Was the “mis-translation” of the Congressman’s statement in Syria intentional or not?
Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) went , of his own volition, on a fact-finding trip to Syria last week, in an effort to try to bring peace to the region. He alleges his Arab-American constituents in Cleveland asked him to assess conditions on the ground there because of the government’s severe crackdown on protesters of the regime. He met with President al-Assad and members of the opposition on Monday, after al-Assad had refused to meet with the U.S. ambassador to Syria. He was subsequently quoted in an article in the Syrian media as saying “President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians” and “President Bashar al-Assad cares so much about what is taking place in Syria, which is evident in his efforts towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this”
Although Rep. Kucinich was not there representing the Obama government, this comes at a time when others in the U.S. government such as Republicans Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, have made repeated calls to recall the U.S. ambassador to Damascus because of the violations of human rights by the Syrian government.
Mr. Kucinich says that his comments during an interview were misinterpreted, although David Kenner, a Foreign Policy writer has pushed back saying that the Congressman does not speak Arabic and the original Syrian news article was in English so no translation would have been necessary.
CNN interviewed Fouad Ajami, an Arab specialist who is a contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report, who suggests that the Syrian regime is taking advantage of the Congressman to spread their propaganda. Watch the video here. Although Mr. Kucinich asserts that it was not done intentionally he says he will be ever mindful of the perils of being “lost in translation” during the rest of his trip.
This all begs the question of why the Congressman did not hire a professional interpreter to accompany him on a mission as delicate as this? It would have avoided all of this subsequent speculation. I called Mr. Kucinich’s office and spoke to a member of his staff to ask about the circumstances surrounding this event and was told that he did not know the answers to my questions and that I would have to speak to his press secretary. I have left a detailed message for the press secretary about the reason for my call. I will do a subsequent post if/when he calls back.