Monday, March 31, 2008
punks like you get beat up, knocked unconscious or smacked with the heater:
Rebecca Roberts at Glamocracy titled a post about HRC dropping out "Should She Stay Or Should She Go Now" because that was witty and not at all lowest-common-denominator obvious. Then she wrote:
The only think I know for sure is that after reading the headline on this column you have that irritating Clash song in your head, as do I.
What's really irritating is your fucking mother. And nepotism.
--Spencer Ackerman
may be the last time, i don't know:
My friend Malcolm Nance spent a lot of time in Iraq. Here's his SWJ post on Sadr Part Deux:
Unfortunately, the Basrah Operation may have also been an attempt at a Hail Mary pass for both General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker in the heart of the election season. To show dramatic tangible gains all across Iraq would bolster the President’s case for continuing the war. This is most likely due to pressure, if not direct orders from the White House through the Vice President’s visit last month. Considering their stunning record of incompetence when making even the smallest decisions about Iraq, the over reliance on the Iraqi army to complete even the simplest independent task by all parties may only increase US casualties and public intransigence about the entire adventure.

Unfortunately, scheduling General Petraeus to testify back to Washington in early April while the fighting occurs may herald the end of American “last chances” in Iraq. That depends on the election. The results of November 4th may force both Petraeus and Crocker face up to the possibility that they had better have withdrawal plans drafted by November 5th and standby to execute them on January 21st 2009. No matter who is in charge or how it is sliced, the longer it takes the Iraqis to fight even small pockets of militias means more American soldiers will die in their place.
--Spencer Ackerman
like katrina with no fema, like martin with no gina:
A year ago, a funny movie called Hot Fuzz rubbed me the wrong way. It was, like I say, funny. But the spectacular team of actor Simon Pegg, real-life-best-friend Nick Frost and brilliant director Edgar Wright produced a film that wasn't quite up to their standards. (Spaced! Shaun Of The Dead!)

Tonight there's the opposite problem. Simon Pegg made a movie called Run Fat Boy Run. It's a very conventional romantic comedy. No zombies. No Nick Frost. No Edgar Wright. I loved it. What's wrong with me?

So, no spoilers, but Simon Pegg plays a big-hearted loser who needs to win back his baby's mother, who in turn is about to marry a soulless overachiever, and the mechanism he contrives to do this is to turn himself into a marathon runner. Hijinks ensue. No, really: They actually do, despite the painfully obvious view-the-puppet-strings formula. Ever since Big Train, Pegg has demonstrated impeccable timing at seething with frustration over a trap he, too late, recognizes he's laid for himself. To borrow a joke from David Cross, Pegg's genius is to display the horrible, dawning awareness that your keys are still in the car while you watch the door slam shut. The movie is tightly written to Pegg's strengths, courtesy of Pegg and his co-writer Michael Ian Black.

But... you keep craning your neck for the next frame to show Nick Frost bounding into the shot. But, like Odell Watkins, Frost sat this one out. The douchebag David Schwimmer directed Run Fat Boy Run, and actually directed it adequately, but he's more problematic. Every now and then there's a super-fast swoop to deliver a punch line, or a burst of dischordant color -- often from Pegg -- to break up a shot's monotone, or -- most egregiously -- a fake-fight sequence. Schwimmer uses all this to demonstrate that he knows who Edgar Wright is. So why didn't Edgar direct the picture? It's hard to point to a shot or a moment that Schwimmer's non-Wright-ness fouls up. But his repeated winks at Wright make him seem like the soulless Hank Azaria character, forever reminding us that he's got the prize of directing a Simon Pegg feature, and not that other guy we used to hang out with. It's like he's trying to demonstrate his hipness with all his brit-com references -- you know, like I'm doing right now.

Good cameos though. Dylan Moran from Black Books plays Simon's best friend, and comes close to stealing every scene he's in. There's an egregious-but-funny scene with David Walliams where Walliams essentially reprises his character in the "Margaret! Margaret!" sketch from Little Britain. And there's also a peep out of Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais's writing partner from The Office, for a deus-ex-machina bit of physical comedy. But. No. Nick. Frost.

Now, look, Outkast basically made separate records and the band isn't broken up. Rancid's extended hiatus is ending with a new album this year. People need to branch out, and then they come home. There's no need to panic. Right?
--Spencer Ackerman
that way we can fuck and watch tv:
The prudery of Moe Tkacik revealed: titling a song "Hot White Cum" is just ewww, she says. Bitch please.

I'm fronting. Let's talk about Liz Phair. Being 14 in 1994 and not wanting to think of myself as someone attracted to pornography -- the prudery of Spencer Ackerman revealed -- my outlet was "Exile in Guyville." Oh my God. I had the cassette, with a precious J-card containing every joyful explicit lyric, to say nothing of that sublimely suggestive cover photo. If you were a male alternapubescent it was a transcendent experience. Until the subway intervened.

I attended the Bronx High School of Science. It required a commute that boggles the minds of non-New Yorkers to this day: a 90-minute gauntlet from Newkirk Avenue in Brooklyn to the Bronx's Beford Park Boulevard. One day in late 1994, the D train had some sort of problem and I was forced to catch the 4 at Union Square via the intermediary N/R. As everyone familiar with Union Square knows, you've got a ways to walk between the N/R and IRT platforms. I had 'Guyville' on my Sanyo Auto-Reverse walkman with the blown right headphone. It salved the dull pain of the half-awake trod to another day wasted in school.

As the 4 barreled its way to 42nd Street, I decided to check my lyric sheet to clear some confusion about what Liz had to say about something or other. And then -- oh God. The J-card: it was gone. Panic! A double-check of my coat pockets, pants pockets and backpack reconfirmed my sense of loss and accompanying dread. What should I do? Split-second choice: I hopped off the train, caught the downtown-bound 4 and retraced my steps back to the N/R. Only no luck. I was very late to school and with nothing to show for it.

The horror. This was before the age of Google and lyrics databases. Wasn't adolescence confusing enough? I needed to know where Liz Phair wanted to put that thing you weren't supposed to talk about. Maimonides, I'm fucking perplexed. Anyhow, this story's gone on long enough: I ended up buying an entirely new 'Guyville' tape, but, to mix references, confusion has ever-more been sex.

Moe's post asked when you stopped listening to Liz Phair, and the answer is sort of Who Fucking Cares.
--Spencer Ackerman
why it have to be like this mama said i'm priceless:
A friend of a friend just received the following email from a junior officer serving in Iraq. It makes for especially powerful reading in the wake of the Second Sadrist Intifada. Reprinted with permission.
[Name redacted],

I agree that the war was a great strategic mistake. The way I see it, Saddam Hussein was a secular leader and therefore a huge stumbling block to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. Yes, he was an evil person and he was our enemy (since Gulf War I) but he was also an enemy of Bin Laden and the Shia extremists etc. If he did have WMDs, he would have used them for regional influence. He never would have given them up to terrorists or risked provoking the US by using them against us. Now, with Saddam gone we have a vaccum that can only be filled by Shia extremists who are more of a terrorist threat than Saddam.

So I agree that coming here was a big mistake for those reasons and others. As far as things on the ground, the outlook isn't much better. In my opinion, what everyone fails to realize is that this is not a counterinsurgency. If we wanted to stay in Iraq, then it would be a counterinsurgency. But it is clear that our goal is to turn over power and pull out. So, in building our strategic endstate, it's pointless to set goals that relate to our presence in Iraq. If the "insurgency" is a function of our being there, then it is not an insurgency in terms of our endstate. For example, if one of our goals is to stop IED attacks on US forces, that is pointless. When we leave, there will be no more IED attacks on us forces. So our endstate needs to be different. We need to ask "if we left tomorrow, what would happen in Iraq?" and from there, we need to determine which of those anticipated results are unacceptable to us. Then we must aim our efforts on making sure those unacceptable results do not occur.

When I look at the problem that way, it becomes almost impossible to find a purpose in what we do. Regardless of what we do, the Shia are going to take control. They have completely infiltrated all the security forces. The only kind of leader who could keep them in check was a tyrant like Saddam. And when the Shia take control, as soon as we leave, they are going to be as brutal as they like against the Sunni and there will be little we can do about it. That is what will happen whether we leave tomorrow or in ten years. As far as the foreign fighters, they will leave Iraq when we do. So what are we trying to accomplish here? Train the Iraqi forces? History shows that training forces in the Middle East can backfire. Any training we offer these people will find its way to our terrorist enemies.

