There was no misinterpreting Iraqi players' anger at Bush's campaign
Posted: Tuesday August 24, 2004 4:24PM; Updated: Tuesday August 24, 2004 4:24PM
ATHENS, Greece -- I had a feeling SI.com might ruffle some feathers in Washington with my story last week about Iraqi soccer players' displeasure with President Bush after he used the Iraqi Olympic team in his latest re-election campaign ad.
(To see the ad, click here.)
But I can't say I expected former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) officials to publicly question the accuracy of the story, so let's set the record straight.
When asked about the SI.com piece on Monday's ESPN2 broadcast of Cold Pizza, former senior CPA official Don Eberly reiterated a quote from a Reuters interview of Mark Clark, a British consultant for the Iraqi Olympic Committee and himself a former CPA official.
Clark's statement, which was passed along by Eberly, was this: "It seems the story was engineered."
I don't know about you, but I take "engineered" to mean anything from "not on the level" (at best) to "fabricated" (at worst). Curious about Mark Clark's definition of the word, I called him on Monday.
Clark told me two interesting things: 1) When he commented on the SI.com story to Reuters he hadn't yet read it, and 2) he "didn't recall" using the word "engineered" in the Reuters interview. When I asked Reuters reporter Alastair Himmer, who quoted Clark, Himmer said, "He [Clark] told me straight up, mate. I'm not in the business of making up quotes."
If Clark did use the term engineered, then he's simply wrong. The two Iraqi players I interviewed, Salih Sadir and Ahmed Manajid, were asked simple questions. (The interview is on audio tape.) One of them was: "President Bush has included the Iraqi Olympic team in his latest campaign advertisements. How do you feel about that?"
The players answered the question -- no more, no less.
Clark also told Reuters, "it is possible something was lost in translation" in the SI.com story.
Well, no it isn't. On Tuesday, I played the tape of my original interviews (and the accompanying translations) for Chawki Rayess, an Arabic/English interpreter working for Olympic organizers in Athens. Rayess, a member of the respected International Association of Conference Interpreters, confirmed as accurate the following:
From Sadir: "Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign. He can find another way to advertise himself."
And from Manajid: "How will [Bush] meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes."
Then again, I already knew that the original translations were made in precise language, hardly a sign of confusion. If Clark and Eberly wish, I would be happy to provide them a copy of the tape. Until then, let's keep following the Iraqi soccer team's march to a possible bronze medal -- in my mind the best story of these Olympics.