Spencer Ackerman

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

Recent Articles


BEST UN AMBASSADOR EVER. You don't want to read me on the end of John Bolton 's tenure as United Nations ambassador, you want to read Fast Leon . But I had to chuckle when I saw this line in today's AP write-up : [White House spokeswoman Dana] Perino said that among Bolton's accomplishments, he assembled coalitions addressing North Korea's nuclear activity, Iran's uranium enrichment and reprocessing work and the horrific violence in Darfur. Yeah, how's all that going? Everything copastetic ? Moving in our direction? There's also the great Perino quote, "Despite the support of a strong bipartisan majority of senators, Ambassador Bolton's confirmation was blocked by a Democratic filibuster. . ." Now, you would think that the second clause would have made her rethink the first, but if rethinking were a White House specialty, Bolton would never have been nominated in the first place. --Spencer Ackerman


GO NOWHERE. Thanks to Tom Ricks, we learn that the Pentagon's Iraq review promises more of the same -- an infusion of an unspecified number of forces for an unspecified period of time to fight the insurgents, and an eventual but unspecific shift in emphasis to the training of Iraqi troops and police. This is called "Go Long," but in reality it's "Go Nowhere." This is exactly what we've been doing for at least a year, plus or minus an Army division. As a wise man once said: WTF? Well, for one thing, the Pentagon gave the review primarily to three very highly-regarded colonels, all of whom will be generals in the extremely near future. One of them is H. R. McMaster , the hero of Tall Afar . To be high-minded about it, McMaster & co. believe that even at this late hour, the discrete and short-term successes in places like Tall Afar can be applied across Iraq. To be cynical about it, McMaster & co. don't want to be the ones who recommend that the war end with the U.S. -- and...

Permission to Stand Down

Sometime between now and March 15, 2007, everything you know about the Iraq debate will change. It won't be because of any dramatic shift in the fortunes of a disastrous war: If current trends continue, the five coming months offer the escalation of the Iraqi civil war, the 3,000th American service death, and more disgraceful blather from the Bush administration that we're about to turn it all around. But March 15, 2007, is the sell-by date of that argument. That's the deadline for a panel of Washington graybeards, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and 9-11 Commission co-chairman Lee H. Hamilton, to ascend to a podium in downtown Washington, D.C., and issue its recommendations for the future of the U.S. mission in Iraq. (It's possible that the report may be submitted as early as December.) Assembled by Virginia Republican Congressman Frank Wolf earlier this year, the so-called Iraq Study Group has been reviewing every aspect of the war, interviewing its architects,...


THE WORST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS. As long as TNR is trying to find the pony in Iraq , it's worth observing that the U.S.-sponsored Maliki government has just escalated the civil war tremendously. Maliki has just issued an arrest warrant for Harith al-Dhari , the leader of the most prominent Sunni organization, the Association of Muslim Scholars. This is exactly analogous to Paul Bremer's disastrous decision to shut down Moqtada al-Sadr's newspaper in March 2004, which unleashed the Sadrist insurgency. Except, since there was no civil war in March 2004, this is much worse. It will be seen as -- and, more importantly, is -- a strike by the government against all Sunnis. Laura may be more right about a tilt to the Shiites than she realizes. Someone in the U.S. military or the Bush administration must have had known about this latest disaster beforehand. --Spencer Ackerman


CRUELTY AND SILENCE. The New Republic fired me before it published its Iraq symposium. Oh well -- it had been made clear to me that I wouldn't have been invited to contribute anyway. So now I take up my new role: foul-weather critic of its latest spineless Iraq editorial. (In TNR-speak, a "lede.") Among the most annoying of TNR tropes is the flight to meta-analysis as soon as the recognition dawns that the magazine can't win an argument. And here, it pains and saddens me to say, TNR embraces it like a security blanket. First, TNR concedes that nothing it can possibly desire is likely to occur: "The U.S. presence in Iraq will not last long. Perhaps this new political reality will serve as shock therapy, scaring Iraq's warring factions into negotiations that can prevent the worst sectarian warfare. But perhaps not." The "perhaps not" is an intellectual prophylactic: it changes the subject before one can ask what in the world the U.S. could tell the Sunnis and the Shiites that could make...