Things are heating up as well. The Shia are getting more aggressive. We lost a man the other day and another was seriously wounded a week or so later. We're facing a high risk with very little potential payoff. We are able to make a difference at the local level. Some of the people are very kind and appreciate our help. That is the only positive thing I can see coming out of this.

Very Respectfully
Junior Officer XXXX
--Spencer Ackerman
soon as i step up in the club i'mma flirt:
Everyone needs to read the best new blog around, THFTNR friend Kathy G's G-Spot. I'm the first-ever commenter! In addition to writing a ton of great posts right off the blocks, she's got this, which is near and dear to my heart:
On the shortness issue, I just wanted to say that I'm a moderately tall woman, and that, in my experience, the best lovers have been short guys. Specifically, short Jewish guys (yes, I married one, and yes, I'm a shiksa). In fact, the ex of mine who was a total dud in bed was the one guy I ever dated who was really tall.
That, to me, is what we should forever call a G-Spot Orgasm.
--Spencer Ackerman
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
March 31, 2008
DoD Announces Change in Status of Army Soldier

The Department of Defense today announced the change in status of a soldier supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom from missing-captured to deceased.

The armed forces medical examiner confirmed on March 29, human remains recovered in Iraq were those of Staff Sgt. Keith M. Maupin, 24, of Batavia, Ohio.

Maupin had been listed as missing-captured since April 16, 2004. His convoy came under attack by individuals using rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire on April 9, 2004.

He was assigned to the 724th Transportation Company, Bartonville, Ill.

The incident remains under investigation.
--Spencer Ackerman
bow to me, faithful ye:
FireDogLake brings this Gorilla Guides translation of Sadr's cease-fire statement:
"Based upon our responsibilities under the law [shariah] and for the sparing of Iraki blood and for the protection of the reputability of the Iraqi people, and for their unity both in terms of people and in terms of territory, and in preparation for its independence and liberation from the armies of oppression; and in order to put out the fires of fitna which the occupier and his followers wish to keep burning between Iraki brothers, we call upon the beloved Iraki people to measure up to their responsibility and their consciousness of law in sparing bloodshed and preserving peace in Irak, and its stability and independence.

The following is resolved:

1. Ending armed manifestations in Basra governorate and all the other governates.
2. Ending of attacks and illegal arbitrary detentions. [by GZG]
3. Demand that the government apply the law on general amnesty, and release all prisoners who have not had charges confirmed against them, in particular prisoners belonging to the Sadrist current.
4. We announce that we will repudiate those who carry weapons and target the government and service agencies and institutions, or the offices of political parties.
5. Cooperation with government agencies to bring about security and to charge criminals, according to due process of law.
6. We reassert that the Sadrist movement does not possess heavy weapons.
7. Efforts [meaningful efforts are to be made] for the return to their residential areas of those who were forced out as a result of security incidents.
8. We demand respect for human rights by the government in all of its security activities.
9. Working [meaningful efforts are to be made] towards the realisation of development and service projects in all governates."
This isn't a ceasefire statement, it's a manifesto. Sadr has laid out a position reiterating his overwhelming strength, not just in Shiite communities, but for all Iraq. Look at bullet 7: he's talking about return Sunni displaced persons to Baghdad, where they were ethnically cleansed in 2006-07. (Partially by his own forces!) And the Maliki government is going to meet with Sadr where he is -- in Iran! -- to work it out. Hat in hand, Maliki's government supplicates before Moqtada. The threat of a reignited intifada remains. Could this have gone any better for him?
--Spencer Ackerman
Sunday, March 30, 2008
i'm a battering ram coming through to you in every alleyway and every avenue:
This insightful, personal, subtle, beautiful essay is one of the finest pieces of journalism produced by the Iraq war. Just one of James Glanz's brilliant observations:
Alleys: they are dangerous only when used by those who grew up in them. That is the basic reason Mr. Sadr and his fighters simply will not go away in this war.
--Spencer Ackerman
Saturday, March 29, 2008
no peace talks:
On Thursday, President Bush praised Maliki's decision to go to war with Moqtada Sadr. Sadr's reaction is to say Bush's words have meant that this really is war. According to a Gorilla's Guides translation of a Sadrist statement:
The main Sadrist spokesman al-Obeidi has said that the GZG government “have closed the doors to dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Basrah.” He said that al Sadr has issued a statement saying that Bush’s statements on the crisis provide legitimate legal grounds for the Mahdi army and the Sadrist current to transform their role from calling for peaceful mediation of the crisis to the defender of the rights of the people and to protect innocent civilians.

Sadrists also confirmed a delegation of the Central Bureau of the Sadrist office in Najaf visited Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani and discussed with him developments in the security situation in Basra. Sistani expressed displeasure of the deteriorating performance of the government in the areas of security and economy.
Will U.S. armor units come south from Baghdad and Mosul to relieve the soon-to-be-overwhelmed Iraqi Army?
--Spencer Ackerman
ain't mean jack till that tool gotta talk:
Scenes from the Second Sadrist Intifada. First, note that, according to Raghavan's piece, Mahdi Army militiamen actually agree with my friend that the Sadrist ceasefire is still on. They just interpret the ceasefire as not applying only to U.S. forces. Is it too early for a drink?
The fighters also said they received neither support nor training from Iran, as U.S. military commanders allege. Their Iranian weapons, they said, were bought from smugglers. They said they had been fighting only American soldiers and had not yet engaged with any Iraqi forces inside Sadr City.

They insisted that they were still obeying Sadr's cease-fire and would stop fighting if he gave the order.

"We are allowed to defend ourselves," said Abu Nargis, another fighter.
Second, here's the AP's summation in Baghdad:
Shiite militiamen are everywhere. Police and Iraqi army checkpoints are nowhere in sight. U.S. soldiers are keeping their distance.

Sadr City _ the Baghdad nerve center for the powerful Mahdi Army _ is suddenly back on edge as the militia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, and Iraq's government lock in a dangerous confrontation over clout and control among the nation's majority Shiites.[snip]
Al-Sadr's militia forces, estimated at about 60,000, now seem itching for a fight. ...
Third, subscription-only IraqSlogger says the Mahdi Army has driven Sons of Iraq forces out of areas around Sadr City. I don't know whether that means the JAMmies have driven the Sunnis back to the Sunni east-of-the-Tigris enclave of Adhimiya or out of that district, which would be stunning.

And finally, the Los Angeles Times reports that Sadr is rejecting Maliki's call to disarm in Basra.
Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr sent a defiant signal to Iraq's government today, urging militiamen fighting Iraqi and U.S. forces to reject calls to disarm as American airstrikes continued. ...

Sadr's followers say the offensive was aimed at crippling his movement, and they say they are firing only in self-defense. The Iraqi and U.S. forces deny targeting Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and say they are going after "criminal gangs."
--Spencer Ackerman
bodies are hauled off:
I asked a friend in Baghdad if things are as bad as they seem from here. Here's what that friend replied:
It's bad. The mortar attacks in the Green Zone are as intense as I can remember (and, smart guy that I am, I picked Wednesday and Thursday to spend hours in the Green Zone). And it's not a good sign that the Americans have fought with the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. Rumor has it the U.S. military has canceled embeds and is much more involved in the fighting in East Baghdad than they’re letting on.

That said, it looks like the cease-fire's mostly holding, because if it truly disintegrates things in Baghdad will be A LOT worse (much more street fighting, a lot more EFPs and rocket attacks, etc.). I think it all depends on whether the Basra fighting drags on for a while or wraps up.

My complete guess is that it will wrap up sooner rather than later, because the militias will make the same decision Sunni insurgents made over and over again, and just fade into the crowd after putting up some resistance. Their power in the south is as much political as military; I don't necessarily think that Maliki planting a flag in the center of town will really change things in the long-term. So I guess I'm anticipating something close to the "best-case scenario" -- which, this being Iraq, pretty much means that a lot of people will die and things won't change, as opposed to a lot of people dying just to make things worse than they were before. That said, I think I'm more optimistic about this than a lot of people.
Also, the link above is to a fantastic piece of journalism -- no, not mine, silly, Sudarsan Raghavan's. Raghavan spent the day with some JAMmies and reports:
Suddenly, they heard mortar rounds being launched outside with a boom like the sound of a wrecking ball.

