So Osama bin Laden won’t be the main character in the trial of the century after all; by a simple twist of fate, that role will be played by Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK), the all-powerful head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), now languishing at “Alcatraz” Rikers Island in New York.
The fact that this acronym soup has just been auditioning, despite himself, to the world-famous New York Police Department, complete with the last-minute snatch in the first class cabin of a trans-Atlantic flight, police line up and perp walk, makes it the ultimate sociopolitical global scandal.
On a nastier, New York tabloid level, it was hard to escape the cintillating metaphor of the IMF – with its reputation for screwing the world’s poor – literally applying a structural adjustment in a Manhattan hotel suite to a discreet African Muslim immigrant widow who lives in the Bronx with her teenage daughter. The merciless media execution had to be as massive as the event itself.
Arguably, DSK is luckier than Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, because he’ll be facing a New York jury and not the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Unlike Gaddafi, DSK – at least in theory – is innocent until proven guilty, although he has already been convicted by the gutter press.
Less visible on both sides of the Atlantic have been sane intellects pointing out that Wall Street crooks swindling average people out of trillions of dollars; BP executives destroying the Gulf of Mexico; and as a matter of fact the George W Bush administration bankrupting the US by launching a war that killed over 1 million Iraqi civilians – none of them were slapped with a perp walk.
That much is established; as far as “American justice” is concerned, the chances of seeing Bush administration or Goldman Sachs perpetrators in handcuffs are zero.
To follow in detail the media hysteria on both sides of the Atlantic has been more fascinating than a trip to Mars. In France, it was all but certain that DSK would become the next president in the 2012 elections, beating sagging neo-Napoleonic liberator of Libya Nicolas Sarkozy. DSK – the weapon of choice of the financial powers behind the throne – was about to announce his candidacy this month.
The overall tone of French mainstream media – by the way largely subservient to Sarkozy and his minions – is that the Americans, confirming all existing anti-French stereotyping, humiliated the country by parading a handcuffed DSK in a perp walk (illegal in France) and refusing his US$1 million bail.
American justice, Law and Order-style, is being dragged into the mud as much as American Puritanism. Meanwhile, among catatonic sympathizers of the Socialist Party, conspiracy theories inevitably swirl.
At least most of France apparently has established that the Sofitel chambermaid from Guinea was not a Mata Hari. But maybe she is a Central Intelligence Agency agent. Then there’s the nagging twitter – amplified by a Sarkozy minion – announcing DSK had been “arrested” even before the New York police uttered a peep; a worldwide scoop. No less than 57% of French voters and 70% of socialists believe DSK was framed.
Cui bono – in case of a conspiracy? Certainly Sarkozy benefits, his presidential re-election campaign and his ultra-conservative American connections; the neo-fascists of the National Front in France, whose candidate, the businesslike Marine Le Pen, stands a greater chance of getting to the second round in 2012; and global financial sharks unhappy with the more “liberalizing” IMF stance under DSK.
Ultra-charismatic DSK is a suave Moet & Chandon socialist. If he were a bank, DSK would be in the “too big to fail” category. He did fail – but not as a bank.
If he were an American politician, he would be like former president Bill Clinton – penchant for making whoopee included. “Bubba” was almost booted out of supreme power by a gang of rabid puritans for a mere blowjob in the White House. The Paris cocktail circuit simply cannot fathom that notorious womanizer DSK would be foolish enough to risk a presidency for a French-speaking African Muslim housekeeper.
Thus the thesis that this was all a misunderstanding; DSK was waiting for a high-class New York call girl when the unsuspecting chambermaid entered the lion’s den and found the lion fully armed.
This close encounter between the IMF and a sub-Saharan African developing economy does not imply that DSK is a champion of the poor, or the working class. Far from being a socialist, DSK has been a prime companion of the global financial elites and multinational capital. But there was a very interesting twist to it.
The sorriest aspect of the whole sordid affair is that DSK was really trying to reform the IMF – turning the unrepresentative behemoth towards a more progressive line. He was widely praised as a top manager. His interim successor is American John Lipsky – a former vice president at JP Morgan; talk about a regression.
DSK was trying to steer the IMF away from its nefarious role during the Asian financial crisis. At that time in 1997, the IMF’s harsh US Treasury Department-inspired medicine, immensely profitable to creditors, almost destroyed whole economies, from Thailand to Indonesia. Brazil and Russia also suffered.
Then it was time to “tame” Argentina – but Argentina defaulted in late 2001. The IMF did everything possible to sabotage the country; but Argentina’s economy stabilized and the country started to grow again in 2002.
Emerging markets are fed up with the IMF being led by a European. A Frenchman has run the IMF for 26 out of the past 33 years. The distribution of power is Medieval; there are nine Europeans among the 24 directors; the Brazilian director represents nine countries, but his vote weighs only 2.4%; the US vote counts four-fold.
Those 24 executive directors now will choose the next IMF head. The Europeans are already involved in a vicious catfight – they don’t want to surrender the prize. Prospects anyway are bright for Kemal Dervis from Turkey, or candidates from India and South Africa.
China is still weighing whether to enter the ring. Were DSK’s demise to open the door for an emerging economy leader of the IMF, what spectacular poetic justice, that it will be thanks to an African Muslim immigrant woman.