Caught Red-Handed: Media Backtracks on Iran’s ‘Threat’

For close to two years, the media has stubbornly clung to a long discredited story about the Iranian president’s alleged threat to "destroy Israel" with nuclear weapons Iran doesn’t have and denies any intent to acquire. "Wiped off the map, wiped off the map," they bleat incessantly, even though his actual words, "The Imam [Khomenei] said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time," were paralleled with the fall of regimes like the Soviet Union and Iran’s former U.S.-installed monarchy (see this for a thorough refutation of this claim). From the start of his presidency, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has rhapsodized regularly about the demise of the "Zionist regime" in various metaphorical terms. He and his associates in the Iranian government have compared its fate to that of the pharaohs of Egypt and the former apartheid regime in South Africa (which they also did not recognize), but never have they threatened to start a war with any country.

Yet the rumor persists. Top respected journalists, advocates for peace and dialogue with Iran, and individual Iranians themselves bring up the misquote regularly, as do noted Iranian-American scholars. The media’s constant drumbeat has even duped top world leaders into believing the myth. On Oct. 29, 2005, the false quote was officially condemned by all 15 Security Council members in a United Nations statement, following Israel’s demand that the Security Council expel Iran from the UN due to the remark.

The effect this misquote has had on American policy toward Iran is undeniable. The majority of 2008 presidential candidates in both parties have repeatedly mentioned the alleged threat in speeches and interviews, obviously influenced by media reports.

And yet suddenly, after all this hoopla, at least two of the biggest media titans, the BBC and the Associated Press, appear to be backing away from the incorrect "wiped off the map" quotation they’ve been drilling into people’s minds for so long. It’s happening quietly and undemonstratively, but some recent subtle changes in their presentation indicate a tacit acknowledgment of their previous misreporting.

The details of how this reversal came to be, their curious handling of the subject in some of their recent news items, and contradictory arguments defending their work are a story in themselves. Let’s begin with the legendary British Broadcasting Company.

The BBC’s Adolescent Excuses

Formed in 1922, the BBC has a history of disinformation campaigns against Iran. In the early 1950s, Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, had enraged Britain by nationalizing his country’s British-dominated oil industry. The BBC, which was funded by the Foreign Office (FCO), was directed by the government to "destroy Persian confidence in the present policy of the Persian government," which they branded as "stupid and obstinate." The BBC’s Persian Service broadcasts in Iran reflected this to a tee, pumping out anti-nationalization propaganda to the Iranian people regularly, which pleased the folks in Tehran’s British embassy immensely.

In the summer of 1953, at the request of the British government and in coordination with the American CIA, the BBC broadcast a code word over its radio airwaves to signal the young shah of the start of the coup which Britain and America had plotted to overthrow Mossadegh. The BBC’s role in the coup d’état is confirmed by the CIA’s own declassified documents and by the BBC itself. Britain’s use of the BBC as a state propaganda arm and extension of the British Empire was not denied by the head of the BBC’s Eastern Service, Gordon Waterfield, who admitted at the time, "There is, on the whole, little divergence between what the Foreign Office want us to do, and what in actual fact, we are doing." London-based news agency Reuters was also not immune from state influence. Their official biography states, "During both World Wars, Reuters came under pressure from the British government to serve British interests."

Misinformation continues to thrive in the information age of the 21st century. In 2006, British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted on Sky TV his complete ignorance of the British-American coup that caused Iran’s young democracy to vanish from the page of time, claiming that he had never even heard of Mossadegh. But in a speech given the same year, Blair warned ominously, "Iran’s president has called for Israel to be – and I quote – ‘wiped off the map.’ And he’s trying to acquire a nuclear weapon." Yes, the most powerful man in Britain has never even heard of the monumental 1953 coup – one of the most significant events of the 20th century – which his own country helped carry out, yet a mistranslated sound bite and an unproven suspicion about Iran’s nuclear intentions, that he knows.

