Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 20, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE MALIKI QUOTE....Did Der Spiegel translate Nouri al-Maliki's endorsement of Barack Obama's 16-month troop withdrawal plan correctly? Maliki's spokesman backtracked under pressure from the U.S., but Der Spiegel gave tapes of its interview to the New York Times and it looks like the magazine got it right. You have to get down to the 16th paragraph before the Times bothers to mention it, but here's a comparison of the two translations:

Spiegel: "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....Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic."

Times: "Obama's remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq....Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq."

Sounds pretty much the same to me. Maliki may or may not regret having said it, but he said it.

Kevin Drum 11:06 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

In this country it will be said that Maliki was thrown under a bus. Other countries will call it a coup.

Posted by: CarlP on July 20, 2008 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, Centcomm put out an inaccurate statement? Oh, the humanity!

Posted by: jimBOB on July 20, 2008 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

In this day and age, the audio should be posted on the web. There are lots of Arabic speakers who could render their own translations, including press in the Arab world.

Posted by: Democrat on July 20, 2008 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

In response the McCain campaign cited a comment by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen:

Today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, the nation's highest ranking officer, made clear that he believes such an approach could be 'very dangerous.' Admiral Mullen further added that his view is shared by U.S. commanders in Iraq, who are 'adamant about continuing progress, about making decisions based on what's actually happening in the battle space.'

The Iraqis are sick of US commanders making decisions they should be making themselves in their country which they are tired of being referred to as the US military's "battle space".

Posted by: on July 20, 2008 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Is this good news for John McCain?

Just checking.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on July 20, 2008 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

These two biased media outlets don't really represent the full spectrum of possible translations, though. Let's add some balance:

Spiegel: Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic.

Times: Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.

GOP: Leave now and we'll invite Al Qaeda into our country just to spite you! A-yi-yi-yi-yi!

There. I think that covers it.

Posted by: Scott Forbes on July 20, 2008 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

My independent and unbiased translation reveals something quite different:

"Barack Obama has spoken about a sixteen month timeframe for withdrawal. He's a coward."

Posted by: John McCain on July 20, 2008 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

The blundering McCuster's last stand (?), before he he and his party are blown away by Hurricane Obama and our retribution for the gop inflicting the chimp on us. Even a jaded, chronic pessimist like myself (you can't be too cynical) can hardly fail to read the grafitti on this wall. Barring a cataclysmic event, and maybe even in the event thereof, Maliki will be negotiating with Obama for some time. Not that we're not going bankrupt anyway.

Posted by: siditious on July 21, 2008 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

This is a critical issue and the tape should be released. The Hill, not a GOP source, has has a different version, which sounds like the Bush policy.

Asked in an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel of when he would like to see American forces leave Iraq, Maliki said: “As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned.” He then added that “Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes.

This is the difference between "I love my wife" and I love you and who cares about my wife." Maybe Maliki just didn't realize how malign the world media is to his country.

Posted by: Mike K on July 21, 2008 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

Standard administration MO asserts itself again....whether it is the 9/11 commission, the EPA, Food and Drug, Energy Department or foreign leaders.....the most important function of the white house is to make sure the message is what they want, even if they have to refuse delivery, get their own lawyer to define torture, demand removal of offensive language from agency reports, or browbeat foreign leaders to get them to deny they said what they said.

Posted by: on July 21, 2008 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

Standard administration MO asserts itself again....whether it is the 9/11 commission, the EPA, Food and Drug, Energy Department or foreign leaders.....the most important function of the white house is to make sure the message is what they want, even if they have to refuse delivery, get their own lawyer to define torture, demand removal of offensive language from agency reports, or browbeat foreign leaders to get them to deny they said what they said.

Posted by: dweb on July 21, 2008 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

Just because Iraqis had flawed elections followed by them forming a government along our idea of what structure that should be, with Maliki as president, doesn't make him "the man" in a tribal and clan society. However, what was said to der Spiegel runs closer to what other Iraqis and polls taken there have been saying for some time. Heaven only knows that this US administration has been pissing into the wind for 7 years now. Why would they stop?

I said it here before, but...

When the military campaign was over, control should have reverted to civilians (State department) with the military reverting to a purely security and subservient role. They should shut the eff up and leave what are political and diplomatic decisions to, you know, politicians and diplomats.

One of the worst effects of the Bush "presidency" has been to overtly politicize the US military and castrate their professional judgement.

