05.16.11

Bernard-Henri Lévy Defends Accused IMF Director

The case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is unraveling, emphasizing again the importance of the presumption of innocence. By dragging DSK through the mud prematurely, politicians and the press committed gross acts of injustice, says French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy.

(Editor’s Note: This column was written in May, shortly after charges were initially filed against Strauss-Kahn. Read the latest on the new accusations against his alleged victims—and why the charges may be dropped—here.)

Monday morning.

I do not know what actually happened Saturday, the day before yesterday, in the room of the now famous Hotel Sofitel in New York.

I do not know—no one knows, because there have been no leaks regarding the declarations of the man in question—if Dominique Strauss-Kahn was guilty of the acts he is accused of committing there, or if, at the time, as was stated, he was having lunch with his daughter.

I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.

And I do not want to enter into considerations of dime-store psychology that claims to penetrate the mind of the subject, observing, for example, that the number of the room (2806) corresponds to the date of the opening of the Socialist Party primaries in France (06.28), in which he is the uncontested favorite, thereby concluding that this is all a Freudian slip, a subconsciously deliberate mistake, and blah blah blah.

What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to the dogs.

What I know is that nothing, no suspicion whatever (for let’s remind ourselves that, as I write these lines, we are dealing only with suspicions!), permits the entire world to revel in the spectacle, this morning, of this handcuffed figure, his features blurred by 30 hours of detention and questioning, but still proud.

What I know as well is that nothing, no earthly law, should also allow another woman, his wife, admirable in her love and courage, to be exposed to the slime of a public opinion drunk on salacious gossip and driven by who knows what obscure vengeance.

And what I know even more is that the Strauss-Kahn I know, who has been my friend for 20 years and who will remain my friend, bears no resemblance to this monster, this caveman, this insatiable and malevolent beast now being described nearly everywhere. Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally, but this brutal and violent individual, this wild animal, this primate, obviously no, it’s absurd.

This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.

I am troubled by a system of justice modestly termed “accusatory,” meaning that anyone can come along and accuse another fellow of any crime—and it will be up to the accused to prove that the accusation is false and without basis in fact.

I resent the New York tabloid press, a disgrace to the profession, that, without the least precaution and before having effected the least verification, has depicted Dominique Strauss-Kahn as a sicko, a pervert, borderlining on serial killer, a psychiatrist’s dream.

I am angry with all those in France who jumped at the occasion to settle old scores or further their own little affairs.

And I hold it against the commentators, pundits, and other minor figures of a French political class overjoyed at this divine surprise who immediately, indecently, and at the very first opportunity commenced with their de Profundis drivel by talking about a “redistribution of the cards” or a “new deal” at the center of this or of that. But I must stop here, for it makes me nauseous.

I’m angry with, to name one, the French M.P. Bernard Debré, who comes right out and denounces a man he calls “disreputable,” one who “wallows in sex” and has conducted himself, for a long time now, like a “scoundrel.”

I hold it against all those who complacently accept the account of this other young woman, this one French, who pretends to have been the victim of the same kind of attempted rape, who has shut up for eight years but, sensing the golden opportunity, whips out her old dossier and comes to flog it on television.

And I am, of course, dismayed at the political impact of the event.

The French left that, if Strauss-Kahn were really out of the arena, would lose its champion.

France, that has counted him among her most devoted and competent servants for so many years.

And Europe, not to say the world, that is indebted to him for contributing, for the past four years at the head of the IMF, to avoiding the worst.

On one side, there were the hardline ultraliberals, partisans of rigorous plans, without modulation or nuance, and on the other, those who, Dominique Strauss-Kahn at their head, had begun to implement rules of the game that were less lenient toward the powerful, more favorable to proletarian nations and, among the latter, to the most fragile and vulnerable.

He was arrested just hours before the meeting during which he would face a more orthodox German chancellor to plead the cause of a country, Greece, that he believed could be brought back to order without being brought to its knees. His defeat would also be that of this great cause. It would be a disaster for this entire part of Europe and of the world, because the IMF, under his leadership and for the first time in its history, did not intend to sell out to the superior interests of Finance. And that would really be a dreadful sign.

Bernard-Henri Lévy is one of France's most famed philosophers, a journalist, and a bestselling writer. He is considered a founder of the New Philosophy movement and is a leading thinker on religious issues, genocide, and international affairs. His most recent book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism, discusses political and cultural affairs as an ongoing battle against the inhumane.