"This is to the Green Zone," said Kabi. "These are gifts to Maliki's government."

He and Abu Moussa al-Sadr both work for Iraq's Ministry of Interior, which runs the police and is widely viewed as infiltrated by the Mahdi Army. They said that many police officers had defected from the government and were now fighting with the Mahdi Army.
--Spencer Ackerman
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
March 29, 2008
DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Joshua A. Molina, 20, of Houston, Texas, died Mar. 27 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany.

For more information media may contact the U.S. Army, Europe, public affairs office at 011-49-6221-57-5816 or 8694, or email:
--Spencer Ackerman
Friday, March 28, 2008
but now all the stations are silent cause they ain't got a government license:
Ignore what I said about pre-taped interviews. THFTNR's loyal and growing western-Massachusetts street team can hear me tomorrow at 10 a.m. on Bill Scher's Liberal Oasis radio on WHMP. That's 1600 AM in Springfield, 1400 AM in Northampton and 1240 AM in Greenfield. Of course you can just listen online no matter where you are. As I expect you to.

Then at 12:20 PM EST I'll be on the awesomely-named This Is Hell radio show on Chicago's WNUR. We'll see how hung over I'll be from tonight's St. Marks Place Chaos-Punk Class of 1995 reunion.
--Spencer Ackerman
how you like me now, but you didn't before, cause you forgot i was raw:
Banana Kiosk revisited!

A little over a year ago, the U.S. helped Ethiopia invade Somalia and drive the ruling Islamic Courts Union out of Mogadishu. Yglesias and I thought that was a little problematic. We said so. A medicine cabinet-ful of douches attacked us.

So what's happening in Mogadishu these days? These days the Ethiopian-backed Somali government is falling to the Islamists.
Islamist insurgents poured into the streets to defend the merchants. The government troops got hammered, taking heavy casualties and retreating all the way back to the presidential palace, supposedly the most secure place in the city. It too came under fire.

Mohamed Abdirizak, a top government official, crouched on a balcony at the palace, with bullets whizzing over his head. He had just given up a cushy life as a development consultant in Springfield, Virginia. His wife thought he was crazy. Sweat beaded on his forehead.

“I feel this slipping away,” he said.

By its own admission, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia is on life support. When it came here to the capital 15 months ago, backed by thousands of Ethiopian troops, it was widely hailed as the best chance in years to end Somalia’s ceaseless cycles of war, chaos and suffering.
We accept your apologies and think it's very generous that you're donating your paychecks to the charities of our choice.
--Spencer Ackerman
it's mostly the voice:
Ezra Klein has the best line that will ever be written about the mystique of John McCain:
"Straight talk" is used in much the same way as "Cause Stone Cold said so!"
--Spencer Ackerman
oh but they hate you they hate you cause you're guilty:
You know, when Iraq is totally falling into a new circle of hell, what I want to read from my war-boner magazines is how you fix March Madness. And if you're not going to have a foreign policy writer, well, at least make sure you hire someone to watch movies!

Well, in fairness, there was this piece of Iraq-related insight from Chait, worth quoting in full:
This does not sound good.
Whew, now TNR doesn't have to write about Iraq for another year.
--Spencer Ackerman
rush to the front so i can see:
Carrie. We have to have a talk.

Your list of top-ten Replacements lyrics? That speaks to my soul, girl. You used the "Alex Chilton" lyrics about, um, Alex Chilton. The "Jesus rides beside me"? My friend Megan McArdle is known to use that as her IM tagline. What I'm saying is that we're destined to be best friends.

Or at least bandmates. I'm listening to the MP3 of the "Fair Game" appearance where I was on ahead of Fred Armisen from Thunderant. Right before Fred went on, I sent an on-air message that we need to get a band together. But for some reason, "Fair Game" decided to cut that out from the final broadcast. (Lesson: Never agree to pre-taped interviews. It's some bullshit.) I'm announcing: I want to audition to be your next drummer. Holler at me via supportthesurge-at-gmail-dot-com. It can be a side project, whatever.
--Spencer Ackerman
you don't wanna fuck with them brick city kids:
Baghdad and Basra are in flames. Maliki, having set a three-day deadline for disarming the JAMmies, lets it slide by another week. But worry not: there's a brick factory that's thisclose from matching prewar levels of employment!
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq, March 28, 2008 – Revitalization of the Narhwan Brick Factory Complex has led to an explosion of employment.

Since January, employment numbers at the complex have quadrupled to nearly 15,000 workers, and production is up more than 500 percent.

Army Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan, commander of 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, said the boom resulted from a deal between the Iraqi minister of oil and officials who represent the 167 businesses operating in the complex. Sullivan said the deal allocated enough heavy fuel oil needed to fire up the kilns to bake bricks for the complex to boost production.
Would it have killed them to write a "surge of employment"?
--Spencer Ackerman
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
March 28, 2008
DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Gregory B. Rundell, 21, of Ramsey, Minn., died March 26 in Taji Iraq, of wounds suffered from small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

For more information media may contact the 25th Infantry Division public affairs office at (808) 655-6341.
--Spencer Ackerman
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
March 28, 2008
DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Joseph D. Gamboa, 34, of Yigo, Guam, died Mar. 25 of wounds suffered when he came under indirect fire in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany.

For more information media may contact the U.S. Army, Europe, public affairs office at 011-49-6221-57-5816 or 8694, or email:
--Spencer Ackerman
I just whipped up a watch trynna get me a rover:
McCainianism: The highest form of Bushdoctrinism. Fresh from the Washington Independent.
--Spencer Ackerman
Thursday, March 27, 2008
knives out:
Solid Top Chef last night. It's a shame the dude from Dethklok had to be eliminated. But he cried so much he went from metal to metalcore. I respect him though.

Stephanie is shaping up to be the season's breakout chef. She's the only one who's won multiple challenges, and we're three episodes in. In addition to being talented, she's understated, quiet and determined. Haroldesque?

Also, courtesy of CatAn, it seems Spike is opening a burger place on Capitol Hill in the near future.
--Spencer Ackerman
you ain't no killer, you a pussy:
Before I begin this post, let me say: Fuck the Boston Red Sox and all their fans. Except for Samantha Power and Megan Carpentier. This means you, Professor Simpson.

That's by way of saying that Dean Barnett of the Weekly Standard critiques "The Obama Doctrine," and in so doing reveals why neoconservatism can never destroy al-Qaeda. He has a lot of cute lines to disguise the fact that he doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about.

So for instance. Barnett takes Power's quote about draining the swamps of extremism by attacking "climates of fear" and comments:
"Climates of fear" are indeed a bad thing, and they can produce undesirable results. But is the principal American foreign policy challenge today really based on people acting out because they live in "climates of fear?" Does al Qaeda act out of fear, or does something more malicious lie in the jihadist heart?

And what are we to make of Power's insistence that we need to meet people "where they're at?" Does "meeting people where they're at" include situations when "where they're at" includes a pining for a world without Israel and a visceral need to control the output of Dutch film makers? That's probably an uncomfortable question for Obama and his Doctrinaires. You won't find it asked or answered anywhere in Ackerman's column.
What Barnett will never understand is that the real danger from al-Qaeda isn't just the people who've joined al-Qaeda. It's the much larger cohort of people who could join al-Qaeda, and the larger-still cohort of those who would not actively help the U.S. destroy al-Qaeda. Those latter two population clusters are where any anti-al-Qaeda strategy has to focus. And there, yeah, climates of fear -- in other words, the experience of people pinioned between the militia on the corner and the U.S.-backed regime that it fights. Those people come to hate the U.S. Lots of them. And it only takes a small number of them to decide to act on that hatred.
Power is (or rather was) just one of the high-minded Doctrinaires whose résumé evidences a certain fondness for dovish idealism. Sarah Sewall is, according to Ackerman, one of Obama's closest advisors. Sewall made her bones as a human rights advocate and disarmament advocate. Disarmament advocates since their regrettable Helen Caldecott led heyday in the 80's have never been a repository for hard-headed foreign policy prescriptions.
Just laughably stupid. What Barnett evidently doesn't realize is that Sarah Sewall helped write the fucking Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual. Is FM 3-24 filled with "dovish idealism"? Remember what this dude wrote the next time anyone from the Weekly Standard tries to take Petraeus or Odierno into their tender mouths.

