Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, is a senior reporter for The Washington Independent.

Recent Articles

WireTAP: A Dialogue about The Wire (Episodes 1-3)

Prospect writers discuss the fifth season of the critically acclaimed HBO series.

The fifth and final season of HBO's groundbreaking drama, The Wire , is upon us. Every three episodes, we'll bring you a discussion of the series between TAP Online writers. This week, Spencer Ackerman kicks off our dialogue about episodes one, two, and three. --The Editors Spencer Ackerman: Friends, we find ourselves at a point of crisis. The Iraq war nears its fifth anniversary. The global economy is somewhere between freak-out and meltdown. The Democratic presidential nomination fight is getting brutal. And The Wire -- the only TV show that matters, the salve that makes it all bearable -- sucks now, at least in the popular imagination. Sunday is fast approaching, and ever since Episode Two aired, the consensus has been that the show's final season is a dreadful death rattle. At the screenings that Kriston, Matt, and I host, there's disbelief over both how heavy-handed the storytelling is and how thin the major plotlines of season five are. The Baltimore Sun plot -- in which a David...

Petraeus '12

General David Petraeus has a sterling reputation, the love of the press, and the adoration of the GOP. Don't be surprised if a Democratic presidential win in '08 starts an effort to recruit Petraeus as the Republican candidate in '12.

The world -- at least the world of the U.S. military -- is General David Petraeus' oyster. Nearly a year after Petraeus assumed command of Multinational Force-Iraq, as the military command in Baghdad is known, violence is ebbing back up , sectarian reconciliation remains deadlocked , and the surge is coming to an end. Yet Petraeus' reputation as a miracle worker is as assured as it ever was -- and before that changes, Petraeus is eyeing an exit from Baghdad. Tout Washington is trying to figure out where he'll work his magic next. "Trying to guess General Petraeus' next assignment is the most popular parlor game in the Pentagon these days," department spokesman Geoff Morrell told The New York Times for a piece yesterday exploring Petraeus' options. Indeed, Petraeus can basically write his next round of orders. But wherever he goes, his next important campaign probably won't be on any battlefield. It'll be political. For the past year, the GOP has laid the groundwork to enlist Petraeus...

The Coming Fight for Northern Iraq

With just days left before the deadline for the Article 140 referendum on who will control northern Iraq, both Kurds and Sunnis are pledging violence over the outcome.

Mosul was fairly calm earlier this year as winter gave way to spring. Some nights at Forward Operating Base Marez, the major U.S. garrison in the multiethnic northern Iraqi city, explosions would boom as incoming fire missed its target. But veteran officers, who remembered when Mosul briefly fell to the insurgency in late 2004, celebrated what passed for Iraqi tranquility. The city's central roundabouts featured something rare to see in Baghdad during that time: people milling about, selling produce, cut-rate electronics, and mountains of jeans on flatbeds and donkey carts. That calm is now gone, as al-Qaeda in Iraq and rejectionist Sunni insurgents have opted to abandon surge-bloated Baghdad and Anbar, where Concerned Local Citizen militias have a strong presence, for a place where a single U.S. combat battalion protects a city of 1.7 million people. Back then, though, it was almost boring. Something sinister lurked behind that boredom. The city's Kurds and Sunnis looked to a fateful...

Exporting the Anbar Awakening

Bush's latest ploy in the war on terror is to recycle tactics from Iraq in Pakistan. But it's unlikely that the strategy of allying with tribal figures against al-Qaeda will work in Pakistan -- and it's unclear whether it worked in Iraq.

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier at a post in outskirt of Mingora, the main town of Pakistan district Swat bordering Afghanistan on Monday, Nov. 26, 2007. (AP Photo/Mohammad Iqbal)
Imagine the Bush administration's war cabinet as a drunken gambler during a moment of sobriety-inducing panic. The fortune he thought he accumulated has proven illusory, and most of the money he brought to the casino is gone. His throat is dry and his head is pounding. The display of his cell phone shows numerous missed calls -- all from his wife, who begged him not to indulge his worst habits, and now pleads with him to come home. Three facts concentrate his addled mind: he is coated in shame, he is still in the casino, and he has a few dollars more. He thinks for a moment. In the last few hands, he unexpectedly won a little cash. Hope swells in his heart. Something that he doesn't understand stopped him from losing all his money -- but what? Maybe he doesn't need to know. He can just ride it out -- on a different game, even -- and come home with something to show for the weekend. As long as he has just a little something in his pocket, he won't have to admit that he made a drastic...

The Problem with Militias

Concerned Local Citizens groups represent the United States' first attempt at actually creating Iraqi militias, and U.S. officials are enthusiastic about the effort. Few seem to have noticed the potential pitfalls.

Everywhere you go in Iraq, there's victory. The commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, told reporters last Wednesday that he had wiped al-Qaeda in Iraq out of the city . Stability in Iraq is "within sight, but not yet within touch," he said. And while categorical statements about progress have come back to haunt U.S. officials, commanders are evincing more certainty about the possibilities of success than they would ever have dared prior to Gen. David Petraeus' September testimony. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has gone even further, proclaiming "victory against terrorist groups and militias." It's pretty bewildering, even for those who've seen some recent reasons for cautious optimism. Perhaps the only voice of caution over the last two weeks has been Ambassador Ryan Crocker. When last Crocker drew attention, it was during his shared testimony with Petraeus, in which he showed a surprising eagerness to lie about the pace with which sectarian reconciliation had...

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