On two separate occasions, two different interpreters have taken what the Iraqi Prime Minister has said so far out of context that it basically meant the opposite?
“U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months,” he said in an interview with Der Spiegel that was released Saturday.
“That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” he said.
But a spokesman for al-Maliki said his remarks “were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.”
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements, echoing statements that the White House made Friday after a meeting between al-Maliki and U.S. President Bush.
I didn’t necessarily buy the previous backtracking after his first statement about withdrawal in the early part of July, but it was at least plausible. This time around, not a chance. Maliki said way too much for it to be taken out of context.
Politco’s Ben Smith puts it as such…
It’s almost a convention of politics that when a politician says he was misquoted, but doesn’t detail the misquote or offer an alternative, he’s really saying he wishes he hadn’t said what he did, or that he needs to issue a pro-forma denial to please someone.
Also, Der Spiegel has a transcript. Again…this is the conversation…
SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?
Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.
SPIEGEL: Is this an endorsement for the US presidential election in November? Does Obama, who has no military background, ultimately have a better understanding of Iraq than war hero John McCain?
Maliki: Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems. Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans’ business. But it’s the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that’s where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited.
How does one misinterpret or mistranslate that? He explicitly called out Barack Obama and the idea of 16 months. There’s no wiggle room.