Chapter 2: in which we learn that the former IMF chief may well be a fool but perhaps not a knave
Paris July 1, 2011
N.B. I am deliberately writing and filing this analysis before the surprise NY Supreme Court hearing in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, reportedly scheduled for 17:30 Paris time—two hours from now. The roles have been recast by breaking news in The New York Times. If the NYT revelations are confirmed, the alleged victim of sexual assault, Nafissatou Diallo, is a lowdown schemer who, when she is not cleaning rooms at the luxurious Times Square Sofitel, is laundering money for a convicted drug dealer. Her conversation with the felon, one day after the alleged assault, was recorded. She asked, we are told, how much money she could extort from her hapless fast-trick high profile lover.
Now, before we go any further, I would like to admit that I didn’t believe DSK was set up. And, in my usual opinionated way, I shot down arguments presented by friends, colleagues, and their sources. Proud of my highly developed sense of literary intrigue, I ridiculed the idea that someone would concoct a honeypot with such a skimpy window of opportunity—a half hour or even an hour before a lunch appointment with his daughter and a subsequent flight to France on crucial IMF business.
M.Z. said how could he overpower her? She’s taller, younger, and stronger than him. How could he force her to perform oral sex? She could bite off his d***. J.R. sent me a video of an Ivorian feminist politician who sang the praises of Houphoët Boigny and Sékou Touré and swore that Nafissatou Diallo was lying. L.M. told me that chambermaids in luxury hotels often double as prostitutes, adding: “You know the owner of the Accor chain is a friend of Nicolas Sarkozy.”
Ca alors! You don’t think President Sarkozy would risk such a shoddy scheme? It would ruin him politically and destroy his life. Trust me, the American police will find out who did it… if, in fact, he was set up.
What if the setup had nothing to do with French politics? Wouldn’t that make a good story? Nafissatou’s friend, accomplice, fellow suspect or just brotherly advisor, is not in jail for a billion dollar cocaine traffic. No, he’s apparently involved in a down home Mom & Pop style marijuana business. Could the Sofitel intrigue be on the same, excuse the term, mediocre level? Could the chambermaid have chosen her prey on the basis of something other than his role as current director of the IMF and front-running Socialist presidential candidate? Was it his reputation as an inveterate womanizer? Or, did he set himself up by hitting on her, after unsuccessfully trying to make a deal with the hostess who led him to his suite and the receptionist in the lobby? If, of course, he did hit on them as reported.
We all said, in the first days of this Big Story, that an exaggerated presumption of DSK’s innocence would automatically entail an assumption of guilt for the woman who accused him of sexual assault. The feminists moved into the foreground, the Chambermaid’s Union demonstrated vociferously, and French journalists travelled to the remote Guinean village where the—supposed—victim was born and from there to Casemance where she was raised by a devout Muslim mother, filmed as she performed one of her multiple daily prayers. A local journalist described the spotless reputation of the young woman who had lived among them for years before leaving for New York to make a better life for herself and her daughter. Most recently a man in djellaba described as her half-brother swore that she was raised in the righteous path of the Koran by a devout father who served as an imam. Like all his children, Nafissatou was illiterate but pious, he said. She cries every day. She is ruined. Her life is ruined. How could that man be so cruel? He should be punished to the full extent of the law. But nothing can save Nafissatou now, she is ruined.
Whether or not this gentleman is a real half-brother, a plus-que-frère, or an accomplice of the supposed drug dealer, his diagnosis rings true. Nafissatou is ruined. If, of course, the NY Times report is to be believed.
It seems, apparently, that she also lied on her application for refugee status. If so, this would be the least shocking element of the whole case!
In the past six weeks since the affair broke there has been a sharp rise in complaints of sexual harassment here in France. The underlying notion is that the courage of Nafissatou Diallo inspired other, equally oppressed victims of male violence, to come forward and ask that justice be done. If their heroine turns out to be a sham, would that invalidate their respective positions? Technically, no, but in fact, yes; the doubting coefficient for allegations of rape will rise. The case of the Indonesian maid beheaded in Saudi Arabia for killing her master in, she claimed, self-defense, might overshadow the plight of scantily dressed liberated French ladies.
Some members of the French Socialist party are now speculating on DSK’s rapid return to politics. Could he upset the apple cart currently disputed between former Party chief François Hollande and his successor Martine Aubry? That easily?
Might Strauss-Kahn’s loyal fellows be forgetting that if the case were dropped today it would leave their champion mounted on something less than a white stallion? Do they think French voters will go hook, line, and sinker for a presidential candidate who—if the facts are confirmed—takes a tumble with a shady Guinean refugee chambermaid, dashes off to lunch with his daughter, hops into a plane bound for a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, etc., etc., etc.? Will French citizens trust their own journalists who gathered all those images of Nafissatou’s devout Muslim family in the African heartland, and didn’t sniff out the slightest evidence of possible duplicity?
I don’t expect them to trust me! Not on this one.
But they might want to read my recently published collection of short stories, Karimi Hotel & autres nouvelles d’Africa (l’Harmattan, Paris, May 2011, available in bookstores and online [http://www.amazon.fr/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?__mk_fr_FR=%C5M%C5Z%D5%D1&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=nidra+poller&x=10&y=18&ajr=]).
I should have read it myself before writing “The Vertiginous Tumble of Dominique Strauss-Kahn”!