And as long as we're talking COIN, let's tie this all together. Barnett has this line about Obama fighting al-Qaeda but not al-Qaeda in Iraq, which is something John McCain mentioned in his speech yesterday. But look at who AQI is. According to this fascinating briefing that Bits Bacon gave last week, we're talking not just about fanatics. We're talking about the people brainwashed by al-Qaeda into coming to Iraq to blow themselves up -- brainwashed thanks to propaganda victories that the Weekly Standard's chosen policies, like the Iraq war and torture, have yielded. That's the swamp that Dean Barnett and his homies will not only fail to drain, but they'll expand, over and over and over again, no matter how decisively the last five years have shattered everything they believe in.

Finally, there's this:
[P]erhaps Team Obama could talk to Theo van Gogh. Oh never mind--he's dead. Maybe they could ask Hirsan Ali, who has millions of people who would like to make her dead, too.
Her name is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, you dumb douche.

Plus, in 2008, the New York Yankees will fuck you up like Obama will AQSL in the Northwest Frontier Province.
--Spencer Ackerman
freeeee credit report dot com:
Because Air America isn't sick of me yet, I'll be on the Randi Rhodes show -- homie Sam Seder is filling in -- at 3:30 EST. Can I still hit a 6 pm deadline for a McCain piece? We'll see, won't we.

Update: Not getting any closer on the McCain piece, but Fair Game did post an MP3 of my interview yesterday. And I come off sounding more brillianter than you.

Update: It's 3:48 and Sam is on a commercial break. I have just explained U.S.-Iraq relations through the prism of Lil Wayne and the down-low. Is this what precedes a nervous breakdown?
--Spencer Ackerman
they don't know nothing about redemption:
I thought there was nothing funny left to say about Ralph Nader, but Megan refutes that notion.
--Spencer Ackerman
that's gangster you know me, i talk it cause i live it:
The folks at RNN were kind enough to send embeddable video of me from last night's appearance. I'm up at about 2:40. I thought it would be pretty gangster not to change into TV-acceptable clothes. But now I realize that these days my style is inclining back toward basement-hardcore. Though apparently these days the basement-hardcore set is all about the war and has grown rather sophisticated about the media.
God, subject-verb agreement, Ackerman! Don't lose your train of thought and then compensate for it by packing yet another clause onto that interminable sentence! Meanwhile, it's time for a haircut. You think that's a good picture of me? Are you some sort of underminer?
--Spencer Ackerman
imagine if i woulda let off a shot or two, you know what i gotta do:
My excellent friend Charlie of the excellent counterinsurgency blog Abu Muqawama asks for my thoughts on this excellent question from my other excellent friend Noah Shachtman of the excellent Danger Room blog:
So the Brits bail, and Basra is "essentially divided up among Shi'ite party mafias, each of which had its own form of extortion and corruption," as Anthony Cordesman puts it today. Isn't this an extremely bad omen for an American troop withdrawal, under a would-be President Obama or Clinton? How would a country-wide draw-down be different than this local one?
Charlie replies:
One answer is that the Brits [who used to control Basra] adopted a "peacekeeping" mindset in Basra and never really engaged in a broader COIN or CT effort. That meant that all the myriad Shia groups were able to pursue their (relatively) non-violent political agenda and consolidate control over the political levers of city. There's a chance (albeit not a big one) that our COIN efforts in Anbar, Baghdad, and elsewhere have undercut the political bases of these groups and made a Basra-style breakdown less likely. Time will tell.
Here's what I'd add to that. Withdrawing without any political strategy, as the British did from Basra, leads to a vacuum like the one we're seeing now. Sadr rushes in. The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq rushes in. The Fadhila party maneuvers between the two. Forces ostensibly loyal to the government, pinioned between all sides, find ways to accommodate the existing power on the streets. In other words: chaos.

So to avoid chaos -- and I recognize this is banal and generic -- you can't just pull up stakes. Some sort of political accommodation has to occur alongside a strategy of extrication. There will be some good suggestions coming out of various think tanks and government offices over the next several months that put flesh to bone here. But the broader point is this: if we decide we're just going to order the post-surge forces out of Iraq in X number of months/years, and nothing accompanies that decision on the political-diplomatic end, then yeah, Basra probably will be a prologue. But if we spend the time between now and then -- say, a new Democratic president's Inaugural -- working on some Undefined Diplomatic Strategy, then we have our best shot -- and it's not a sure shot; I'll be the first to admit -- at extracting ourselves with a minimum of chaos.

Now, this is true unless, like Sen. John McCain and President George W. Bush, you believe we should stay in Iraq forever. But if you don't, then you indeed have to grapple with this conundrum. There are no guarantees. There are no good answers. There are no grounds for certainty. That's what makes it a quagmire. But you don't have the luxury of throwing your hands up in despair and pleading that complexity should bring apoplexy. That's why it's called statesmanship.
--Spencer Ackerman
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
March 26, 2008
DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of four soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died March 24 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive on March 23. They were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Killed were:

Pvt. George Delgado, 21, of Palmdale, Calif.

Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Hake, 26, of Enid, Okla.

Pfc. Andrew J. Habsieger, 22, of Festus, Mo.

Spc. Jose A. Rubio Hernandez, 24, of Mission, Texas.

For more information media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs
office at (912) 767-2479.
--Spencer Ackerman
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
but it's me you see on your TV cuz i hustle baby:
THFTNR homies in the NY/NJ/CT/PA area, I'll be on the Richard French Live show tonight around 7:15. That's channel 91 on Time Warner in Manhattan and channel 19 on Cablevision. Should I shave? Put on a different shirt? I kind of think it's more gangster not to.

Also, on the radio today: PRI's Fair Game at 4:30 (they did the "Little Cats' Feet" with Andrew WK!) and then Air America at 5:30.

Update: Air America bumped to tomorrow. But the Fair Game segment went well. Fred Armisen was on after me and I asked him to ask Carrie Brownstein to let me audition for her next band.
--Spencer Ackerman
it's the remix edition hot n fresh out the kitchen:
How can it be, you ask, that the press doesn't report at all about the impending long-term security accord that President Bush is inking this summer with the Iraqi government? Homie. Come on, now. What, you thought I wasn't looking out for you? Fresh out from the Washington Independent:
The negotiation, set to conclude this summer, will establish the basis for a long-term U.S. occupation of Iraq. According to the Bush administration, the Iraqi government requested a bilateral agreement to replace the expiring U.N. mandate for the occupation, which offended Iraqi sovereignty. Asked if there was any irony in preparing a plan to keep thousands of foreign soldiers in Iraq in the name of Iraqi sovereignty, a National Security Council official, who requested anonymity, replied, "Sure, but we plan to negotiate that aspect" of the agreement.
God, I love that quote.
--Spencer Ackerman
wages of sin, we keep paying:
Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki is giving powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr's forces three days to surrender in Basra, as clashes between Maliki's security forces and Sadr's Mahdi Army -- in which the U.S. intervenes on Maliki's side -- escalate. But with the U.S. happy about the now-abrogated Sadrist ceasefire, why is the U.S. military getting involved? The Washington Post isn't sure:
It was unclear why U.S. forces would take part in a broad armed challenge to Sadr and his thousands-strong militia on the eve of Petraeus's assessment, which the Bush administration has said would greatly influence its decision on whether to draw down troop levels.
Here's an answer. As long as Maliki is in the prime minister's chair, and as long as we proclaim the Iraqi government he leads to be legitimate, Maliki effectively holds us hostage. He says, "I need to go after Sadr. The situation is unacceptable! In Basra, he threatens to take control of the ports, and in Baghdad, he's throwing my men out of their checkpoints. Would you allow the Bloods or the Crips to take over half of Los Angeles?" And as soon as he says that, we're trapped. It simply is not tenable for Petraeus to refuse a request for security assistance from the Prime Minister to deal with a radical militia.

Now, some of my Iraq-watcher friends of mine point out that this is absurd. "Sadr is, of course, a thug," they say, "but he's a nationalist. And he's far less beholden to Iran than the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq or Maliki's Da'wa Party -- both of whom we're supporting! And most importantly, Sadr remains perhaps the most popular figure in Shiite Iraq. Petraeus can do business with him. This doesn't make any sense!" And they're right. It doesn't. But as long as we sponsor the Iraqi political process -- and a Sadrist doesn't actually become premier himself -- this will keep happening.

