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A bombshell from Germany: White House deliberately mistranslated OBL video

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Bismillah Donating Member (81 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-28-05 07:24 PM
Original message
A bombshell from Germany: White House deliberately mistranslated OBL video
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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undeterred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-28-05 07:33 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thanks for posting- I haven't heard of this
We heard so much about how the lack of Arabic translators hindered our intelligence and yet over the past 4 years I don't think there has even been much recruitment. Why hire translators if you are going to put words in their mouths anyway!

I'm glad investigative journalism is still alive in Europe anyway. My German is pretty rusty, but I'll take a look.
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Bismillah Donating Member (81 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-28-05 07:52 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. You're welcome - and I hope it gets more publicity.
BTW, the link to the TV station is kaputt. Here's a transcription of the programme in the original German (courtesy of the Peace Research Unit at the University of Kassel):

"Bin Laden: The Video of the Year - Evidence or Manipulation?"

The journalists who produced this programme deserve a credit: Georg Restle and Ekkehard Sieker. And even if no one in the US or British media is interested in what the Krauts get up to, the test could easily be repeated by any other journalist with any other set of independent Arabic translators. (But Chomsky explained long ago why that sort of thing is most unlikely to happen...)
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Name removed Donating Member (0 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-29-05 07:41 PM
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7. Deleted message
Message removed by moderator. Click here to review the message board rules.
spooked911 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-29-05 02:03 PM
Response to Original message
3. I remember seeing this before, and I think it is important. It is a very
effective way to get the message you want. Just mistranslate key sections ever so slightly.

This video is actually the same one a lot of people believe showed a fake Osama-- the "fat" Osama he is often called. True enough, in a couple of shots from the video he looks odd-- but if you really watch the video, as I did, you can clearly see it is him-- particularly when he comes in at the beginning. I still remember feeling my heart jump as I saw that it was him in the video-- becuase so many people said it wasn't him. I actually felt very misled by certain people I had been reading.

But really, a MUCH easier way of getting the desired story is to just mistranslate his words rather than fake osama himself.

I guess there is also a lesson here for how the attacks themselves were done, and how the US press handled them.
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Bismillah Donating Member (81 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-29-05 02:17 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Yup. How many of us speak Arabic? And, more to the point:
How easy is it to get a copy of the original tape? Ekkehard Sieker described the difficulties involved in actually acquiring the damn thing (he went through a Kafkaesque rigmarole).

But if he can do it, so can any American reporter. The original Arabic tape could now be acquired from the German journalists, thereby evading White House obstruction, and the test could easily be repeated with a dozen independent Arabic translators living in the States. The total cost of a dozen translations would probably be no more than about $15,000, maximum. Any TV station could afford that, and they'd have a big story on their hands.

- Does anyone have any contact to anyone good on US TV?
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spooked911 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-29-05 05:13 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. At one point I downloaded the tape from NPR, I think. It might still be

Actually, I just checked, and I still have the RealAudio files downloaded-- there are two different clips and they both have the audio tracks, although the voices are muffled.

I can try to e-mail them to you if you wish. Send me a PM and I can try mailing them to you.
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Bismillah Donating Member (81 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-29-05 05:23 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Do you mean the actual original ARABIC tape?
Edited on Wed Jun-29-05 05:37 PM by Bismillah
That's the only one that would be of any use, Spooked. And, as I say, the German journalists have it already - and they've already done their analysis and broadcast their programme (to a resounding silence from the US press). The point is to get the original ARABIC tape to American and British media outlets, so that they can repeat the test with their own independent translators.

If that were possible, greed for money might possibly override deference to power, because this would surely be a HUGE story. Imagine it: "Bush Lied About What Osama Said"; "White House Twisted Evidence To Justify War"; "Lies, Damned Lies and Video Tapes"...

PS I don't speak Arabic, so I can't do much with the tape myself.
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spooked911 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-29-05 10:32 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. What I have has the arabic audio, if that is what you mean
the voices are rather muffled and hard to hear-- frankly, I think someone could hear pretty much whatever they wanted in there...
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dbeach Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-29-05 11:04 PM
Response to Original message
9. Shaykh [osama lietenant] refers to a 'coup":
I edited much to comply with DU rules but whatever..I think that their poetry sounds like english 102 in college ..very polished and rehersed??

Its significent that Shaykh mentions coup when as far as I know body was saying coup in 2001

so maybe Osama is cia many suspect
"The following transcript of a videotape of Osama bin Laden talking with others, translated from Arabic into English, was issued by the U.S. Department of Defense. CNN spells the al Qaeda leader's name Osama bin Laden, but the Defense Department spelling -- Usama bin Laden -- is retained. He is identified as UBL in the transcript.
In mid-November, Usama Bin Laden spoke to a room of supporters, possibly in Qandahar, Afghanistan. These comments were videotaped with the knowledge of bin Laden and all present.

UBL: The brothers, who conducted the operation, all they knew was that they have a martyrdom operation and we asked each of them to go to America but they didn't know anything about the operation, not even one letter. But they were trained and we did not reveal the operation to them until they are there and just before they boarded the planes.

UBL: We were at a camp of one of the brother's guards in Qandahar. This brother belonged to the majority of the group. He came close and told me that he saw, in a dream, a tall building in America, and in the same dream he saw Mukhtar teaching them how to play karate. At that point, I was worried that maybe the secret would be revealed if everyone starts seeing it in their dream. So I closed the subject. I told him if he sees another dream, not to tell anybody, because people will be upset with him. (Another person's voice can be heard recounting his dream about two planes hitting a big building).

UBL: They were overjoyed when the first plane hit the building, so I said to them: be patient.

Shaykh: They (the Americans) were terrified thinking there was a coup. UBL (reciting a poem): I witness that against the sharp blade They always faced difficulties and stood together... When the darkness comes upon us and we are bit by a Sharp tooth, I say... "Our homes are flooded with blood and the tyrant Is freely wandering in our homes"... And from the battlefield vanished The brightness of swords and the horses... And over weeping sounds now We hear the beats of drums and rhythm They are storming his forts And shouting: "We will not stop our raids Until you free our lands"... "

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undeterred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-04-05 11:07 AM
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10. kick!
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