Innocent until proven guilty." We say it. We teach it to our children. But we don't believe it.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, charged with ambushing a hotel cleaning person at a hotel in midtown Manhattan and forcing her to perform oral sex on him, has been released.
This was not the usual case of a well-heeled defendant wielding money and influence to weasel out of responsibility for his crime. To the contrary, the NYPD and district attorney believed the alleged victim, initially characterized as a hard-working immigrant struggling to support her family. The cops aggressively pursued DSK, as the French media calls him. They even subjected him to the "perp walk" that signifies official contempt.
But that's all over. District attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. says the case has fallen apart. The victim was unreliable at best, a conwoman at worst. The charges are dead. DSK is free.
Innocent until proven guilty, right?
But not really.
When you're accused, the story screams in blood-red 112-point type above the fold on page one for weeks on end. When you're exonerated, it runs one column-inch buried in the classifieds -- on the day all your friends, relatives and colleagues happen to miss the paper.
Strauss-Kahn won't go to prison. Not for whatever happened or didn't happen at the Sofitel. (He will face a rape charge filed by a French reporter, who accuses him of going after her "like a chimpanzee in rut" years ago.)
Though legally innocent, DSK will not be restored to his job leading the International Monetary Fund, which he was forced to resign as he cooled his heels at Rikers Island. No reason given. Just: no.
Before getting dragged out of his first-class seat on an Air France jet bound for Paris, the deaccused rapist was widely considered a frontrunner for the Socialist Party's nomination for the French presidency. Now George W. Bush has a better chance than DSK of moving into Elysée Palace. Too much dirt has come out. Legally innocent he may be, but too many voters harbor doubts.
Like the old Soviet Union, the United States and its Western puppet states (France included) mindlessly repeat too many sweet-sounding slogans devoid of real meaning: "Equal justice under the law." "All men are created equal." "One man, one vote."
"Innocent until proven guilty."
If legal innocence (i.e. the failure of the state to convict one of a crime) is to rise above the status of hollow rhetoric, people like DSK ought to be entitled to the full restoration of their pre-arrest status. In DSK's case, he is morally entitled to his old job at the IMF and an open invitation by the French Socialists to run for his nation's highest office. He also deserves to be compensated for the legal bills and bail costs he accrued during his ordeal.
Not many people reading this will agree with me. Which is my point: as a society, we don't really believe in "innocent until proven guilty."
We did not revel in Dominique Strauss-Kahn's arrest because of the crime that the legal system has since decided not to pursue, rape. We laughed and jeered because we hate(d) him.
We hate(d) DSK because he is rich and evil.
Had DSK been a run-of-the-mill accused rapist, few would have noticed and no one would have been as gleeful about his predicament. Here was the fearsome chief of the mighty IMF, an old, smug, white pig forced to shower with an electronic monitoring device locked to his ankle. "Le Perv!" shouted the New York Post.
After the arrest I published a cartoon showing DSK in a police interrogation room. I pride myself on my refusal to leap aboard media bandwagons, so I didn't assume he was guilty. "What's the big deal?" I showed him asking police detectives. "I've been raping the world for years!"
It takes a cruel genius to turn big profits on the backs of the world's poorest people. Meet DSK's IMF.
First IMF officials such as DSK convince the political leaders of say, Kyrgyzstan, that they could rapidly modernize their Fourth World backwater with a loan. Build some new highways! How about that long-awaited hydroelectric dam? Foreign corporations will rush in to do business! Paying us back will be a breeze!
This is, to be charitable, as overly optimistic as Countrywide telling slum dwellers they'll never regret an adjustable-rate mortgage. There are good reasons that foreign firms do not invest in dumps like Kyrgyzstan. Those reasons do not change because there's a new airport road or a new four-star hotel.
Increase in GDP or no, the IMF loans come due. What to do? IMF experts parachute in. Their recommendation: "structural adjustment." No more profligate spending on social programs. Close those pricy health clinics! The IMF is the world's biggest loan shark.
Ripped social safety nets cause social unrest. Kyrgyzstan, once relatively stable, was propped up by IMF loans in the late 1990s. They came due, forcing the poor nation to curtail social spending. It has since been swept by a series of riots, coups, ethnic cleansing and even warlordism.
Here in the United States, IMF-style gangster capitalism takes the form of Republican/Tea Party "starve the beast" demagoguery. There's always money for rich people. And for wars. And for wars that make rich people richer. For the poor and middle-class, Medicare and Social Security are ostentatious and unaffordable luxuries. Socialized medicine, guaranteed cost-of-living increases and unlimited unemployment benefits are off the table.
It is this economic outlook, devoid of humanity and contemptuous of people's basic needs, that Dominique Strauss-Kahn represents.
We all hate him. We hate those like him. That perp walk looked so...right.
He deserves prison, no doubt about it. Until there's a revolution, however, DSK will never suffer for the crimes he committed as a globe-trotting financier.
Even as DSK flew first-class and left his most intimate DNA in $450-a-night suites at four-star hotels, his IMF was demanding that the citizens of Greece and Portugal slash pensions and hike college tuition. That is his biggest crime, undeniable and unforgivable, and the one for which he and those like him should someday face justice.
--(Ted Rall is the author of "The Anti-American Manifesto." His website is tedrall.com.)
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