If the Iraqis feel they can do without us, my guess would be that that is their decision to make. Since we haven't actually rebuilt their armed forces as a balanced entity, and if we want to get any return on the billions invested in bases, we could offer to maintain a couple or three, each with a brigade or two and air support, to guarantee their security from outside interference on, say, a rolling 2 or 3 year commitment renewed annually. That might satisfy both sides if not the US taxpayer, who will still face a stiff and long-lasting stream of bills from this "war".

That would be if they want.

Posted by: notthere on July 21, 2008 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

What is the surprise? Maliki can not be the only prescient observer and besides he wants to survive the end of Bush.

Posted by: YY on July 21, 2008 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

apparently it wasn't even Der Spiegel's translation! The interpreter present during the interview, who presumably translated al-Maliki's comments in real time from Arabic to German, works for al-Maliki!

Whether Der Spiegel printed al-Maliki's comments as translated by this interpreter verbatim is unknown. Perhaps they listened to the tape back at the office and did a separate translation from Arabic to German, or in some way amended and edited the interpreter's translation.

Another issue is who translated the interview from German into English? Can any German readers tell us how the English version matches up with the German one?

Posted by: along on July 21, 2008 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

along, comprehension a weak spot?

der Spiegel handed tape copies of the interview to NYT. That would have included Maliki and any interpreter. No?

Posted by: notthere on July 21, 2008 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin writes: Maliki may or may not regret having said it, but he said it.

Doesn't much matter that he said it... it's what he will do and say going forward that counts. And if he's in effect backing off his comments than what difference does it make what he may have said for the interview?

Posted by: pencarrow on July 21, 2008 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, that's some stupid shit from Mike K. It's almost as if he were reading from another dimension.

No Mike K, Maliki wants the Americans to leave as soon as possible - same as Obama's position and the same as one of John McCain's next three positions.

Posted by: the on July 21, 2008 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

Is there any wonder that the guy who followed Saddam would support Obama? Isn't Maliki in bed with the Iranians?

Posted by: Boronx on July 21, 2008 at 3:19 AM | PERMALINK

@along
Actually, I do not think the interview was done in German. I guess questions were in English and were translated to arabic and vice versa.
But FWIW, here is the German version of Der Spiegel:
"Das, finden wir, wäre der richtige Zeitraum für den Abzug, geringe Abweichungen vorbehalten", sagte der Iraker. Er wolle zwar keine Wahlempfehlung abgeben, sagte Maliki, doch wer in Irak "mit kurzen Fristen" rechne, sei "näher an der Wirklichkeit".
My trandslation: (Concerning Obama´s 16-month withdrawal-plan he said:) "We think that this is the right timeframe for withdrawal, Maliki said. He did not want to give recommendations for the election, but "who counts on short timeframes is closer to reality".

Posted by: emilruebe on July 21, 2008 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

Boronx, just like the idiots in charge here he is looking out for his own interests. If you're not the fattest cat at the party you stay in with all those around you who might help. Just like the US in 1777. There's nothing there that says he "supports" Obama. Couldn't guess where you're coming from. Jerk.

Aside: Why is it becoming so common on the web to see "then" spelled "than"? Are western US citizens sublimally aware they mispronounce the second vowel, or is it down to phoenetics?

Just wondering. Not expecting an answer.

Posted by: notthere on July 21, 2008 at 4:38 AM | PERMALINK

Why wouldn't al-Maliki support Obama, who is talking common sense, over John McCain who wants to continue slaughtering Iraqi citizens indefinitely because he just knows thats what they need?

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 21, 2008 at 6:22 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, like having the NY Times translate the tape proves anything. Wake me when they make it available to the Washington Times, Michelle Malkin, Powerline, Pamela Atlas...

/conservatard

Posted by: kth on July 21, 2008 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

Like I asked before, what do the best language experts say? Don't trust any translation that may have political consequences until vetted by genuine language scholars; remember what happened to A-jad's "Wipe out Israel" remark which almost certainly meant, to liquidate a political entity and not the people living there? Very important is whether and what exact original wording to what is now reported as "Assuming that positive developments continue."

But Mike K, even Obama says that "16 months" is a goal not a fetish and that we have to keep an eye on what happens. Remember, it's a conservative pig-headed trait to think you have to stick to a plan of action no matter what happens, liberals intrinsically believe in flexibility.

