Spencer Ackerman

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

Recent Articles

Good News for Iraq?

There's an opportunity for reconciliation and actual statecraft right now in Iraq. It remains to be seen if the United States will take advantage of it.

It's a strange thought to entertain while the Turks consider invading Iraqi Kurdistan , but November 2007 is could be a fairly auspicious moment for sectarian reconciliation in Iraq. I know, I know, vain hopes exist to be crushed, and Iraq is a vale of tears and all that, but maybe, just maybe … OK, to be less flippant: Shiites have started to unite as Sunnis have started to expand their power. By some measurements, violence has decreased. November 2007 is a moment to test whether progress on reconciliation is possible, or whether both sides are gearing up for a larger conflict. Start with the Shiites, who are knitting back together their frayed internal politics. In late August, over 50 Shiite civilians were killed during a power struggle in the holy city of Karbala between Mahdi Army militiamen and government forces -- which, in that city, are largely dominated by militiamen from the Badr Organization, the Mahdi Army's fiercest Shiite rival. The ensuing chaos caused so much...

In Iraq Forever

Despite the Bush administration's party line, construction of permanent U.S. bases along with long-term plans for troop presence continue apace.

Foolish liberals. Just days after President Bush announced in January that he would deploy an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq as a temporary "surge," liberals came up with a different buzzword. "Democrats oppose escalation of the war," newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a cheering throng of supporters in San Francisco. "Let me repeat that: Democrats oppose escalation of the war." The obvious political gambit was to stoke public dissatisfaction and leverage it to de-escalate the war. It was a smart choice of words. The public grew increasingly restive over Iraq; "escalation" added an unsubtle reminder of Vietnam. But it didn’t work. In September Bush announced that the "surge" would end in the summer of 2008. He portrayed himself as a stern commander in chief who would de-escalate the war "on success." And he claimed victory in the war was still possible while allowing nervous Republicans to point to the exits. The Democrats failed on every front. Most obviously, the...

The Disgruntled General

Ricardo Sanchez's mishandling of the Iraq War during his year as ground commander is legend. It should come as no surprise, then, that his recent account of who's to blame for Iraq is so bitter and distorted.

No one pities retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez quite like he pities himself. His reputation destroyed after his disastrous year as U.S. ground commander in Iraq -- including, most notoriously, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal -- Sanchez took a surprising move toward rehabilitation on Friday, delivering a blistering indictment of the war's history and its prospects before a military reporters' convention in Arlington. The war is "a nightmare with no end in sight," declared its former commander. President Bush, having failed to accept "the political and economic realities of this war," has adopted the surge in "a desperate attempt" to salvage his political fortunes, but will, at best, "stave off defeat." The press portrayed the speech as the latest in a series of volleys by retired generals furious with the Bush administration. Liberals eager for a cudgel against Bush may suddenly discover Sanchez's previously hidden virtues. Except that Sanchez's speech is very different from the...

Iraq Forever?

Last week's intense focus on whether the surge was working obscured the real Bush agenda -- a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq.

Having lost the battle over the surge, Democrats in the Senate are back to an incrementalist approach to the war. After Bush endorsed General David Petraeus's plan to return to pre-surge combat strength of about 130,000 troops in Iraq by the end of July, the Democrats mobilized. Senator Jim Webb, the Vietnam veteran who won his Virginia seat last year on an antiwar platform, will push forward for a third time with his bill mandating that troops serving in Iraq remain at home for at least an equivalent amount of time as their deployments. The bill is a two-fer: Not only does it take a large burden off the Army's shoulders, but it would, in practice, constrain the Pentagon's ability to keep troop strength in Iraq at Petraeus' desired levels. Unsurprisingly, Defense Secretary Bob Gates replied on Friday that Webb's "well-intentioned" bill would create problems for the next year's meticulously planned deployment calendar -- and in any event, he'd prefer to drop down to 100,000 troops in...

The Petraeus Workout

Petraeus describes the Iraq War as a war of figurative inches. Before Congress, he's likely to emphasize these smaller achievements instead of the bigger picture -- which is unquestionably bleak.

It was a wet and chilly spring morning in Mosul, the sun barely up, and a handful of company commanders from the Fourth Brigade Combat Team of the First Cavalry Division started loosening up. Dressed in heather-gray Army tees and black shorts, the bleary-eyed captains in their early 30s stretched their calves and back muscles and bounced on the balls of their feet into squats, getting ready to go five miles around Forward Operating Base Marez with a legendarily competitive runner. A black SUV crunched the gravel in front of the gym, and out of its rear door popped a short, cable-taut 50-something in a black t-shirt and immodestly short shorts. "All right," clapped General David Petraeus, his black-gloved hands making a soft thwap . "It'll be a social run." He paused. "Unless someone challenges us here." His driver had to explain that, "He'll run with these guys, he'll take it easy. But if someone sprints by him, then he'll just go ." During the run, the captains hung back a couple...