Some might say it's time to dump Maliki. I suspect that's what's behind this brief passage in the New York Times:
The Basra operation, which senior Iraqi officials had been signaling for weeks, is considered so important by the Iraqi government that Mr. Maliki traveled to the city to direct the fighting, several officials said.
That reads to me like some officials are preparing to throw Maliki under the bus. After all, if he's personally responsible for the fighting, and it goes badly, then his Shiite rivals can maneuver a way to put forward a new premier. That is, of course, how Maliki himself came to power in the spring of 2006. And if the Iraqis themselves do it, we have little choice but to acquiesce.

But. The dangers of picking and choosing who the Iraqi premier should be outweigh any imperial temptations we may feel. We'll be just as responsible for Prime Minister Next-Up's mistakes as we are for Maliki's. And the Iraqis will never trust any leader that foreigners pick for them. In what's shaping up to be the Second Sadrist Intifada, you go to war with the prime minister you have, not the prime minister you might want.
--Spencer Ackerman
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
i wish i was a little bit taller:
Ann returns to the subject of being a tall woman, which seems like an apt moment to plug the book we intend to write together. You tell me what's the better title. She favors Junior High Forever: What It's Like to Be the Girl Who's Taller Than All the Boys and the Boy Who's Shorter than All the Girls. I prefer the blunter Why We Hate The World: Stories from a Short Man and a Tall Woman. Either way the cover photo will humiliate us both. Let the offers pour in.
--Spencer Ackerman
ain't no mentioning the best without mentioning the four:
You know what's so great about the April issue of the American Prospect? Nah, not The Obama Doctrine. Fuck that shit! Dean Barnett totally took that one apart.

No, I'm talking about Kriston Capps -- the Only Art Critic That Matters, Robot Heartthrob -- writing about environmental destruction and Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty. You need to subscribe to read the piece, so you should subscribe and then read the piece. Did you know that the other day I was walking the dog and ran into an artist friend of mine? And when I mentioned that maybe I could mention her forthcoming thesis show to my art-critic roommate, she was like, OMG I read his blog like all the time? Yeah. Yeah.
--Spencer Ackerman
everyone wants to be like me i'm naked and famous:
If you like internet radio and you like me and you like me calling Steve Hayes and Jeff Goldberg a sack of douches and you like discussing the Obama Doctrine, then you'll like:

Tomorrow at 12:15 pm, I'll be on Antiwar Radio to talk Hayesberg. Then at 4:30 pm, I'll be on PRI's Fair Game to talk Obama Doctrine. And on Saturday at 10 am, I'll be on Bill Scher's Liberal Oasis radio to talk more Obama.

Remember, TV bookers: I'm right here. Day or night. Roll with the winners, baby! That's a Re-Up Gang reference. I promise not to make such references on camera.
--Spencer Ackerman
you played yourself:
It's amazing that TNR is actually so clueless as to write this line in its lede this week:
Where it once looked like Bill Clinton and Al Gore had helped purge the party of the lame identity politics that had ruined Democratic candidates for a generation, discussions of race and gender have returned with a vengeance.
Not long ago, the deputy editor of a much better magazine observed the following, with ruthless seriousness:
After all, Clinton and Obama and their supporters aren't playing "identity politics" any more than John Kerry's supporters did in 2004, or George W. Bush's did in 2000. It's absurd to suggest that the Andover-Yale-Harvard-bred Bush adopting a swagger and thickening his Texas accent, or John Kerry riding a borrowed Harley onto The Tonight Show set, was anything other than identity politics. And after several early primaries, as it became clear that white men most strongly supported John Edwards, nobody accused them of playing identity politics. Nope, that distinction is reserved for people who have historically not been in positions of political power. In short, you can't be a white guy voting for another white guy and still play the identity game.
And of course, TNR loves identity politics, as it's devolved into a biweekly mimeographed synagogue newsletter. Another issue, another fucking Kinky Friedman diarist about Obama and the Jews or the New York Times and the Muslims and Jesus fucking Christ it's like he wants to become Norman Podhoretz. But that's not identity politics, no way.
--Spencer Ackerman
a little tornado a little hurrican-o:
Download, buy, beg, borrow or steal this record right fucking now. If someone makes a better album this year than Midnight Boom by the Kills, that someone will have made a classic album.

To get a bit dudely, I can't believe Alison from Discount made this album. Her voice sounds so, so, so different -- confident, experienced, wizened, betrayed, weathered, all growed up. I don't know why I'd want to listen to Ataxia's Alright Tonight again after Midnight Boom. Oh, right, the dudeliness -- yeah, so, among punk rockers of my caste and sort and age there was the question of whether you wanted to bone the girl from Discount. The answer was invariably yes. Now dudes are going to want to bone the woman from the Kills.
--Spencer Ackerman
greasy burgers greasy fries:
So I entered the Tony Bourdain No Reservations fan contest. Basically, you pitch Tony on a place/culture/cuisine to center an episode around, and then explain why you're the one to take him there. With the aid of Marissa Long and Catherine "Now on Tumblr" Andrews, I shot a three-minute video about taking him to Kurdistan, meeting up with my Dudes Gharib and Soran, and checking out a safe place on the cusp of total destruction where for some reason everyone loves reggaeton. I think I'll win. (Oh, and also I told a story about the time my high-on-ecstasy friend C******** tried to hump Tony at Siberia. Anyways!)

But this veteran goes all out and pitches Tony on real-deal-Iraq. That's a suicide mission, but if he can figure out how to keep them safe, I hope he wins. (Stupid embed code seems not to work.)

Update: Buried the lede! Please please please, do like blogger-superstar Ezra Klein and vote for my No Reservations video. Help me, THFTNR readers! It'll take like a second.
--Spencer Ackerman
got my mind right, got my money right, and now i want war:
One very very large reason for the decline in violence in Baghdad in the latter half of 2007 was radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's decision to have his Mahdi Army militia stand down. The U.S. military command, under General David Petraeus, realized it suited everyone's interest to hug Sadr and go after the rogue elements of the Mahdi Army that didn't obey Sadr's ceasefire. They even created a bureaucratic category for those elements: "Special Groups." You haven't heard Petraeus talk about the Mahdi Army for a while, only the Special Groups. Instead, this is how Petraeus's people talk about Sadr: "Al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr's cease-fire has been helpful in reducing violence and has led to improved security in Iraq." That was a Multinational Forces-Iraq spokesman, Rear Adm. Greg Smith, last month.

But tensions have existed within the Sadrists for years -- it's a huge, nationalistic, mob-ruled, religiously fanatic, cult-of-personality-driven and dominant Shiite movement -- and the ceasefire brought them into relief. Earlier this month, near the Sadrist stronghold of Sadr City, Shiites held an unprecedented-since-the-occupation-began anti-Sadr protest, as they were angry over the cleric's recent quietism.

Now it looks like the dam is bursting. According to the Wall Street Journal and McClatchy, at least some cohort of Sadrists are sick and tired of its former ally, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; as well as its Shiite rivals in the Iran-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. The Journal:
Fighting broke out Tuesday on the streets of Sadr City, an area controlled by Shiite firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and the Mahdi Army militia announced it had taken over Iraqi army checkpoints in an escalation of tension with Iraqi government security forces.

The sound of gunfire could be heard in Sadr City throughout the morning and Mahdi Army members walked down the streets carrying rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons in what appeared to be a show of force, according to two witnesses. It is unclear whether the men were legitimate Mahdi Army members or part of a faction that has broken from Mr. Sadr.

There was also heavy fighting on Tuesday in the major city of Basra, Iraq's southern oil hub, between the militia and Iraqi security forces aligned with the main Shiite party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. A curfew was also imposed in the area.
Your guess is as good as mine as to why Sadr would have extended his ceasefire last month only to abrogate it now. Maybe he's not in control. After all, he's in Iran right now to get the ecclesiastical training necessary to truly take over Shiite Iraq. But this sounds like a rather deliberate action:
In areas under its control, the Mahdi Army ordered some shops closed Monday and they remained shut down on Tuesday, according to witnesses. Students were also ordered to go home and schools were closed. The militia has said it would initiate what Sadr-aligned politicians have called a "civil disobedience" movement in Baghdad, to protest what it says is an unfair crackdown on Sadr followers by the government.
McClatchy provides some context:
Since Sadr froze his militia on Aug. 29 and renewed the freeze in February, militia members and Sadrists have railed against the government for targeting and detaining their members. In Basra, Sadr's office rejected the security plan and warned that it'll react if attacked or if Iraqi forces detain more Sadrists.

