Spencer Ackerman

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

Recent Articles

The Bush Administration's Latest Iraq Dodge

Expect to start hearing lots of talk about "bottom-up reconciliation" -- yet another disingenuous portrayal of political progress in Iraq.

Iyad Allawi picked a bad time to make a public plea for the United States to re-anoint him Iraq's prime minister. On Saturday, The Washington Post published an unusual op-ed by Allawi, whom the U.S. tapped in 2004 to be the first post-Coalition Provisional Authority premier, as which he proclaimed that without "change at the top of the Iraqi government" any U.S. withdrawal would end in disaster. He didn't need to elaborate on who needs to rule Iraq in place of current Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki -- that's clear enough from the byline. But Allawi wrote that with sufficient vigor from Baghdad toward national reconciliation and increased security,the next prime minister can guide most U.S. forces out of Iraq in two years. Saatchi & Saatchi couldn't have crafted a better sales pitch for an American government weary of Maliki, who's proven to be even more sectarian and incompetent than his predecessor, Ibrahim al Jaafari. Too bad for Allawi, then, that the Bush administration has a...

Dicking Around

In his fawning new book about Dick Cheney, Stephen Hayes leans heavily on superficial details and explanations, and demonstrates a surprising lack of curiosity about what drives the man he's devoted so much effort to covering.

Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President by Stephen F. Hayes (Harper Collins, 578 pages) - - - Lesser authors, when setting out to glamorize their subjects, enthusiastically present their hero's works as world-beating triumphs, explain away their flaws with argumentative dexterity, and detail at length the venality of their enemies. Stephen F. Hayes, instead, has done something unique in the annals of hagiography. Hayes, a senior writer for the Weekly Standard , offers a bizarrely passive-aggressive lionization of the vice president: his biography consistently offers an uncritical portrait of Dick Cheney's actions, but Hayes just as consistently writes with disinterest, moving with little comment from one aspect of Cheney's career to another. There's no attempt to offer any theory or explanation of Cheney, making Hayes more like a sympathetic chronicler than a biographer. If for nothing else than to view something new under the sun, give...

Wake Me Up When September Ends

September will supposedly be the moment for a definitive verdict on the war. Don't bet on it.

September: the month when the verdict on the Iraq war finally arrives. Goodbye to equivocation, to tangential focus, to extenuating circumstance. The last Friedman unit expires when the back-to-school sales do -- because that's when General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker will report on the fate of the surge. Restless Republicans, war-weary wobblers, craven appeasers -- deliverance arrives for everyone. (Well, maybe not everyone .) "Many of my Republican colleagues have been promised they will get a straight story on the surge by September," Senator Gordon Smith told The Washington Post Monday. Don't call it a timetable. At the risk of prejudging the much-hyped testimony, it's not hard to hazard a guess as to what's going to happen come September. Petraeus and Crocker will have just enough indications of progress in Baghdad to be able to present a subtle, nuanced portrait of the Iraq war. Chances are the national and provincial governments will still exist, the Green...

George Tenet's Twisted Intel

In his new memoir, the former CIA chief proves to be a master of non-apology apologies.

George Tenet regrets nothing
At the Center of the Storm: My Years In the CIA by George Tenet (Harper Collins, 576 pages) --- Let's just leave "slam dunk" aside for a moment. It's true that in his memoir, At the Center of the Storm , former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet goes to elaborate rhetorical lengths in denying that he had intended to characterize Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction as a dead certainty when he used that infamous phrase. And, like much else in the book, Tenet's focus on the "slam dunk" quote is actually sneaky -- he serves to obscure the real issue at hand while oscillating between contrition and a fiery, if dubious, defense of his tenure. But there's another quote, less infamous but no less embarrassing, that's even more indicative of Tenet as a man and an official. That, of course, is, "Let's beat Villanova tonight!" Don't know that one? On February 5, 2004, Tenet delivered what amounted to the first draft of this book in an address to his alma mater, Georgetown...


GENERATION GAP. Baghdad, Iraq -- It takes a while to get to Brigadier General Saleh , the commander of all Iraqi police forces in western Baghdad. For understandable reasons, the ornate Karkh Directorate police headquarters is protected by nearly an entire city block's worth of cement barricades and concertina wire within the Sunni neighborhood of Yarmouk. When you finally enter the building, it's difficult not to be impressed. Far from the crumbling and squalid conditions of most western Baghdad police stations, Karkh Directorate HQ is pristine: plainclothes officers use their downtime to water the courtyard garden. Saleh's office gives off an air of authority. Nearly every inch of wall space is covered by elaborate whiteboards tracking his men's patrols, arrests, shift changes, checkpoints and crime patterns. But what Saleh has to say about his police is surprising. A middle-aged former Iraqi Army officer during the Saddam Hussein era, and highly respected by the U.S. military...