Lost in translation


Mitsuo Shiota


September 30, 2021

I watched NHK News 7 in the evening on September 30, 2021.

News host (in Japanese): Today, one month has passed since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. TV screen (in English, volume is so small, it is difficult to hear): President Biden says, “The United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan — the longest war in American history.” News host (in Japanese): President Biden said, “Withdrawal was the right, wise and best decision.” But General Milley, Joint Chiefs Chair, said in his testimony to the Congress, TV screen (in English): “The war was a strategic failure.” TV caption (in Japanese): “Was a strategic failure.” News host (in Japanese): And he showed his strong alarm on terrorist attacks.

If you watch in Japanese and don’t hear English, you get the impression that President Biden defended his decision one month later, and that General Milley said “President Biden’s decision was a strategic failure.”

I searched President Biden’s sayings, and I found them in his speech on August 31, 2021. So he said them at the withdrawal, not one month later.

General Milley did not say “President Biden’s decision was a strategic failure.” He said, “The war was a strategic failure.” According to the New York Times:

Asked whether Mr. Biden’s decision to withdraw caused what General Milley had described as a “strategic failure,” the general took a longer view.

“This is a 20-year war,” General Milley said. “It wasn’t lost in the last 20 days or even 20 months for that matter. There is a cumulative effect from a series of decisions that go way back.”

I understand NHK has to make news compact, and easier to swallow. But NHK has gone too far this time, believing viewers don’t hear English.