As Shiite violence rises, U.S. troop deaths also appear to be rising in places such as Baghdad, where the American military is thinning out its presence as part of its drawdown of five brigades. Attacks against civilians in the capital are rising, according to statistics compiled by McClatchy. Next week, the U.S. will finish pulling out the second of five surge brigades. As part of the drawdown, the military has moved battalions out of Baghdad toward more violent areas such as the northern city of Mosul and Iraq's northeastern Diyala province.
At least one theory worth entertaining is that the Sadrists waited out the surge. I don't have remotely the evidence necessary to support it, but it's something to consider when Petraeus testifies before Congress early next month.

Update: More from Eric Martin. And Ilan Goldenberg. And Abu Muqawama (with Arabic!). And Matthew "Pre-order This Landmark Book" Yglesias. And Brandon Friedman.
--Spencer Ackerman
Monday, March 24, 2008
but ain't nothing sweet bout how i hold my gun:
It really speaks for itself. Via Crooks & Liars.
--Spencer Ackerman
right there in your AV t-shirt:
Am I the last one to know that Alison from the Kills is actually Alison from Discount? I am, right? Also, their new record is good.

No, fuck that. The new Kills record, Midnight Boom, is amazing. I listened to "Last Day of Magic" on repeat for half an hour before deciding that the other songs on the record were too good not to listen to. In fact, I may have to write a whole new post about Midnight Boom. And then download the Kills' entire catalogue.
--Spencer Ackerman
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
March 24, 2008
DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died March 22 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 1132nd Military Police Company, North Carolina Army National Guard, Rocky Mount, N.C.

Killed were:

Sgt. Thomas C. Ray, II, 40, of Weaverville, N.C.

Spc. David S. Stelmat, 27, of Littleton, N.H.

Sgt. David B. Williams, 26, of Tarboro, N.C.

For more information media may contact the North Carolina National Guard public affairs office at (919) 664-6242.
--Spencer Ackerman
when i got the music i got a place to go:
In addition to being on Sam's show yesterday with Chris Hayes Chris Chris Hayes, I'll be on the Sam-Seder-filling-in-for-Randi-Rhodes show today at 5 pm EST to talk about the Obama Doctrine. Anyone else who wants to put me on radio or TV to talk about the piece, my answer is yes.
--Spencer Ackerman
ayo, i'm tired of using technology:
John McCain truly is your jalopy.
--Spencer Ackerman
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
Remember that it's not just the ones whose deaths tally multiples of ten who are unique and irreplaceable.

March 24, 2008
DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pvt. Tyler J. Smith, 22, of Bethel, Maine, died Mar. 21 at Forward Operating Base Falcon near Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when the base received indirect fire. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

For more information media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at (912) 767-2479.
--Spencer Ackerman
dread at the controls:
SFJ informs us (a couple days ago, actually) that the great Mikey Dread has passed away. Like perhaps all of Mikey's white fans, I never would have heard of him if not for the Clash. But, by Joe, I did, and his voice -- righteous but also ebullient; the anti-Prince Far I -- was a comfort. RIP
--Spencer Ackerman
We the future, Whitney Houston told me it'd take more than a bullet in the heart to hold me back:
Why, what do we have here, in the Doctor's excellent New Yorker piece about the Huffington Post?
The survivors among the big newspapers will not be without support from the nonprofit sector. ProPublica, funded by the liberal billionaires Herb and Marion Sandler and headed by the former Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, hopes to provide the mainstream media with the investigative reporting that so many have chosen to forgo. The Center for Independent Media, headed by David Bennahum, a former writer at Wired, recently hired Jefferson Morley, from the Washington Post, and Allison Silver, a former editor at both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, to oversee a Web site called the Washington Independent. It’s one of a family of news-blogging sites meant to pick up some of the slack left by declining staffs in local and Washington reporting, with the hope of expanding everywhere. But to imagine that philanthropy can fill all the gaps arising from journalistic cutbacks is wishful thinking.
Join us. Joiiiiiiiin usssssssss.
--Spencer Ackerman
you gotta think, think about what you're trying to do to me:
Seriously? This is self-parody. KTHXBAYH
--Spencer Ackerman
we're gonna march even further:
My God, he did it! Abu Muqawama, never one to back down from a challenge, explains how the British might have suppressed the American Revolution. Complete with actual historical study! And also these brilliant lines:
The British never attempted COIN in the U.S. colonies, but it is the opinion of Abu Muqawama that had they tried -- given a small standing army and instability elsewhere -- they might have enjoyed some success in the south and then perhaps extended control north. Would the colonies have remained pliant satellites of the British Empire? Probably not. But the British, had they been a little smarter, might have worked out some kind of devolution process which would have kept the U.S. a part of the commonwealth (like a sexier version of Canada, and without Tim Horton's).
I hereby challenge Matthew Yglesias to explain why Tim Horton's offers better coffee and coffee-complimentary fare than American coffee shops.
--Spencer Ackerman
way up in the sky is the leader of the greatest band of all time:
Today belongs to Elana B********, who doesn't like Google to track her down. She was at the NYU Law Library till the early morning hours and today is going to prove to New York City bureaucrats why she's as magnificent as I know she is.
--Spencer Ackerman
he said, john, go do my will:
Over the weekend, Josh wrote something interesting:
As much as the two campaign have sought to highlight the differences, the two candidates' positions on almost every issue is extremely close. And the differences that do exist pale into insignificance when compared to Sen. McCain's.
I don't believe this to be true. Though I used to: Several months ago, I found myself inclining toward Obama, but couldn't quite articulate why. Wasn't the difference between Obama and Clinton one that only matters in retrospect?

But then Obama said something in the January 30 debate that woke me up. "I don't want to just end the war," he said, "but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place." Uh, "just" end the war? Wow. But as bold, as sweeping, and as attractive as it sounded -- what does it mean? What's the mind-set that got us into the war? And what would replace it?

The more I thought about those questions arising from that one line, the more it seemed to me like they held the key to understanding both Obama and the stakes in the 2008 election. I didn't want to either let them go, or write a blog post giving what my answers would be and pretending (or, more accurately, deluding myself) that they were Obama's. So I spent a couple weeks interviewing his foreign-policy inner circle and wrote a reported thinkpiece for the just-published April issue of The American Prospect. It's called "The Obama Doctrine." And not to belabor the point, but what I learned from his team is that I could have sub-heded the piece "Why Barack Obama -- and Only Barack Obama -- Can Win The War on Terror And Make America Great Again." I hope you'll read it.

Also, special guest appearance by John Nagl OMG FTW
--Spencer Ackerman
Sunday, March 23, 2008
the 40 cal in the Range where the airbag was:
Is Al Qaeda Jada really rapping over an REO Speedwagon sample? YES HE IS.
--Spencer Ackerman
don't make me turn daddy's lil girl to orphan:
Re-Up Gang (the real one, not AQI) grant AllHipHop an interview about, in part, LOL Wayne.
"The kissing shit ain't nothing new."
--Spencer Ackerman
we like to party, we don't cause trouble don't botha no-body:
Yglesias is right that John Adams (excellent show!) presents a weak case for American independence. But Gordon Wood convinced me a long time ago that the revolution was the result of mutually-reinforcing irrational decisions. (Though he didn't really mean to!) Adams' argument at the Continental Congress for independence, as presented in the show, is basically: What an opportunity we have before us! That's nuts. There's no truly irreconcilable interest or fundamental ideological dispute between Great Britain and the colonies. It's in everyone's interests, as the New York delegation recognized, for King George to come to the table, but only after kicking the living shit out of the colonies, and especially Manhattan. To risk that in exchange for an "opportunity" is not a good gamble. Obviously it turned out our way, but as Matt writes, it wouldn't have been so awful to be Canada or Australia either.

Also, the show shortchanges the religious fanaticism of the Massachusetts colony. But it does an admirable, and brave, job in episode one of showing the fearsome mob tendencies of the Sons of Liberty. As they're parading with Sam Adams down the street you half-expect them to start chanting Moq-tada! Moq-tada! Moq-tada!

