bland truth. Because of that, you should be careful what you believe, especially if it's coming from an unkown entity.

When you present this kind of report as fact or as "proof" of something, as you said, it reveals your agenda as anti-Bush, even to the extent of defending Osama Bin Laden.

76 posted on 01/11/2002 8:37:49 AM PST by alnick
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Comment #77 Removed by Moderator

To: Freedom of Speech Wins
Both were acquitted, so he is technically correct.
78 posted on 01/11/2002 8:53:54 AM PST by Ada Coddington
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To: alnick
German are presumably total strangers to you, yet you take their word as Gospel.

You'll need to back up that assertion with some evidence for it to stand.

79 posted on 01/11/2002 8:54:04 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Buckhead
Nice work.
80 posted on 01/11/2002 8:55:49 AM PST by Demidog
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To: Demidog
Take me off of your paranoid thread bump list! This is pure bs propaganda right from the backers of OBL in the middle east!

Send this paranoid bs to your fellow tin hat - hate America/GW buddies!

81 posted on 01/11/2002 9:33:17 AM PST by Grampa Dave
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To: Grampa Dave
Uhh...This thread has nothing to do with "America Haters" as far as I can tell and isn't paranoid.
82 posted on 01/11/2002 9:35:02 AM PST by Demidog
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Comment #83 Removed by Moderator

To: Lucius Cornelius Sulla
"Thank you, Osama"

You are welcome, "Oh Brown Butt of the Camel".

If you believe that the government is alwys good/right and it never lies, spins, exaggerates, misleads, coerces, punishes and

that whom ever is on the other side of the argument is always wrong/bad, lying, criminal, terrorist, criminal, dangerous,

then enough said.

84 posted on 01/11/2002 10:13:27 AM PST by tberry
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To: Demidog
Doesn't prove a d*mn thing except that the Germans have an axe to grind. There's a surprise.
85 posted on 01/11/2002 10:23:37 AM PST by Illbay
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To: Demidog
You'll need to back up that assertion with some evidence for it to stand

Oh, that's easy. From your post Number 10: "What they prove is that the government is lying." You claim that German news articles constitute proof that the government is lying, ergo you take what these German news sources say as Gospel since you offer up their word as proof of anything, which is the point of my original post to you.

Okay, now that we've gone around in a circle, our conversation has come to an end.

86 posted on 01/11/2002 10:29:06 AM PST by alnick
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To: discostu
Which does bring into question just how much this was a conspiracy involving lots of members of the Bush Cabinet and how much it was just a few business leaders getting stupid.

I hope you don't hold your breath while you wait for definitive answers about Enron OR the truth of the 'Osama tape'. They're playing pro-league dodge ball, where the rules can change in the middle of a play.

My point is, that if you're lied to once, by someone ... and then twice ... and then again. How long will it be before you begin to doubt that someone?

87 posted on 01/11/2002 10:49:45 AM PST by Ridin' Shotgun
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To: Ridin' Shotgun
Well if I feel like I've been lied to for invalid reasons (there are good reasons to lie, especially for the government, very especially for a goverment at war, scary to admit but true, I don't want telling me the truth to cost soldiers their lives) just the once. So far I don't feel lied to in any of the situations that have been outlined.
88 posted on 01/11/2002 10:52:42 AM PST by discostu
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To: Demidog
[George] Bush Sr. probably knows any number of them himself.

Yeah, but they're probably all tied up, as it were, working on the War on Terror's Rock the Mideast effort.

89 posted on 01/11/2002 11:03:49 AM PST by Askel5
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Comment #90 Removed by Moderator

To: discostu
If a lie results in the death of one military man ... or in the death of one innocent civilian, would you still support that lie? What if that 'lie' precipitated an 'undeclared' (and therefore unlawful) war? Would you still support the lie because someone attacked us and you were too angry and impatient to ask for a lawful declaration based on overwhelming evidence before launching that war?

Reminds me of the old joke about the old bull and the young bull standing on a ridge looking down on a pasture full of young heifers. The young bull nudges the old bull and says 'lets run down and get one'. The old bull looks disgusted and says 'how about if we walk down and get 'em all '.

In other words, I don't trust this rush to judgement, because there are possible other reasons for attacking Afghanistan, such as control of caspian oil and pipelines that were already in the planning in 1996, but were being rejected by the current Afghan overlords.

91 posted on 01/11/2002 11:21:23 AM PST by Ridin' Shotgun
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To: Buckhead
... who dispute the probative value of the bin Laden video and believe 9/11 was the work of the Mossad are full of sh*t, to the point of psychosis.

Can't be sure, but I think you're the first one (and possibly the ONLY one to bring up the subject of 'mossad' here. Typical. Guess you think there are only two types who 'couldadoneit'. I don't. I think there are probably dozens of types that might want to bring America to her knees.

So many people seem to actually FEAR information these days. I wonder why.

92 posted on 01/11/2002 11:33:45 AM PST by Ridin' Shotgun
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To: Demidog; Sabertooth
What they prove is that the government is lying.

They haven't proved that. Why should we believe a socialist German TV show and its Saudi translator? If anything, they are the ones who are being manipulative. Their hairsplitting over a couple of words doesn't change the fact that Bin Laden's terrorists committed the heinous crime of September 11!

93 posted on 01/11/2002 11:47:02 AM PST by Victoria Delsoul
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To: Victoria Delsoul
Why should we believe a socialist German TV show and its Saudi translator? ... Their hairsplitting over a couple of words doesn't change the fact that Bin Laden's terrorists committed the heinous crime of September 11!

Excuse me for intruding on a private conversation, but let me ask you, did you, or did you not believe that Bin Laden was guilty prior to seeing the video that was admittedly edited by the socialist government of the United States and its hired translators?

Sorry, I don't mean to split hairs too, but since you brought it up, even the hair on his beard doesn't match up (based on other available photos).

94 posted on 01/11/2002 12:05:06 PM PST by Ridin' Shotgun
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To: Ridin' Shotgun
Maybe you should read this. Link.
95 posted on 01/11/2002 12:14:23 PM PST by Victoria Delsoul
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Comment #96 Removed by Moderator

To: Demidog
"'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."


Notice, though, that in either case, they quibbled about what it didn't, in part, say, as though that were exculpative, but never did go on to reveal what it actually did say. The conclusion? There were differences in translation, but not not any that were exculpative. Something along these lines:

"The U.S. said that bin Ladin said, "I ate the chocolate on a previous occasion" but he did not say "previous"."

Things are left like this in the hopes that people will assume that bin Ladin didn't eat any chocolate at all. In actuality, the gist of the statement was

"I ate the chocolate on an occasion before now."
97 posted on 01/11/2002 12:23:58 PM PST by aruanan
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To: Buckhead
And I own the bridge. LOL~
98 posted on 01/11/2002 12:33:30 PM PST by Ridin' Shotgun
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To: Victoria Delsoul
Are you seriously suggesting that Clinton blew up the trade center?
99 posted on 01/11/2002 12:35:09 PM PST by Ridin' Shotgun
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To: Demidog
Can the Arabs ever stop lying? NO. All they do is LIE,LIE,LIE!!!
100 posted on 01/11/2002 12:38:34 PM PST by imperator2
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