With over 85 years of history, the BBC, which continues to receive funding from the Foreign Office, cannot include juvenility among its reasons for getting Ahmadinejad’s words wrong. The BBC was just one of countless organizations which jumped on the "wiped off the map" bandwagon in 2005. Yet mention of the phrase largely disappeared from their reports in 2007. Then, in a June 8, 2007 article, the BBC finally published the following reversal:

"In October 2005, the Iranian president made a statement in which he envisaged the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian state. This was widely translated as a call for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map.’

"While he has repeated similar comments many times, he has insisted that Iran is not a threat to Israel."

The first statement referencing Palestinian statehood is an astonishing departure from what has been consistently presented in the media as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s "calls for the destruction of Israel." As for the "widely translated" plea – this same phrase was reported ad nauseam by the BBC itself in its print, radio, and television outlets. In essence, the BBC’s rationale recollects that typical adolescent excuse: but everybody was doing it!

In passing the blame to others, the BBC seems to indicate that it did no independent verification, translation, or fact-checking with regard to the quote and merely repeated what everyone else was saying. Yet three months earlier, a BBC journalist made a claim that totally contradicts this version of events.

On March 6, 2007, BBC editor Peter Rippon wrote a blog post on the BBC Web site, "Wiped off the Map?," which acknowledged that although the BBC has regularly cited the quote, "others" have argued that a "more accurate" translation would be "The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Rippon did not bother to mention who any of those “others” would be or acknowledge his source for the alternate quote.

Moreover, Rippon claims to have looked into the matter and reports matter-of-factly that the phrase "was picked up and translated from the Farsi" by BBC Monitoring, and he even quotes unnamed "experts" at the service defending their translation. Ah, but this story is completely negated by the BBC’s own original reports from October 2005, which clearly and unmistakably named Iran’s state media department, IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency), as the source of the quote.

For proof, see the following passage, which occurred repeatedly in several BBC articles on Oct. 27 and 28, 2005, just after the Oct. 26 World Without Zionism conference where Ahmadinejad first made his statement:

"He was addressing a conference entitled The World without Zionism and his comments were reported by the Iranian state news agency Irna.

“‘As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map,’ he said, referring to Iran’s late revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini."

BBC Monitoring is a government-funded subscription service founded in 1939, with a staff of about 500 translating press and agency reports spanning a claimed reach of over 150 countries in more than 100 languages. If, in fact they did independently translate the quote as Rippon reports, then their contributions appear to have been disregarded in the final analysis. British journalist Jonathan Steele wrote about the mistranslation in his June 14, 2006 column in the Guardian ("Lost in Translation") and reports querying a BBC Monitoring spokesperson (who, as in Rippon’s piece, spoke on the condition of anonymity), who said their original translation was "eliminated from the map of the world." Upon further inspection, the spokesperson said their Farsi translators were in a rush, and if they had to do it all over again, would have gone with "eliminated from the pages of history." Whoops.

To quote the anonymous spokesperson:

"The monitor has checked again. It’s a difficult expression to translate. They’re under time pressure to produce a translation quickly and they were searching for the right phrase. With more time to reflect they would say the translation should be ‘eliminated from the page of history.’"

Does this level of professionalism square with BBC Monitoring’s own assessment of its service and standards?

"Editors at BBC Monitoring possess specialized knowledge of countries they cover … they translate reports in a way that preserves the tone of the original, allowing subscribers to draw their own conclusions from what they read."

Rippon’s piece also relates a relatively frivolous viewer complaint over BBC One host Andrew Marr’s presentation of the quote on Oct. 30, 2005. It seems Marr referred to the phrase as "wiped off the face of the map" rather than "wiped off the map," and this viewer objected to the change, which he felt contained several false implications. What is noteworthy, however, is the BBC Governors’ Complaints Committee’s careful examination of the matter in their complaint review process (which ultimately did not uphold the complaint), evaluated under the criteria of Accuracy, Impartiality, and Fairness.

In their explanation, the BBC states:

"The Committee carefully considered the wording of the translation of the speech from a number of sources, including translations from BBC Monitoring and from the Middle East Research Institute in Washington. The Committee also reflected on how the speech had been translated in British newspapers and on al-Jazeera online."

