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A bombshell from Germany: White House deliberately mistranslated OBL video [View All]

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Bismillah Donating Member (81 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-28-05 07:24 PM
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A bombshell from Germany: White House deliberately mistranslated OBL video
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Edited on Tue Jun-28-05 07:39 PM by Bismillah
A delayed-action bombshell, certainly: the programme, on Germany's Channel One (roughly equivalent to the BBC) came out in December 2001, and this accurate English account appeared on the Web just a few days later. But to the best of my knowledge, this story has never been reported anywhere in the US or British mainstream press. It surely deserves to be much better known, because it really amounts to a sensation - proof positive that the White House has been forging evidence to justify the War on Terror. Even if they claim, implausibly, that they just fucked up - the Incompetence Excuse, Vol 358 - they cannot deny that they have never corrected those useful errors since the tape was released. And the Bush Gang's usefully erroneous translation from the Arabic was what convinced most people that Osama was behind the attacks. In fact, the notorious Home Video is practically the only evidence ever presented that Bin Laden did what he is alleged to have done. As demonstrated by two veteran journalists on Germany's longest-running TV current-affairs programme, it's a shoddy fake.

Investigative journalism isn't dead, after all:

Mistranslated Osama bin Laden Video - the German Press Investigates

by Craig Morris
7:16am Sun Dec 23 '01 (Modified on 8:19pm Sun Dec 30 '01)

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

Mistranslated OBL video - Germanys Channel One investigates

On 20 December 2001, German TV channel Das Erste broadcast its analysis of the White Houses 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 Houses translation not only to be inaccurate, but manipulative.

Arabist Dr. Abdel El M. Husseini, one of the translators, states, I have carefully examined the Pentagons 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 Houses 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 says that the sentence afterwards - they didnt 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 Germanys 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) - visit,1518,174025,00.html

if you can read German. More surprisingly, as I write the following site appears on Lycos in German: -

but nothing under 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.

Ill say. Arent there any reporters in the US who speak German (or Arabic, for that matter)? An article in USA Today of 20 December 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 didnt 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? 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. He can be reached at The original broadcast of the German show can be viewed in German at

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