Speaking of: I'd like to see my friends in the counterinsurgency community make an argument for how the British could have waged a successful counterinsurgency campaign against the colonists. After all, unlike in most cases, the British spoke the language, understood the culture, had no fundamental ideological argument against the colonists, and retained the loyalty of a significant percentage of the population. How 'bout it, Abu Muqawama? Let's leave sentiment aside. How would you have gone after George Washington?
--Spencer Ackerman
love love love just ain't a game i play:
The Raveonettes' Lust Lust Lust album is as good as you've heard. I've been lukewarm on them -- the gimmicky Spector girl-group references, the Jesus & Mary Chain posturing, the thin songwriting. A couple years ago, though, they played that Little Steven garage festival on Randalls Island and tried their hit "That Great Love Sound" with some anger in the vocals. It seemed dissonant, given the saccharine aftertaste of a lot of their stuff, but it turned out that was foreshadowing.

Lust Lust Lust still has that JAMC sound. But it's a lot darker than anything the Raveonettes have done. There's the occasional hint that they've been looking to Nick Cave and PJ Harvey to fill in the blanks of their feelings. Perfect! I love Nick Cave and PJ Harvey. The record is suggestive of the kind of sex you have, and seek out, after you've given up on any possibility of happiness.
--Spencer Ackerman
R-E-U-P Gang that's us bruh:
Green Zone mortared too, for good measure.
--Spencer Ackerman
what else can i say:
Via Jane Hamsher, the Connecticut newspaper Day says it's sorry for endorsing Joe Lieberman:
When The Day endorsed Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman for re-election in November 2006 it was supporting a candidate who demonstrated a history of pragmatic leadership and a willingness to seek bipartisan solutions.

We wonder what happened to that senator.

Sen. Lieberman's open-ended commitment to military involvement in Iraq comes as no surprise. The senator made it clear when running for re-election that was his position. Sen. Lieberman wants the United States military to remain in Iraq until the war is won, whatever that means. It conflicts with this newspaper's position that the time has come for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Similarly, I'd like to apologize for spending four years working for The New Republic. What was I thinking? They don't even pay well.

Lieberman should welcome this editorial. Ever since the Lamont primary victory, he's cultivated the seed of purest neoconservatism: a politics of resentment. Jacob Heilbrunn explains in They Knew They Were Right how neoconservatives sublimate the first-order questions of politics or policy to the intellectually evasive question of what The Enemy thinks -- not, say, al-Qaeda, but liberals. Whatever the State Department thinks (or is imagined to think), they're against that, and damn the merits of the case. Now Lieberman has yet another enemy: the squishes at the Day. Hooray for him! His decline into noxious paranoia can proceed apace.
--Spencer Ackerman
Saturday, March 22, 2008
and there's no turning back:
Jim Henley, reflecting on his opposition to the war and his place in the media landscape, writes the blog post of the year. The LOL-ing stuff is the heart of the piece, but I'll just quote the soul:
What all of us had in common is probably a simple recognition: War is a big deal. It isn’t normal. It’s not something to take up casually. Any war you can describe as “a war of choice” is a crime. War feeds on and feeds the negative passions. It is to be shunned where possible and regretted when not. Various hawks occasionally protested that “of course” they didn’t enjoy war, but they were almost always lying. Anyone who saw invading foreign lands and ruling other countries by force as extraordinary was forearmed against the lies and delusions of the time. It’s a heavy burden, I’ll admit. But the riches and fame make it all worthwhile.
Certain warmongerish friends of mine need to absorb this stuff before they write me hysterical and self-parodic emails.
--Spencer Ackerman
paint a vulgar picture:
Not one of the quotes that Dayo Olopade chooses from Rev. Jeremiah Wright demonstrates her thesis that he's a shallow, preening attention hog. This is the closest she comes:
Dwight Hopkins, a church member and professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, told the Baltimore Sun that some refer to the blocks surrounding Trinity as "Wrightville." Hopkins added that Wright "doesn't like" the nickname, but, that Sunday, I was struck by how much of the sermon was about--well, him. During the address, he let fly with a verbal fusillade aimed directly at his detractors: "I don't care what nobody in the 4-H club says. Y'all know what the 4-H club is?" The church roared, and he explained: "That's Hannity, Hillary, Hobbes, and Haters." Later, while discussing his opposition to South African apartheid, Wright seemed to take another shot at his enemies: "I was talked about then, and I'm still talked about now," he thundered. "But I'm not going to stop being me because of what somebody says about me. [Jesus] set me free to be me and he set me free to forgive stupidity." And here he gets in one more jab: "So I forgive you, 4-H club; I forgive you, confused journalists; I forgive you, nervous negroes--I forgive you."
Gee, I don't know, maybe Wright is being performative in the service of a broader point about injustice. For instance: "I got to tell somebody what the Lord has done for my people. I'm gonna use my mouth! Listen to me and listen carefully: Neither Hillary, Hannity, nor Hobbes ever had a grandparent in slavery or on a slave ship beneath the decks, never had a grandparent in a slave dungeon on the coast of West Africa as a prisoner. That's my people's story, and if you think I'm gonna stop telling it, you got another damn thing coming!" And that's in her own piece! Come on, TNR! If you're going to smear someone, put your back into it!

So, look, Wright appears to be a bigot. I use the weasel word "appears" because I don't know: all I have to go on is the presentation of him in the media, which Olopade's piece takes to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. She quotes a letter from Wright chastising Jodi Kantor for misrepresenting him -- and that's it. No attempt to adjudicate, you know, whether she did. Kind of an important thing to grapple with if you're going to go after the guy.
--Spencer Ackerman
my head's gonna crack like a bank:
Via Plumer, an excellent demonstration of why I named my best friend what I named him:
When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. You are not sickening for anything, you have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a shit you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is, and there is no use crying over spilt milk.
--Spencer Ackerman
strike out like a wolf's endeavor:
Le Loup are the best band in D.C. There isn't a close second. Last night's Black Cat performance was more like a coronation. Everyone who saw them at Unbuckled last spring -- packed into DC9's tiny upstairs -- came away convinced that they were witnessing the germination of something special. Last night the flower blossomed, the debutante wore the taffeta, the second-string QB got his first set of crucial downs. I even bought a t-shirt.
--Spencer Ackerman
Friday, March 21, 2008
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
March 21, 2008
DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Gregory D. Unruh, 28, of Dickinson, Texas, died March 19 in Mandali, Iraq, of injuries suffered in a vehicle accident. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas.

This incident is under investigation.

For more information media may contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at (254) 287-9993; after hours (254) 291-2591.
--Spencer Ackerman
they hung him on a cross for me:
And to think this little bundle of periwinkles and Fruit Roll-Ups would grow up to drink cheap beers at Le Loup shows and otherwise be our beloved Mattos Locos.
--Spencer Ackerman
running as fast as they can:
It's spring today. You know what that means? It means we're like six weeks away from the new Iron Man movie.
--Spencer Ackerman
i picked up that guy at the deadguy show:
OMG I just saw on Facebook that my friend and former-Station-mate Liz Sheridan -- read her TV blog, dammit -- just got engaged! Presumably to the guy she's been dating forever, the Other Tim From Deadguy. Congratulations, Liz and Tim!
--Spencer Ackerman
pussywhipped! pussywhipped! don't you know you're pussywhipped:
I had this girlfriend in college who was fascinated by S.O.D.'s song "Pussywhipped." To her, it was an unintentionally hilarious glimpse into the dude-psyche. You could find her during moments of silence humming under her breath, pu-ss-y-whipped, pu-ssy-whipped, donchu know you're pussywhipped.

And, you know, fair point. I've done things for women. Many things. Things that I wouldn't otherwise have done. Humiliations I wouldn't have otherwise endured. Aggravations I wouldn't have otherwise experienced. But do you know what that's actually called? Human interaction.

Anyway, long way of saying: Moe kind of nails it, and calls out a friend in the process.
--Spencer Ackerman
bush knocked down the towers:
So my friend Sue is trying out for a rollerderby team in Baltimore. A simple inquiry about the best rollerderby aliases -- hers is Chemical Allie -- led to an interesting cultural observation:
Spencer Ackerman
what are the best rollernicknames you've heard so far

Sue Stormshadow

Spencer Ackerman
you know
i've been noticing that there's been a relaxation of the al-qaeda taboo lately

Sue Stormshadow
but her number is NOT 9-11

Spencer Ackerman

Sue Stormshadow
i say if you're going to make that joke

Spencer Ackerman
That woman would be burned at the stake as few as, oh, four years ago. Meanwhile, Jadakiss, who famously asked why Bush knocked down the towers, recently unveiled his new mixtape persona, Al Qaeda Jada. Two points is a trend.