According to this explanation, having pondered over what other media were saying, including some of their own British competitors, the BBC felt satisfied that the quote was acceptable to run. The mention of al-Jazeera is also specious, as they too relied on the same wrongly worded IRNA press item from which the rest of the international media took the quote. Even the committee’s reference to BBC Monitoring is highly dubious, since, as previously mentioned, their own reporting already credited IRNA with the quote.

Most curious of all, though, is the mention of the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI) as a major source. That’s because MEMRI had an entirely different interpretation of Ahmadinejad’s words, bearing almost no similarity whatsoever to the BBC’s favored "wiped off the map" selection. MEMRI’s version:

"Imam [Khomeini] said: ‘This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.’"

Note again the absence of words such as "Israel," "wipe out," and "map." MEMRI is no impartial body either – it’s an organization which focuses almost solely on translating and exposing examples of Islamic fundamentalist propaganda, hate speech, and terrorist ideology in the Arab and Iranian media. Founded by former Israeli Defense Force Col. Yigal Carmon, its supporters include many figures from far right and pro-Israel media such as The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, The National Post, and Fox News channel. MEMRI’s Web site lists glowing praise for its work from people such as right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer, former CIA chief James Woolsey, and Israeli political figure Natan Sharansky, who cites MEMRI’s "invaluable contribution to the struggle against anti-Semitism, hate, and racism." So an outfit such as MEMRI, with a clear political agenda, has produced a far less inflammatory version of the quote than the venerable British Broadcasting Company.

The BBC implicates itself further by admitting that translations of foreign languages are inherently fraught with inaccuracies:

"The Committee noted the inherent problem with accuracy in translations. It noted that all the translations varied to a greater or lesser degree, and it was difficult to decide which, if any, was the most accurate."

If the act of translation is such a delicate guessing game, then why trust translations? According to the BBC’s logic, journalists apparently have a license to interpret foreign languages in a myriad of ways. With so many options on the table, what’s to stop a media outlet with a political bias from choosing a preferred interpretation?

The BBC also rationalized:

"The Committee felt that the language used by the Iranian president was highly emotive by its nature and had been recognized as such in the international condemnation of what he had said."

Do these visceral, buck-passing comments sound consistent with the BBC’s stated editorial standards?

"The BBC’s commitment to accuracy is a core editorial value and fundamental to our reputation. Our output must be well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested, and presented in clear, precise language. We should be honest and open about what we don’t know and avoid unfounded speculation."

How does the BBC achieve accuracy?

"We aim to achieve accuracy by:

  • the accurate gathering of material using first hand sources wherever possible.
  • checking and cross checking the facts.
  • validating the authenticity of documentary evidence and digital material.
  • corroborating claims and allegations made by contributors wherever possible."
  • The bottom line: the BBC’s various stories do not check out. Their initial reports cite IRNA as the source of the quote, later documents list a hodgepodge of sources and rationalizations, and they later reported that the entire quote was translated "directly from the Farsi" by BBC Monitoring. Finally, a June 2007 article seems to assign responsibility to others, saying that the quote was "widely translated as a call for Israel to be wiped off the map," making no mention of their own alleged hand in the translation process or the responsibility incumbent upon them to verify its accuracy.

    Reuters: Deny, Deny, Deny

    A global news juggernaut, Reuters has been in existence since the mid-1800s and bills itself as "the largest international multimedia news agency." Though Reuters has stuck to its guns on the map quote, they are well aware of the controversy surrounding it. In January 2007, they responded to reader concern about their story "Iran President Says Israel’s Days Are Numbered," which repeated the map rumor and also contained the misquote, “Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out." The reader wrote:

    "You continue to report that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’ even though many Mideast experts have stated that the interpretation of what Ahmadinejad actually said was that the ‘Zionist regime will not last.’

