Pure Victims, Real Human Beings

Straight from Riker’s Island to the Elys?e? There’s a political arc worthy of Brecht and Weill!  Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been sprung from house arrest in Manhattan and his supporters in France are agitating for his re-insertion into the presidential race against Sarkozy even though DSK cannot as yet leave the United States.

Thursday’s leak to the New York Times by

“two well-placed law enforcement officials” of the prosecutors’ disquiet about their case is being treated as amounting to DSK’s exoneration on charges of inflicting forcible oral sex and other sexual assaults on Nafissato Diallo, the housekeeper from Guinea, who has now ceased to be the spirit of pure victimhood, emerging into the light of day as? a real human being with all the baggage that every human being carries.

So, she may have misrepresented some facts about her past in her application for asylum in the United States. Big deal.  She may have  associations with suspected drug dealers. This means she wasn’t the victim of an assault by DSK? A tape-recorded phone call between the housekeeper  within a day of the alleged assault has her discussing benefits of pressing charges.  Once again, this doesn’t mean she wasn’t the victim of an assault.

What really seems to have prompted the DA to throw Ms Diallo over the side was the fact that she changed her story about her movements in the immediate aftermath of the alleged assault.  In AP’s account of a letter from the prosecutors to DSK’s legal team, she “misrepresented what she did after the alleged attack – instead of fleeing to a hallway and waiting for a supervisor, she went to clean another room and then returned to clean Strauss-Kahn’s suite before telling her supervisor that she had been attacked.”

The NYT’s story which went up on the Times site Thursday evening had no counterbalancing comment from Ms Diallo’s lawyer, Ken Thompson, which didn’t exactly help Ms Diallo. Later, on Friday, Thompson told AP, that his client

“went to the district attorney with information that her asylum application was flawed, but that she exaggerated on it because she was scared she would be sent back to Guinea. He said she came to the U.S. because she was a victim of female genital mutilation, and she worried her daughter, now 15, would be victimized as well. He also said she had been raped by soldiers there, but that attack did not occur as it was written in her asylum application.

“Thompson did not back down on the seriousness of the charges, delivering intimate and specific details from her perspective on a violent attack, saying Strauss-Kahn bruised her vagina, tore a ligament in her shoulder and ripped her stockings.

“’When she was fighting to get away, when she was on her knees and he was sexually assaulting her, after he finished, she got up and started to run to the door and started spitting Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s semen out of her mouth in disgust all over that hotel room,’ he said.

“‘Investigators have said they found traces of his semen on her uniform.

“‘From day one she has described a violent sexual assault that Dominique Strauss-Kahn committed against her,’ Thompson said. “She has described that sexual assault many times, to prosecutors and to me, and she has never once changed a single thing about that encounter.’”

Is this Thompson flailing as his case blows up and his client goes down and hopes of a handsome case settlement disappear? Maybe. We’ll soon see.

The NYT’s  two sources do emphasize that forensic tests found, in the words of the Times’ story, “unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter”  in the Sofitel suite between the IMF chieftain and the housekeeper. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have suggested all along that whatever sexual contact may have taken place was voluntary.

With the bail hearing looming up on Friday the DA seems to decided he had no alternative but  to torpedo his case with this leak to the Times.

The French, who have denounced the case against Strauss-Kahn as an appalling miscarriage of justice by over-zealous cops and prosecutors will now revel in the humiliation of the NYPD and the DA, even though the latter can claim that it was his investigators who discovered the information undercutting their case against Strauss-Kahn. Housekeepers will be reluctant to report assaults, immigrant housekeepers even less so, and hotel managers even more averse than before to relay such charges to the police. Certainly the DA overplayed his hand in the early stages. The bail conditions were absurd, even given the Polanski precedent of flight beyond the jurisdiction.

Other news? The Advocate reports that Marcus Bachmann, husband of Michele, fiery candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has said
“Gay people are ‘barbarians’ who need to be ‘educated’ and ‘disciplined.’”

