Spencer Ackerman

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

Recent Articles

Final Fantasy

There's a line from one of Johnny Cash's final songs that adequately sums up the new Iraq strategy proposal released yesterday by Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. Go tell that long tongue liar , Johnny sings, go and tell that midnight rider; tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter -- tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down . Now, Kagan is no liar. As far as I know, he takes no midnight rides and has bitten no backs. But judging from his paper, he has quite a gambling problem. And while I can't presume to know what the Lord's plans for Fred Kagan are, if God doesn't cut him down, reality surely will. The plan, as released in preliminary form yesterday by AEI, is a tease. It's arranged as a 52-page bullet-pointed PDF -- easily translatable into the Pentagon's indigenous language of PowerPoint -- and as such, it makes assertions instead of arguments. Uncharitable as it may be to argue with bullet points, it's a necessary task when faced with such overwhelming and...

THE WASHINGTON POST...

THE WASHINGTON POST AND DOUBLE STANDARDS. In the midst of apologizing for Pinochet , The Washington Post drops this bombshell while apologizing for Pinochet-apologist Jeane Kirkpatrick : The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right. Wow, what might be a counterexample to this. Oh, I don't know -- maybe all of formerly-communist-and-now-NATO'd-up Eastern Europe ? What should be obvious to the Post is the fact...

No Middle Ground

Given the specific lineup of the 10 wise men and women serving on the Iraq Study Group, the most conspicuous absence is that of supermodel Heidi Klum. Sure, she has no relevant experience in foreign policy, nor any real knowledge of Iraq -- but neither do commissioners Sandra Day O'Connor, Vernon Jordan, Alan Simpson, or Edwin Meese. What Klum does have to offer is a lesson completely lost on the commission, one taught each week on her hit reality show Project Runway : you're either in, or you're out. When it comes to Iraq, it's good advice. From the commission's perspective, however, such advice would represent a dangerous breakdown of Washington's most enlightened foreign-policy tradition -- that is to say, bipartisanship. The Iraq Study Group, led by George H.W. Bush's secretary of state, James Baker, and 9-11 Commission co-chairman Lee Hamilton, made a point from the outset of its work to rule out the outer boundaries of the Iraq debate. Its report refuses to bless the idea of...

MORE IMPORTANTLY?

MORE IMPORTANTLY? I spent my morning at the Iraq Study Group's press conference on the Hill. (I'll have a piece for TAP on all this imminently.) Many bizarre things were said, but one that revealed the ISG's midset particularly well was this, courtesy of co-chair Lee Hamilton : "We have one last chance at making Iraq work, and, more importantly, one last chance to unite this country on this war." Jigga what? Why is it more important to rally the country behind a war that has only "one last chance" to it? Why is it important at all? What's the virtue of uniting behind a mission that's crashing and burning? And, if you believe that it's really important to "win" (or, at least, "not lose") the war, why would you possibly think that uniting the country behind that objective is even more important than the objective itself? --Spencer Ackerman

STANDING IN THE WAY OF CONTROL.

STANDING IN THE WAY OF CONTROL. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim , leader of SCIRI and commander-in-chief of the fearsome Badr Corps, left his meeting today with President Bush for a brief appearance at the U.S. Institute of Peace this afternoon. I asked Hakim: You've been accused of the abduction, torture, and execution of perhaps thousands of Sunnis. How do you respond? He said, through a translator: "Those are only accusations. We deny them all, we reject them all. There is no evidence of any of that. It happens that there was an armed group by the name of the Badr Brigade, but by the order of Sayyid Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim [Abdul Aziz's murdered brother], they became a civil group known as the Badr Organization in 2003. Since then there has been no violence by them, no fighting." There you have it! Hakim also wants to see the civil war escalate, according to his prepared remarks: "The strikes that [Sunni insurgents, takfiris -- his term -- and Baathists] are getting from the multinational...

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