October 31, 2004 · Lessig
So translation is the hardest thing in the world to do well, so no criticism of the translator intended here, but: There’s something very weird about the translation of bin Laden‘s speech.
As Aljazeera has translated it, near the end bin Laden says this:
And for the record, we had agreed with the Commander-General Muhammad Ataa, Allah have mercy on him, that all the operations should be carried out within 20 minutes before Bush and his administration notice.
It never occurred to us that the Commander in Chief of the armed forces would abandon 50,000 of his citizens in the twin towers to face those great horrors alone at a time when they most needed him.
He goes on to refer to the Pet Goat incident, so we know he’s referring to the morning of September 11. But what does “carried out within 20 minutes before Bush and his administration notice” mean? Is bin Laden saying he gave the US warning (“notice”) before the attack — which would explain the weird look on Bush’s face before he was told the attack had actually occured?
Is there someone out there who can do better with the translation?