Spencer Ackerman

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

Recent Articles


RIGHT UP TO YOUR FACE AND DIS YOU. National security adviser Steve Hadley is in Iraq today to deliver a message to the disobedient administration of PM Nouri al-Maliki : He wishes "to reinforce some of the things you have heard from our president." That being, in general, "Can't you just do as we say? You know, be a 'leader'? Disband the militias? Secure the country? Let us get some soldiers home, or at least announce something by, say, November 6?" Maliki opted instead to do the expected thing: Force the U.S. to end its five-day siege of Sadr City , the Baghdad stronghold of Maliki ally and U.S. enemy Moqtada al-Sadr. In times past -- those halcyon days of ex-premiers Iyad Allawi and Ibrahim Jaafari -- there was a temptation to say that the U.S. was ginning up crises in order to have the Iraqi leader demonstrate his independence from America and thereby win some hearts and minds. This, however, is much different: the Bush administration, after investing much desperation-slash-hope in...


INCOHERENT LIKE A FOX. OK, do your best with what in the world this means. This is Bush during his roundtable with conservative columnists: This stuff about "stay the course" -- stay the course means, we're going to win. Stay the course does not mean that we're not going to constantly change. So he is staying the course now? An endlessly-mutable course? I give up. -- Spencer Ackerman


AFGHAN WIGS. Rob , I liked your piece defending the worthy invasion of Afghanistan. If I can make one criticism: early in the piece you ask, "If we�ve come to the conclusion now that the Iraq invasion was a mistake, then how do we evaluate the disaster on the other side of Iran?" I don't see how a reevaluation of Afghanistan follows from the disaster in Iraq, except as something of an academic exercise. For the reasons that you ably explain, these are really different wars, with really different objectives and fought for really different reasons. It's an annoying trope of Christopher Hitchens 's, among others, to intimate that calls for withdrawal from Iraq are merely one symptom of a general bug-out tendency on the left, rather than a discrete analysis of Iraq qua Iraq. I know that's not what you're up to, but it's worth keeping the distinctions in mind. Second -- and at the risk of undermining my point -- the question we need to be asking ourselves about Afghanistan is: what now ?...


YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT. Ezra , I really, really don't like disagreeing with Peter Bergen on al-Qaeda. You generally should be extremely wary of telling a guy who interviewed bin Laden that he's off-base. But, dude, you asked . Thanks, Ez, you're a good friend. Let me start by saying that Peter is 100 percent right that bin Laden & co. want to take over Iraq. But, to expand a bit on a point that Blake made , "want" and "can" are two different things. Peter may be a bit skewed by his deep knowledge of Afghanistan here. It was pretty easy for al-Qaeda to adapt to a post-Soviet Afghanistan. From the evidence so far, that's really not the case in Iraq: not only do the Iraqi Sunnis really dislike al-Q , but Anbar province has even assembled its own anti-Qaeda death squad . There's only one thing that could stop the Sunnis from fighting al-Qaeda: their greater desire to fight us instead. There's also a Machiavellian aspect here. To be extremely callous (given that we're...


KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE, HOLD ON. My buddy Lawrence Kaplan tries to salvage the Bush Doctrine from the Iraq war. His argument is that critics of the war risk learning too much from the failure in Iraq: the antidote to tyranny is democracy, even if it didn't turn out so well in Baghdad, and dangerous dudes will still need to be preempted. One really, really important -- and revealing -- aspect of this argument is shown by its very absence. A word that doesn't appear in Lawrence's piece is al-Qaeda. You remember them: they killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, and they're into killing many, many more. The Bush Doctrine started as a way to stop them. In his January 2002 State of the Union, Bush opted to conflate the threat from al-Qaeda into a threat from Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-Il and Ayatollah Khameini . It wasn't just cynicism, it reflected a misdguided but deep belief, as Doug Feith later put it, that "Terrorist organizations cannot be effective in sustaining themselves over long...