    "In other words, rather than calling for ethnic cleansing, as your news stories imply, Iranian officials are calling for regime change – a common enough phrase these days. Are your reporters and editors deliberately misinforming the public? – Jan"

    Reuters’ reply:

    "We actually had access to this speech, and heard the president’s words verbatim from our own TV footage. We stand behind our translation. In this case, he used the word ‘mahv,’ which in Farsi means ‘wiped off.’ – Editor"

    Reuters’ response skips over the reader’s major point – that regime change, not genocide, was the true message – and ignores the crucial context of Ahmadinejad’s words as they related to the other faded regimes, including Iran’s previous ruler, the shah.

    Reuters again responded to a reader’s complaint on the matter on June 14, 2007:

    "President Ahmadinejad never said any such thing. That ‘quote’ is a complete fabrication. It’s an urban myth. What he REALLY said is ‘The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.’

    "You’ll note that there is an enormous difference between an active threat ‘to wipe something of the map’ and a passive comment that ‘something must vanish from the page of time.’ You will also note that the Farsi word for map, ‘nagsheh,’ appears nowhere in the speech text.

    "I would think that if a multi-million dollar organization such as Reuters News Service is going to continue agitating for an American attack on Iran it could afford to spend two or three hundred dollars to have Ahmadinejad’s speeches professionally translated into English. – Mark K."

    Reuters’ reply:

    "Thanks for your interest in this matter. Reuters is confident that its translation of what Ahmadinejad said is correct. We watched the original speech in 2005 and have not altered our rendering into English since. The Iranian authorities have never challenged our translation of the words, which echoed those of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, when he spoke on the same issue. – GBU Editor"

    Like the BBC, Reuters has just publicly stated that they translated the quote by themselves, on their own. And, as with the BBC, this far-fetched story can easily be disproved. In their very first reports in 2005, Reuters clearly identified IRNA as the source of the quote in the opening sentence!

    For proof, see these Oct. 26, 2005, and Oct. 27th, 2005, Reuters news items:

    "TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that Israel should be ‘wiped off the map,’ the official IRNA news agency reported."

    Contrary to Reuters’ claims, Iranian officials and Foreign Ministry office have refuted the quote’s interpretation numerous times. Reuters itself has reported on this. [1] Take, for example, Reuters’ own article from Feb. 20, 2006, "Iran Denies Wanting to ‘Wipe Israel Off the Map.’" In this piece, Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki directly refutes the quote in English, acknowledges the reality of the Holocaust, and reiterates that Iran’s nuclear program is purely peaceful.

    "’Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned,’ Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament.

    "’How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not recognize legally this regime,’ he said."

    Not only that, the February 2006 article again cites IRNA as the source of the infamous quote, which contradicts their repeated claim that the translation was their own. As Reuters noted: "Ahmadinejad caused a storm of condemnation last October after Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted him as telling a conference: ‘Israel must be wiped off the map.’"

    Reuters must have overlooked the April 2006 CNN interview with Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, where he said,

    "Iran … will not threaten any country, and we want peace in the Middle East and the whole world … but if you are going to conclude that we have said the people there [In Israel] have to be removed or they have to be massacred … this is [a] fabricated, unfortunate, selective approach to what the mentality and policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is. I have to correct, and I did so." [2]

    Perhaps Reuters also missed Ahmadinejad’s Feb. 13, 2007, ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer in which he responds to the "map" charge: "What happened to the former Soviet Union? It disappeared, disappeared from the face of the Earth. Was it because of war? No, it was through the decision of the people, and what we say is quite clear." [3] There are many other examples.

    Reuters may claim plausible deniability, but they already had early warning of the issue long before these complaints and rebuttals. After helping organize a workshop in Beirut in December 2005 that brought together six American and six Middle Eastern journalists, Reuters republished a St. Louis Dispatch article about the event by participant Jon Sawyer. The piece quoted another participant, Tehran Daily‘s Khosrow Soltani Kasseb, who explained his take on Iran’s recent "map" outrage:

    “For the journalists at the Beirut workshop, there was a lesson a few days after they headed home in how words can inflame – and confuse.

    "The only thing missing, said Iranian journalist Soltani, was any acknowledgment that Ahmadinejad’s remarks were neither new nor, in the Iranian context, incendiary – not in a country where ‘Death to Israel’ chants have been a staple of Friday prayers since the era of Ayatollah Khomeini two decades ago.

