White House attempts to soften Iraqi PM criticism falls falt

The White House claims Iraq’s prime minister claims he was misquoted on statements that American soldiers kill Iraqi civilians at random — but the Iraqi PM hasn’t claimed he was misquoted and the White House can’t explain exactly what or how such misquotes happened.

The latest FUBAR at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue came Friday when the White House tried in vain to soften criticism by Iraq’s prime minister over allegations that U.S. Marines killed two dozen unarmed civilians in the western town of Haditha last November.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had told U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad that he had been misquoted. But Snow was unable to explain what al-Maliki told Khalilzad or how he had been misquoted.

“That is a little too complicated for me to try to read out,” Snow said at a briefing where he was pressed to explain how al-Maliki’s remarks were supposed to have been distorted. “It becomes a little convoluted and so I don’t want to make a real clear characterization because it’s a little hazy to me,” Snow said.

The prime minister was quoted a day earlier as saying the Haditha deaths were “a horrible crime.” He also was quoted as saying, “This is a phenomenon that has become common among many of the multinational forces. No respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch. It’s unacceptable.”