Marcus Bachmann is a clinical therapist. He made the statements last year on a syndicated religious radio talk show, as theoretical advice to parents who think one of their children may be gay. Bachmann:

“We have to understand: Barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps.”

Michele, who has a lesbian stepsister, has referred to homosexuality as “bondage” and “dysfunction,” and has claimed that encouraging young people to be tolerant of gays is “child abuse.” She has also said that being gay is “from Satan.”

These Bachmanns, their lives strewn with foster-kids passing through their care,  seem awfully keen to talk about bondage and discipline.

Michele would seem apt for the role of dominatrix, lashing away at Marcus as he delightedly scuttles around the bed on all fours in his leather jumpsuit, whimpering for mercy. Marcus runs the Bachmann and Associates mental health clinic in Minnesota which advertising its therapies as “Christian counseling.”

The clinic has accepted federal and state funding. You can bet Ms Bachmann’s opponents will be going through the clinic’s accounts with a fine toothcomb.

And yes, in Britain, Labour leader Edward Miliband has just condemned teachers and civil servants for their one-day work stoppage to protest savage Conservative government cuts in pensions. The sheep-like Miliband declared the  one-day strike “wrong”. As I wrote here last week, hamer the coffin lid down on the corpse of social democracy.

In Greece, ramming through an austerity package, amounting to over ?78 billion extorted by the bankers, all but one of the 155 deputies of the ruling social democratic PASOK party voted for the government; all but one of the 143 MPs from all other parties voted against it.

The confidence vote took place  against the furious protests and resistance of the Greek people. Around ?28 billion of the total is to be raised through spending cuts and increased revenue, while ?50 billion will be raised through the privatization of state enterprises, including ports, telecommunications concerns, real estate and stakes in the public power corporation.

Across the next five years more than two billion euros, or $2.9 billion, are scheduled in cuts to the health sector through 2015 by reducing regulated prices for drugs; tax increases on heating oil and the self-employed. Public employment will be slashed. Greece has already cut the wages of its 800,000 public workers ? a quarter of the work force ? by more than 10 per cent.
Papandreou had other options: simply to refuse to blink in the face of blackmail from Euro-bankers and be prepared to return to its own national currency and restore a measure of sovereignty in the conduct of its economic affairs.

Our Latest Newsletter Hits the Stands

Could it be that the press coverage of NATO’s Libyan onslaught is actually worse than the reporting on NATO’s attacks on the former Yugoslavia in the late 1990s, or on Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion by the U.S.A. and its coalition partners? Read CounterPunch’s special report, by Patrick Cockburn and yours truly.

Also in this newsletter is a fascinating interview between death penalty defense attorney Mike Snedeker and Jan Haaken on her book Hard Knocks, a history of one of the profound social movements of recent decades, the effort to bring the issue  of domestic violence ? something never officially approved of but nonetheless privately tolerated ? into the public sphere. Haaken asks, did feminists win a Pyrrhic victory?

MS: [You suggest is] that it takes two to tango, that domestic violence is an interactive phenomenon. The feminist countermyth is that men initiate 95 per cent of violence in couples.

JH: This has been an important aspect of the movement: moving away from violence as a general human problem to the claim that violence actually is a male problem. But we overshot the mark. The cost of insisting on violence as a male habit of power and control was in losing ground on how to deal with female violence or aggression that is not simply defensive. The main feminist argument was that when women are violent, it is because they are pushed to the wall and only fight back defensively. But that position, as an a priori stance, keeps women as perpetual innocents, as children before the law. So, an unintended consequence of this countermyth was to place women who are violent outside the bounds of female normalcy, as perverse or unnatural. I think all movements that are attempting to lift people from oppression have to allow for people that have been harmed by life in ways that don’t make them nice.

This terrific new newsletter has two further superb reports. Stewart Lawrence describes an appalling new Alabama law targeting immigrants. Richard Wilcox writes from Tokyo on censorship in Japan and the Fukushima cover-up.
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Alexander Cockburn can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com.

His nephew Henry writes on this weekend site about  his experiences over the recent past as a schizophrenic. Pertinent emails  letters will be forwarded  to Henry.


Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.