So what's going on here? My guess is that the Jedi mind trick telling us that Al Qaeda is the instantiation of an almost-primordial evil -- that it's less a jihadist entity than a metaphysical presence -- is wearing off. Which is to the better, when you think about it: we can focus on eliminating Al Qaeda without miscalculation. Bush's approach told us that we'll always have them with us, which is just a different form of defeatism. Fuck Al Qaeda. Let's laugh at those motherfuckers.
--Spencer Ackerman
knives out:
Episode 2 of Top Chef: The rise of Peregrin Took. Like I said last week, the early episodes are filled with misdirection. You don't know who's actually a good chef. Too many characters, so you can't get invested in any of them. Peregrin Took is an airhead, but now they're suggesting he's a diamond in the rough. Also, Andrew and Spike are the same character, so one of them has to go. Too early to guess which one. Yuzu and Mint glacier? Great idea, even though Andrew won for the ceviche. Which was also a good idea.

Rachel Dratch had to go. (Amuse-Biatch named her thus.) And Bravo is getting way too predictable with the foreshadowing. Ever notice how whenever you see a contestant working out, s/he's like two episodes at most from elimination? Think about it. Cynthia (though she quit). Betty. Tre. Sandee. The only exception I can think of is Elia. You never saw Hung, Harold or Ilan work out.
--Spencer Ackerman
Thursday, March 20, 2008
things have never been so swell:
I'm too drunk to say anything coherent about these books now, but Heads In The Sand by Matthew Yglesias and They Knew They Were Right by Jacob Heilbrunn really, really are as brilliant as the early whispers would suggest. Today I got Nixonland by Rick Perlstein in the mail and I look forward to devouring it this weekend.

More on Matt's book and Jacob's book when I sober up.
--Spencer Ackerman
well honey i got news for you it doesn't work that way here:
Farley gets gnarly. Apparently, Dana Perino said something characteristically ignorant about women and defense issues.
Some of the terms I just don’t know, I haven’t grown up knowing. The type of missiles that are out there: patriots and scuds and cruise missiles and tomahawk missiles. And I think that men just by osmosis understand all of these things, and they’re things that I really have to work at — to know the difference between a carrier and a destroyer, and what it means when one of those is being launched to a certain area.
Just... you fucking idiot. One of the things I'll be going into in a future installment of my counterinsurgency series is how so many of the brightest lights in this field are women. Janine Davidson. Erin Simpson. Montgomery McFate. Emma Sky. Does Perino know Michele Flournoy? How about Sarah Sewall? Kathleen McInnis? I could drop some more names of women defense-policy wonks/practitioners who really know their shit if she wants. Christ.

Update: Ann kills Perino faster than she kills boners.
--Spencer Ackerman
got the whole crowd screaming free yayo:
Video of The Surge's initial deployment is taking a little longer than expected, so I've ripped up the TPFDL or something. Anyway: on its way.

Meanwhile, it's been decided that The Surge's crew is called Friedman-Unit. Be on the lookout for our clothing line and Vitamin Water flavor. Fr-fr-fr-fr-fr-fr-fried-u-NIT!
--Spencer Ackerman
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
Oh, and speaking of the wages of that debater's point...

March 19, 2008
DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Mar. 17 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device during combat operations. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Michael D. Elledge, 41, of Brownsburg, Ind.

Spc. Christopher C. Simpson, 23, of Hampton, Va.

For more information media may contact the Fort Carson public affairs office at (719) 526-4143; after hours (719) 526-5500.
--Spencer Ackerman
instead of moving that, nope, you need to re-up:
--Spencer Ackerman
you profit from the lie:
Because one five-year retrospective isn't enough. Just out from the Washington Independent, a run-through of the debunked lie that Saddam Hussein once made out with Usama bin Laden, and how Steve Hayes and Jeff Goldberg played their part.
--Spencer Ackerman
Smack my bitch up:
Phoebe Connelly leaves a mark.
--Spencer Ackerman
wasn't born hustlers, i was birthin em:
Is John McCain running against Barack Obama, or running against Blackness?

So, a long time ago, as a goof, Yglesias, Capps and I signed up for McCainSpace pages. I picked BenevolentHegemon as my McCainSpace nick. That, I soon learned, entitled me to endless McCain fundraising emails. Today I got an interesting one.

"My Friends," it read, "I am not running for president to be somebody, but to serve our country with honor. I seek the office of the President of the United States because I am as confident --"

OK, stop right there. He's not running for president "to be somebody"? What does that mean? Who says he's running for president to be somebody? Oh yeah, I almost forgot -- Jesse Jackson.

In (I think) 1971, Jackson wrote a poem called "I Am Somebody." Later, of course, Jackson ran for president. I have absolutely no idea if McCain is trying to sound some kind of dog whistle to the right -- "Black man running for president! A lot like that scary Negro!!!" -- but I can't think of any alternative explanation for that awkward, conspicuous phrase.
--Spencer Ackerman
all the beating drums, the celebration guns:
March 19, 2008
DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Lerando J. Brown, 27, of Gulfport, Miss., died March 15 in Balad, Iraq, from injuries suffered in an incident currently under investigation. He was assigned to the 288th Sapper Company, 223rd Engineer Battalion, Mississippi Army National Guard, Houston, Miss.

For more information media may contact the Mississippi National Guard public affairs office at (601) 313-6271.
--Spencer Ackerman
how i miss your ranting:
Good for a laugh: on a National Security Network conference call, the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb and the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler insist that John McCain was right to insist on an Undifferentiated Islamofascist Menace. Alas, McCain himself begged off the war against the terror masters and Cobra Commander.

Meanwhile: please, please, please, bring me back my Daniel McKivergan on the Standard's blog. I miss that dude.
--Spencer Ackerman
don't be afraid of what they say:
I should have mentioned: I'm doing a Book Club at TPM Cafe this week on Greg Mitchell's collection of columns on the press and the war, So Wrong For So Long. It's an august bunch: Joe Galloway! Paul Rieckhoff! Bob Frigging Bateman! So come check it out.

Also, it feels great to be back at TPM for a little while. I blew off my TPM homies a couple weeks ago when we were supposed to sing a little karaoke. Sorry dudes! I'll make it up to you next time I'm in New York.
--Spencer Ackerman
we are denied they deny it:
Really, TNR? Really? Not one piece today about the fifth anniversary of the war you championed? Not one? Nothing? No? (I guess Crowley comes closest to saying the I-word.) Your "heavy hitters" can't say one fucking word? For almost 4000 dead, nothing? Nothing?
--Spencer Ackerman
that hellhound's gonna rip your face off:
Two things that put a smile on my face: Jezebel and the total destruction of the Goatblower.
--Spencer Ackerman
or are we gonna sit back relax while the have-nots get their fucking heads kicked in over and over and over again:
It was five years ago today. And for the anniversary -- well, not really, but it worked out that way -- MNF-I released the results of a new characterological profile of al-Qaeda in Iraq. I call the amalgam Mr. AQI, and he reveals the basic mistake of the war.
Counterfactual conditionals are always problematic, but in all likelihood, according to MNF-I's own profile, if the United States. were not in Iraq, Mr. AQI would be back in his taxi in Algiers or Jedda. Were it not for Abu Ghraib -- which, of course, never would have happened had we not invaded -- Mr. AQI would never have felt that it was his religious duty to kill Americans. And were it not for the war, thousands of Americans and possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would be alive, right now, and all without a propaganda windfall that spikes terrorist recruitment for the extremist lurking around the mosque trying to generate new Mr. AQIs. And what is true of our foreign-born Mr. AQI is all the more true of the perhaps 95 percent of AQI that's Iraqi Sunni. Not one of them would have any reason to be a member of AQI if George Bush did not give him one. ...

There are many horrors of the war, primarily the destroyed lives of Americans and Iraqis. But this is the strategic horror of the war. The good news is that there is a way to stop the generation of Mr. AQIs, both Iraqi and foreign. It is the most important counterterrorism operation of all. Stop this illegal, immoral, unjust, disastrous war.
--Spencer Ackerman