Global Lingo Blog

Translating Treaties

A political argument has broken out over the translation of the US-Iraq Declaration of Principles. Democrats suggest that the language of the translated pact commits US forces to fight on behalf of the Iraqi government; if so, the declaration would require Congressional approval.

The Declaration of Principles in its current form states that the United States and the Iraqi government envision a ‘relationship of cooperation’ that will provide ‘security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq that violates its sovereignty and integrity of its territories, waters or airspace’. For Democrats, the phrase ‘security assurances’ implies a long-term military commitment. The White House responded that the translation of ‘security assurances’ was ‘something we struggled with’.

A spokesperson for the administration claimed that the original Arabic phrase was ‘translated in kind of an interesting way’, and that a better translation might have been, ‘We’ll consult’. Democrat Representative William Delahunt, however, argued that ‘If it’s sloppy language, it borders on irresponsible to use words like security assurances or security commitments; their customary interpretation would be binding’.

Such nuances do occur in the translation of legal texts, and Global Lingo always highlights them with clients as soon as they are identified so that a mutually agreed translation can be decided.

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