Was Strauss-Kahn Set Up?
The French are for the millionaire. The Americans are for the maid. Among the French, three out of five think the IMF's former managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been framed. (Strauss-Kahn tendered his resignation as head of the IMF Wednesday.)
Here in the USA, there's not been a reliable poll, but public sentiment is clearly overwhelmingly against Strauss-Kahn, amplified by self-congratulation that America is a nation of laws, a maid's word as potent as a millionaire's, in contrast to the moral decay prevalent in France.
The French, for their part, stigmatize America as a puritanical, omnipotent imperial police state capable of any infamy. But even as they charge that Strauss-Kahn was set up, the French press is rather weak on identifying or even suggesting the precise mastermind or group working to destroy a man who might have been the French Socialist Party's triumphant candidate, evicting Sarkozy from the Elysee Palace.
In Parisian financial circles, some charge that this is an attack on "les juifs." Following this line, they suggest it's a plot by the Muslims, presumptively eager to contrive any embarrassment to a well-known Jew and indeed ardent Zionist, also perhaps because the agent of Strauss-Kahn's downfall, the 32-year-OLD maid accusing him of serious sexual assault, is a Muslim from the west African nation of Guinea.
Americans suggesting a conspiracy contain the usual percentage of citizens who routinely disbelieve the official account of any event, and whose current energies are primarily devoted to proving that Osama bin Laden was dead by 2001.
But there have also been speculations about conspiracy from economists who admired Strauss-Kahn's attempts to shake up the IMF. They quote his words in an address at George Washington University last week: "Globalization has delivered a lot ... but it also has a dark side, a large and growing chasm between the rich and the poor. Clearly, we need a new form of globalization to prevent the 'invisible hand' of loosely regulated markets from becoming 'an invisible fist.'"
The dean of progressive U.S. economists, Joseph Stiglitz, recently remarked, "It appears that a new IMF has gradually, and cautiously, emerged under the leadership of Dominique Strauss-Kahn." (This view of Strauss-Kahn as the tribune of the oppressed is not shared by Greece, which has been groaning under typical IMF conditions attached to bailout money. Greek newspapers have offered unsparing assessments. One newspaper carried the headline "The maid resisted IMF's ... rapist," its description for what the IMF chief has inflicted on Greece.)
Such cavils notwithstanding, Paul Craig Roberts, assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury in Reagan's time, stated flatly in a syndicated column earlier this week that Strauss-Kahn is being framed up because the IMF recently announced that "the age of America is over" and that China will be the No. 1 economy within five years. This was a massive blow to Washington, and they are taking their revenge.
On the conspiracy-oriented Global Research site, Michael Bucci drew parallels with the downfall of Eliot Spitzer, ousted from the governorship of New York because of his patronage of prostitutes. "(F)arther behind the curtain," Bucci writes, "might be found investment bankers and international financiers (the Spitzer 'soft assassins')."
It's true that that the New York governor's downfall was wrought by powerful Wall Street figures who feared Spitzer would make them the target of a populist crusade.
But Spitzer was the chief conspirator in his political destruction, and so — going by the facts that have come to light — is Strauss-Kahn, now being devastated by a swelling catalog of predatory and violent sexual behavior, with two French women comparing him to a sex-crazed monkey and others saying he coerced them into having sex with him.
Strauss-Kahn has not been helped by the news that Nicolas Sarkozy, the man who put him up as IMF president, warned Strauss-Kahn to keep his trousers zipped in America and not to get into elevators with interns.
It's true there are the usual anomalies in the case, and conspiracists have pounced on them. Why did the manager of the Sofitel wait at least an hour to call the cops? Maybe because the victim was semi-coherent, maybe because the French-owned midtown hotel wanted to be doubly, triply sure that this was a bona fide assault by a very high-profile guest...
How come the victim was instantly equipped with a fairly high-profile lawyer, Jeffrey Shapiro, described as a "close family friend"? Why were the maid and her daughter living in a Bronx apartment building normally reserved for people with AIDS? Shapiro says neither Nafissatou Diallo nor her daughter is thus afflicted and that it was a sublet.
There are the usual contradictory testimonies. To one person encountering him after he had made what cameras indicate was a hasty exit from his suite, Strauss-Kahn seemed very flustered. Another remembers meeting a composed and relaxed Strauss-Kahn in the elevator.
But the prosecution's basic case seems strong, particularly when you throw in the French women's accusations, which Strauss-Kahn as a likely presidential candidate was already trying to pre-empt.
Hotel surveillance cameras confirm the maid's flight from the suite, then Strauss-Kahn's hasty departure. No one has said her tearful accounts seemed unconvincing. Why would bankers or their agents pick a 32-year-old poor Muslim widow to play such a role? And if they had mounted such a precarious setup, why did the plotters allow Strauss-Kahn to get clear away to JFK and a safe flight to Paris, until he made the mistake of calling the hotel to ask if he'd left anything behind?
As a conspiracy, it doesn't look as though there's much in the way of "lift" to keep it in the air in any sort of convincing shape.
Strauss-Kahn has belonged to the familiar phalanx of political powerful men confident that they can get away with hitting on women, confident that either the women they've attacked won't be believed or won't dare to try to expose them.
The newspaper Echos d'Afrique ran a column Wednesday by Calixthe Beyala citing Bernard Debre, a deputy from the UMP (Sarkozy's party), as alleging that this was not the first such sexual attack by Strauss-Kahn in a Sofitel and that in the New York Sofitel, there were many other women from Guinea who had been "violated" by Strauss-Kahn and that these attacks had been covered up by the hotel management.
If there is any truth to this, then maybe some high-up in the Sofitel hierarchy decided, when contacted for guidance by the hotel management last Saturday, that the time had come to stop covering up for Strauss-Kahn.
The collapse of Arnold Schwarzenegger's marriage, amid disclosure of sensationally tacky behavior on the former California governor's part, after years of allegations about his assaults, isn't helpful to Strauss-Kahn, either.
We don't even know the extent of the physical evidence yet, or the DNA traces from where the maid says she spat out his semen after he'd forced his penis into her mouth. Strauss-Kahn has a good lawyer. These are early days.
Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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