    “‘These slogans remain slogans and nothing more,’ Soltani told fellow journalists in an e-mail. ‘Let’s not forget the occasion in which Ahmadinejad said those things,’ he added, ‘a conference dubbed "The World Without Zionism." What else did you expect him to say? Viva Israel?’

    “‘What is certain is that no one here (I mean the officials) has any intention of wiping out a state by killing its people!’ Soltani said. ‘They just wish Israel did not exist or would somehow perish for the cause of Palestine.'”

    So Reuters has had plenty of opportunities to rectify the error, yet have chosen not to do so. According to Reuters’ editorial policy, "We are committed to accurate and balanced reporting. Errors of fact are always promptly corrected and clearly published." Further:

    "We are committed to reporting the facts and in all situations avoid the use of emotive terms . … We aim to report objectively actions, identity, and background and pay particular attention to all our coverage in extremely sensitive regions.

    "We do not take sides and attempt to reflect … the views of all sides. We are not in the business of glorifying one side or another or of disseminating propaganda. Reuters journalists do not offer their own opinions or views.

    "The world relies on Reuters journalists to provide accurate, clearly sourced accounts of events as they occur, wherever they occur, so that individuals, organizations, and governments can make their own decisions based on the facts."

    Reuters also adds that they do pay attention to feedback, and in fact, “we often spot and correct errors faster with the help of sharp-eyed readers. Other e-mails have made us question and sometimes change the way we describe people, countries, concepts, and controversies.” Yet to date, despite reader complaints, media articles to the contrary, and its own blatantly contradictory explanations, Reuters is still standing by its story, which it is "confident" is accurate.

    The Associated Press and Those Imaginary "Supporters"

    Along with Reuters, there may be no other source that has exploited this misquote more relentlessly than the Associated Press, which calls itself "the largest and oldest news organization in the world." The misquote has infected hundreds of AP articles since 2005 and is almost certainly one of the most frequently repeated quotes attributed to any individual in their history of reporting. Since October 2005, the AP has hammered this fake quote into the consciousness of millions of people around the world, and it continues to do so. But in May 2007, a change occurred. Whereas before the AP’s quote always read, "Israel must be wiped off the map," as of May 24, a new version has begun appearing in some of their articles:

    "[The] Zionist regime should be wiped off the map."

    "Israel" has now magically transformed into the "Zionist regime," i.e., the government. "Must" has become "should." The distinction is enormous. If Ahmadinejad was referring to the regime, then it cannot be claimed that he has made "genocidal" threats to physically and militarily "destroy Israel." This new interpretation is further validation for those who have disputed the quote’s accuracy.

    Here is the AP’s new "Zionist regime" version in its context. On May 24, AP introduced the following block of text in some articles. The entire passage reads:

    "In October 2005, he raised outrage in the West when he said in a speech that Israel’s ‘Zionist regime should be wiped off the map.’

    "His supporters and some independent analysts have since argued Ahmadinejad’s words were mistranslated from Farsi and should have been better translated as ‘vanish from the pages of time’ – implying Israel would vanish on its own rather be destroyed."

    Beginning June 3, AP articles reusing the stock text were suddenly missing the words "independent analysts" and "from Farsi":

    "His supporters have argued Ahmadinejad’s words were mistranslated and should have been better translated as ‘vanish from the pages of time’ – implying Israel would vanish on its own rather be destroyed."

    While AP’s acknowledgment of those who have disputed the quote is a victory, the gratuitous and misleading inclusion of the phrase "his supporters" sabotages the clarification – readers are less likely to take the claim seriously if they believe that Ahmadinejad’s fans dispute it. The unnecessary removal of the "independent analysts" phrase in subsequent reports is additionally suspect.

    In May 2006, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, squarely refuted the quote on his blog, where, by the way, he denounced the Islamic Republic, saying, " I personally despise everything Ahmadinejad stands for, not to mention the odious Khomeini, who had personal friends of mine killed so thoroughly that we have never recovered their bodies." In June 2006, veteran journalist Jonathan Steele took Cole’s correct translation as his lead and examined the controversy further in his own column in the Guardian. There is nothing to suggest that Steele supports Ahmadinejad.

