Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lost in Translation

I was about half-way through a blog post on how I apparently got it wrong in Syria, Israel and the Mystery Attack - More Lies the Gray Lady has Told Me? and that Syria apparently was in the early stages of building a nuclear reactor, no matter how idiotic that sounded.

I was swayed by a rash of stories such as Israel strike 'targeted Syrian nuclear reactor', which led me to believe that yes, Syria had admitted to having a nuclear facility - apparently in the construction phase. I immediately downgraded my assessment of Assad & Co. to "low moron" and decided that maybe I wasn't being completely lied to by the "Deep Background" folks who have been leaking stories to the press for the last month or so.

Then we get this from the U.N. and I am back to being curious and confused as to what went down on September 6th:

UN blames interpreter's error for erroneous report that Syria has a nuclear facility
from the AP

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations blamed an interpreter's error for an erroneous report that Syria claimed an Israeli airstrike hit a Syrian nuclear facility, a mistake that made headlines in the Middle East and heightened concerns over Damascus' nuclear ambitions.

Syria denied on Wednesday that one of its representatives told the U.N. General Assembly's committee that deals with disarmament on Tuesday that Israel had attacked a Syrian nuclear facility and added that "such facilities do not exist in Syria."

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, quoting an unnamed Foreign Ministry source, said its representative was misquoted — and after more than seven hours of investigation the United Nations said that was indeed the case...

...According to the corrected text, the Syrian delegate said: "...the (entity) that is ranking number four among the exporters of lethal weapons in the world; that which violates the airspace of sovereign states and carries out military aggression against them, like what happened on Sept. 6 against my country, such entity with all those characteristics and even more, has no right for its representative to go on lying without shame..."

The Syrian representative was replying to a speech to the committee on Monday by Israeli Ambassador Miriam Ziv, deputy director general for strategic affairs in the Foreign Ministry, who accused Syria of continuing to transfer weapons to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon...

This just seems like such an odd coincidence that we would have a major translation blunder on such an important topic.

The part of me that appreciates a well run psychological warfare campaign can admire the "mistake" as a brilliant piece of work to help reinforce the "Syria has nukes" meme in Western target audiences. It dovetails nicely with the "World War III - Iran" meme being trotted out as well.

Or it could just be another example of incompetence at the U.N., an unfortunate mistranslation that by itself means nothing, but a mistake that could have grave consequences for the Middle East.

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