No Comment — August 25, 2007, 2:06 pm

Coups ‘R Us

This really is a story for Washington Babylon, and not No Comment, but as my counterpart is settling back in after a well-earned rest, I’ll give it a go-ahead. For the last three weeks, rumors have been swirling around a relatively depopulated Washington to the effect that the Bush Administration is very unhappy with Prime Minister al-Maliki. “They’re going to take him out,” one lobbyist told me, “and replace him with former interim Prime Minister Allawi.” Now Ayad Allawi is a fairly repulsive figure with a dark background. But he seemed to get along just swell with the Neocon clique, right from the beginning. Perhaps they shared a certain commonality of purpose. But when I pressed my friend to know who “they” were, and what he meant by “take him out,” I got nowhere. “Just a rumor,” he said. Was it the CIA? The Bush Administration? A faction in Baghdad? I was dismissive.

Then as time progressed, I grew less dismissive. I heard that the “town was flooded with Allawi money.” It was “being spread around everywhere and was drawing results.” How could that be? Where would Allawi get loads of money? And surely you don’t mean to tell me you can buy influence that crassly in Washington? (No strike that, I’m not that naïve.)

I started watching the media closely. Suddenly an Allawi op-ed showed up in the hallowed editorial pages of the Washington Post. And then a faint whisper against al-Maliki got louder and louder. Suddenly it was on CNN, Fox and other broadcast media. Then a story surfaced pointing to former RNC chair Hailey Barbour’s lobbying firm as the source of all of this. Barbour, of course, is now governor of Mississippi and no longer running this lobbying outfit (though his name is invoked in connection with it continuously). Carl Levin, Pete Hoekstra and a number of others made sudden and dramatic statements that seemed carefully jiggered to help the Allawi campaign.

Yesterday I found a column authored by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com. The title says it all: “How our seedy, corrupt Washington establishment operates.” Greenwald has linked up many of the dots, essentially showing how Allawi’s money is buying coverage in the media, access to decision-makers and pressure on the Government, all with the aim of reinstalling Allawi as America’s Quisling in Baghdad. Is this material for a Hollywood movie? If not, then yes, it really does show the putrid internal workings of the Washington corruptocracy. It shows them at their most lurid and insidious. Greenwald writes:

Over the past several weeks, there has arisen a palpable and coordinated shift among the Washington establishment to blame Iraq’s problems on Prime Minister Maliki and to suggest that salvation lies in his replacement. The only real alternative ever identified is former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Fred Hiatt turned his Op-Ed page over to Allawi two weeks ago to argue — in the most establishment-pleasing tones — that “Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government” and that “Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to take advantage of the Iraqi people’s desire for peaceful and productive lives and of the enormous commitment and sacrifices made by the United States and other nations.” In other words, our wise Washington Leaders have done the Right and Good thing in Iraq, but that scoundrel Maliki is the key impediment preventing Success.

I was puzzling over whether anyone in the mainstream media would ever pick up on this. And the answer is: yes. CNN did a piece. But ABC News, thanks to Justin Rood, found the story, and has even broken some new ground on it. Rood follows the right path: asking where is this money coming from? ABC reports:

Dr. Ayad Allawi, a Maliki rival with close ties to the CIA, was paying the GOP firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR) more than a quarter-million dollars to lobby on his behalf. The story was first reported on the Web site Iraqslogger.com, which obtained the documents.

It has been widely reported that Ayad Allawi and his political group, the Iraqi National Accord, received CIA funding from the early 1990s until as late as 2004 and consulted with CIA officials about setting up a domestic intelligence service for the Iraqi government. In 2004, Allawi was made the interim prime minister until elections could be held. Experts also believe he is supported by Gulf states wary of Iran’s influence in the Iraqi government.

There are a lot of very important questions hovering over this story right now. But if this whole bid for Allawi is indeed being funded with resources controlled by the CIA (for which at present we have no real evidence, though, if it were true, real evidence would be painfully hard to come by), that’s a very big deal that needs to be examined and exposed to the sanitizing effects of bright sunlight. This would be Praetorian politics at its most dangerous.

And in any event it could be a better demonstration of the points that Ken Silverstein made very forcefully in his article in the July Harper’s. In “Their Men in Washington,” Ken went undercover as a shadowy agent for arguably the world most viciously Stalinist dictatorship, Turkmenistan. He found Washington lobbying firms tripping over themselves offering access to power and influence in Washington at the highest levels. The “coups ‘r us” story surrounding Allawi shows how valid are the lessons that Silverstein teaches us, and how acute the risk to our democratic institutions.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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