    As the rumor rampaged on despite the new analysis and protests, I recognized the need for a critical mass to influence the discourse. In January 2007, I wrote a comprehensive examination of the quote and its context in Ahmadinejad’s speech. The piece has become something of a phenomenon. To date, the "Rumor of the Century" article has traveled the world and been translated into languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Slovak, and Swedish. In Thailand, the Bangkok Post featured an entire column about it. Numerous writers, academics, and authors quote and reference it. Newspapers have printed letters to the editor that quote from it, and others have created YouTube videos inspired by it. I have discussed it on American and Canadian radio programs, and it was recently selected for an award and inclusion in a forthcoming book.

    Since the map quote was first called into question at least a year earlier, and these revisions were only made after my January 2007 article was released, I believe that I’m one of the people being referenced here. If the AP is attempting to include my article as a defense of Ahmadinejad, then they have conveniently overlooked my association with the Mossadegh Project and condemnation of his "backwards regime." There is no comparison whatsoever between the benevolent, secular democracy of Dr. Mossadegh and the Islamic Republic’s oppressive, fundamentalist dictatorship, which has always openly despised him. Since none of the prominent media critiques are pro-Ahmadinejad, just who are these "supporters" to whom the AP refers?

    House of Representatives Charges Iran with Inciting ‘Genocide’

    Two years after Ahmadinejad’s speech, the quote is still causing a stir. On June 20, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the UN to charge Ahmadinejad with the crime of inciting genocide "because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel" – specifically citing the erroneous "wiped off the map" statement. (Somehow the person whom Ahmadinejad was quoting, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, seems to have averted all international condemnation and censure over the statement in the 1980s).

    In his June 18 testimony before the House, the resolution’s co-sponsor, Congressman Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) referred to Ahmadinejad as a "lunatic" five times and a "madman" twice, compared him to Hitler, and falsely accused Iran of openly admitting to a nuclear weapons program with the purpose of destroying Israel. Said Rothman:

    "Here we have the president of a sovereign nation … who says that a fellow nation … should be wiped off the face of the Earth, the people killed. … Lest one think that Mr. Ahmadinejad, a twisted, backward, lunatic, be some non-threatening individual crazy man who happens to talk about the death of millions of innocent people, this is the head of a nation, a sovereign nation with oil wealth and an army and with a stated goal of acquiring nuclear weapons to use to carry out his homicidal, genocidal, lunatic delusions of wiping out the State of Israel."

    The only congressmen who voted against the resolution were Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), both of whom recognized H. Con. Res. 21 as a pretext to lay the groundwork for war. Paul called it "an exercise in propaganda that serves one purpose: to move us closer to initiating a war against Iran," and he questioned how the U.S. could not consider its own threats of a possible nuclear attack on Iran as an incitement to genocide itself. "Does anyone believe that dropping nuclear weapons on Iran will not wipe a people off the map?" he asked.

    Congressman Kucinich has said the resolution "sets a dangerous precedent in foreign affairs. A mistranslation could become a cause of war. The United States House may unwittingly be setting the stage for a war with Iran." He repeatedly raised questions about the accuracy of the words being condemned. "There is reasonable doubt with regard to the accuracy of the translations of President Ahmadinejad’s words in this resolution," he said in a subsequent press release. "President Ahmadinejad’s speeches can also be translated as a call for regime change, much in the same manner the Bush administration has called for regime change in Iraq and Iran, making this resolution very ironic."

    Kucinich’s attempts during his June 18 testimony to insert four other alternate translations into the Congressional Record (including my own article, parts of which he read into the official record) were formally blocked by House members. [4] None of Kucinich’s suggested texts were taken seriously by the resolution’s supporters, who continuously interrupted his testimony.

    "When I learned of these translations, I felt obligated to bring it to the attention of the House," Kucinich said in a press statement. "It seems that much has been lost in translation. Members have a right to know of the translations, and the refusal to permit them to become a part of the Congressional Record does a disservice to members."

