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Re: Transcript

Dear all,

I had initially decided not to send the message below, but actually it
relates to Colin's message about un-backed up claims that do our cause
more harm than good, so I will send it after all. It is a response to
Hadi's message about having 'located the transcripts' of the April
Glaspie/ SH meeting:

I am often perturbed by the tendency on this list for some people to pay
rather less attention than they might to the provenance of sources.

The document referred to by Hadi is not straightforwardly a 'transcript'
of the meeting, as he appears to suggest. Above the NY times article
hosted at the site mentioned by Hadi is the following caveat:

      Here are excerpts from a document described by Iraqi Government
      officials as a transcript of the meeting, which also included the
      Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz. A copy was provided to The New
      York Times by ABC News, which translated from the Arabic. The State
      Department has declined to comment on its accuracy.

I am not saying that the meeting transcript is necessarily a complete
fabrication. BUT consider the following.

The transcript has gone through the following stages between the original
meeting and us reading it on the website: 1. Iraqi government, 2.
arabic-english translator(s), 3.New York Times, 4.ABC News, 5.Web host Each of these parties had an impact on the final
text. Thus:

 1. the Iraqi government wants to prove that they had been given the green
light to invade. Do they edit the transcript to make this seem more
plausible? The fact that Hadi describes the transcript as 'relatively
complete' is a key issue here. Editing is not a neutral process: what is
missing and who did the editing?
 2.The translator has considerable leeway regarding how to translate
ambiguous sounding text. Who was the translator associated with? What was
their interest?
 3. The ABC News group have interest in a scoop.
 4. have an interest in you picking up certain key
points in the text - they have helpfully underlined them for you and put
them into large red text.
 5. The state department decline to comment on the accuracy of the text.

Therefore the text of the meeting is a highly contested document. It can't
simply be referred to as 'the transcript' as if was somehow a neutral
transcript of what happened, agreed on by all concerned.

In assessing ANY source and its accuracy, it is essential to ask certain
questions - to be found in any GCSE history textbook: who wrote it? what
was their interest in writing it? who was their intended audience? is it
the original author you are reading, or is someone quoting them? etc etc
This applies not just to reading the pronouncements of the British
government, but also (and especially) to reading sources written
or disseminated by people who hold kindred views to you.

Sorry if this is patronising and simplistic to most (I'm sure it will be)
but too many times on this list there are hints of people not asking
themselves these questions. Just because something is written by a
campaigning group or by a journalist with a kindred spirit does not mean
it is true - the same standards of critical judgement need to be applied
WHATEVER the source - whether the British government, the Iraqi
government, CASI, or Omar El-Taher. As Colin suggests, unquestioningly
accepting facts from dubious sources that are not backed up by serious
research plays into the hands of our critics.


On Tue, 15 Jan 2002, HA wrote:

> Dear list members, I could not find a full transcript of the SH and
> April Glaspie meeting, but I have now got hold of a relatively
> complete transcript of the key parts of the conversation from the 'THE
> NEW YORK TIMES' dated Sun, Sept 23, 1990. If anyone else is interested
> in having a copy, it can be found at:
> Regards Hadi

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