No mistranslation in Maliki interview

Contrary to claims made by people trying to downplay the impact of the Iraqi prime minister's statement in support of Barack Obama's Iraq plan, it's now clear the translation was correct.

Published July 22, 2008 11:14PM (EDT)

It was the shot heard 'round the world: in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said of U.S. troop withdrawal from his country, "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."

Almost immediately, the Iraqi and U.S. governments made half-hearted attempts to walk Maliki's statement back. And supporters of the war have claimed that Maliki's words were mistranslated. But the Columbia Journalism Review has a bit of detail that should quiet such claims, at least to the extent that they haven't been quieted by events since Maliki's statement that have made clear he meant what he said.

CJR's Clint Hendler quotes the magazine's Mathias Müller von Blumencron as saying, "We have a policy at Der Spiegel when we do a question and answer session to provide a transcript to our counterparts in case they want to have a minor thing changed." In this case, Hendler reports, the magazine -- which has a content-sharing agreement with Salon -- verified that Maliki's aides had received the transcript. They reported no complaints.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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