    In his testimony, Kucinich quoted from significantly different translations from MEMRI and the New York Times‘ Tehran bureau. The members remained unimpressed, and the suggested documents were dismissed without any logical explanation. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who has publicly called for the illegal assassination of Fidel Castro (which she denied and later admitted to), gave the baffling reasoning, "I would hate to have Ahmadinejad’s statements be included as a part of the record in this part of the debate where we are saying that he is a despot." In other words, she and her colleagues, like countless others, have already made up their mind.

    The Truth – War’s First Casualty

    The U.S. war against Iraq has caused enormous tragedy for both countries, with hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost on the basis of a flawed narrative. Clarifying the narrative vis-à-vis Iran has nothing to do with supporting a particular regime. It’s about truth, accountability, and preventing yet another conflict that is in nobody’s interest. As Congressman Kucinich cautioned regarding the mistranslation, "We must make every effort to ascertain the truth, because peace in the world may hang in the balance."


    1. Reuters reports:

    March 4, 2007:
    "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fueled fears … by urging that the Jewish state be ‘wiped off the map,’ though Tehran officials said this did not constitute a threat."

    June 4, 2007:
    "He has often referred to the demise of the Jewish state but says Iran does not pose a threat to it."

    June 8, 2007:
    "He has often referred to the destruction of the Jewish state but says Iran is not a threat."

    2. CNN Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer, April 2, 2006. Quotations from an interview with Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh:

    "[T]hese are fabricated news that they are … using … as an excuse for the military aggression or the aggressive policy.”

    "[T]he policy of Islamic Republic of Iran … is against any sort of school of thought or regime such as apartheid, Zionism, racism, and this is a matter of principle. Therefore, what you are talking about as apartheid was disappeared and it could not be accepted by civilized world, this Zionism and aggression of racism is also condemned. That is the message, and I’m sure that we are – this message is shared with all the international community and peace-loving people of the whole world."

    "And I assure the whole world that Iran is for peaceful activities and will try to continue it, and we spare no effort to assure that these activities will be peaceful and will not threaten any country, and we want peace in the Middle East and the whole world."

    "[B]ut if you are going to conclude that we have said the people there have to be removed or they have to be massacred … this is [a] fabricated, unfortunate, selective approach to what the mentality and policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is. I have to correct, and I did so."

    3. ABC News, Good Morning America, Feb. 13, 2007. Quotations from Diane Sawyer interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (1, 2):

    "We shy away from any kind of conflict and any kind of bloodshed, and we will be sad by such. We are opposed to any kind of conflict and as we have said repeatedly we think the world problem can be solved through dialogue, the use of logic and a sense of friendship. There is no need for the use of force."

    "And what we have said about Palestine, it’s quite clear, based on the charter of the UN, based on international regulations, we say let Palestinians decide. … Please allow the Palestinians to decide. Please respect their decision. But please give them the opportunity for decision-making."

    "We believe that in Palestine, there should be a referendum and Palestinians, Muslims, Jews, any Palestinians, and this is based on international regulations, and I think it’s their right to determine their future. Any decision made by Palestinians must be respected, and I think this is a very clear proposition."

    "Why are people opposed, what we say is clear. If you continue massacring innocent people, if you continue to make them refugees, and if you continue attacking neighboring countries, then the countries and the people of those countries, regions … get angry, because the Zionist regime was imposed upon them."

    "We are opposed to any proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. We believe that the time is now over for nuclear weapons. It is a time for logic, for rationality, and for civilization. Instead of thinking of finding new weapons, we are trying to find new ways to love people. And if talking about the ‘Death to America’ slogans, I think you know it yourself, it is not related in any way to American public. Our people have no problem with American public, and we have a very friendly relationship."

    4. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, June 18, 2007:

    "At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask unanimous consent to include a New York Times translation of the text of President Ahmadinejad’s speech, a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute of his speech, articles relating to an analysis of the speech, and the words that were used by Virginia Tilley of Johannesburg, South Africa, and by Arash Norouzi written on the 18th of January 2007."