At a town meeting in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Obama claims that the Iraq war is hurting our efforts in Afghanistan, because it’s tying up all our Arabic translators. (Via Gateway Pundit, via Instapundit.) Observers found his argument a bit weak, since they don’t speak Arabic in Afghanistan. (The Arab-speaking world runs from Morocco to Iraq.)
Halfway through his statement, Obama realizes his mistake, but true to form, he cannot admit it:
Obviously, they may not speak Arabic, but the various dialects that they speak in Afghanistan — often times people will speak Urdu or Pashtun or whatever the languages are — they’re going to be needed in those areas and a lot of them have ended up being placed elsewhere.
(Transcript mine.) Unless he thinks that Urdu and Pashtun are dialects of Arabic, this makes no sense at all. In fact, Urdu is mostly closely related to Hindi, and there is absolutely no shortage of people who could translate between English and Hindi.
The pushback on this is fascinating. A commenter at Gateway Pundit claims that this wasn’t a gaffe; Obama was right because the foreign fighters in Afghanistan mostly speak Arabic. That’s an interesting point (although I think that many of the foreign fighters are Pakistani), but rather a silly one since we have very little to say to those people. Translators are for dealing with the native population, not the people we are trying to kill.
One wants to dismiss this as just a foolish blog commenter, but it turns out that he was simply parroting the talking points of the Obama campaign. Sheesh. They would do better just to admit the mistake and move on. It’s obvious from the video that he recognized his mistake and tried to cover, so why do they try after the fact to claim that he was right? Why are they so committed to Obama’s inerrancy over there?
POSTSCRIPT: Another Gateway Pundit commenter suggests that all Muslims speak Arabic since they’re taught to read the Koran. I’m no expert, but this seems very doubtful to me. First of all, I think it’s much more common to memorize the Koran than to learn to read it (literacy in Afghanistan is only 51% even among males). But even among those who do learn Arabic for the Koran, I’d be surprised if it gave them a working ability to communicate in modern Arabic on topics of interest to our troops, in such numbers that it would be worth sending translators.