Posted by: Neil B. ♪ ♪ ♪ on July 21, 2008 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

CENTCOM should just come out and state Maliki is not authorized to speak about matters related to U.S. military operations or timetables. Be honest about it, put it on the table and get on with the occupation.

Posted by: steve duncan on July 21, 2008 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Only in America could we tell ourselves that a magazine as established as Der Spiegel could "mistranslate" something.

Y'know, unlike here, "foreign" languages are not exactly a real mystery to Europeans, including Arabic.

In fact don't we have it on good authority that the entire Continent has been taken over by rapidly breeding Muslims? :)

Posted by: doesn't matter on July 21, 2008 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

How do you say "Kinsley Gaffe" in Arabic? As politicians are wont to do, he accidently said what he wanted to say.

Posted by: danimal on July 21, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Malaki is talking to his own voters. The message that sells with them (understandably) is for the U.S. to leave ASAP. If you want to spin that into a "Malaki endorses Obama,' story, that's fine. But it really doesn't have anything to do with the Senator.

Posted by: Pat on July 21, 2008 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Well Barack is in Baghdad today. Let's see if he chimes in on this.

Posted by: Leanderthal on July 21, 2008 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, the nation's highest ranking officer, made clear that he believes such an approach could be 'very dangerous.' Admiral Mullen further added that his view is shared by U.S. commanders in Iraq, who are 'adamant about continuing progress, about making decisions based on what's actually happening in the battle space.'

Wow. When Bush talked about giving policy-making power to the generals, he meant it. Mullen sounds like he enjoys making policy and imposing it on the American public. I hope he is not getting any ideas about consolidating power.

Posted by: Xenos on July 21, 2008 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I read the article in the NYT this morning over breakfast, buried way in the middle of the A section, someplace around A-11, with the headline, "Comment Stings Iraqi Leader on Eve of Obama Visit", and the lede, "On the eve of Senator Barack Obama’s visit to Iraq, its prime minister tried to step back Sunday from comments in an interview in which he appeared to support Mr. Obama’s plan for troop withdrawal." I had to keep reading through 15 more paragraphs of largely extraneous and irrelevant crap having nothing whatsoever to do with the accuracy of the translation befor getting to the meat of the story. So I asked myself, who do the NYT editors get paid by, the McCain campaign?

The MSM is doing a good job of obscuring the real story here, which is a death blow to the centerpiece of the McCain campaign. McCain argues not that his plans for Iraq are better than Obama's, but that Obama's call for redeployment of US forces over a 16 month timeline is naive and irresponsible. If the Government of Iraq states that they think that Obama's stated plan is the more realistic, McCain can still argue his plan is better, but the argument that Obama has shown himself to dangerously naive in terms of international affairs and US policy in Iraq is suddenly DOA.

Without the "naive and irresponsible" meme it becomes a contest of the guy who got Iraq right the first time against the guy who maybe got Iraq right after four years of screwing up.

Out of the two who would you choose for Commander in Chief?

Posted by: majun on July 21, 2008 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I read the article in the NYT this morning over breakfast, buried way in the middle of the A section, someplace around A-11, with the headline, "Comment Stings Iraqi Leader on Eve of Obama Visit", and the lede, "On the eve of Senator Barack Obama’s visit to Iraq, its prime minister tried to step back Sunday from comments in an interview in which he appeared to support Mr. Obama’s plan for troop withdrawal." I had to keep reading through 15 more paragraphs of largely extraneous and irrelevant crap having nothing whatsoever to do with the accuracy of the translation befor getting to the meat of the story. So I asked myself, who do the NYT editors get paid by, the McCain campaign?

The MSM is doing a good job of obscuring the real story here, which is a death blow to the centerpiece of the McCain campaign. McCain argues not that his plans for Iraq are better than Obama's, but that Obama's call for redeployment of US forces over a 16 month timeline is naive and irresponsible. If the Government of Iraq states that they think that Obama's stated plan is the more realistic, McCain can still argue his plan is better, but the argument that Obama has shown himself to dangerously naive in terms of international affairs and US policy in Iraq is suddenly DOA.

Without the "naive and irresponsible" meme it becomes a contest of the guy who got Iraq right the first time against the guy who maybe got Iraq right after four years of screwing up.

Out of the two who would you choose for Commander in Chief?

Posted by: majun on July 21, 2008 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I apologize for the double post.

Posted by: majun on July 21, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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