WASHINGTON -- It had seemed so clear -- bizarre, but clear -- that day, May 14 in New York, when the handsome older Frenchman was led away in handcuffs. Indeed, there were precious few who did not believe that some kind of a rape had taken place between this high-status European and the no-status Guinean maid at his hotel.
Being held in New York's police holding pen later that day, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, prestigious head of the International Monetary Fund and thus a man who can wave his hand to order or reorder the world, could only be mystified at the cruel tricks that history plays on us.
But the still-nameless Guinean maid involved? Well, few of us stopped to think that her story could be more, or less, or simply different from what it seemed. The Frenchman, she said repeatedly, came out of the bathroom naked and attempted to rape her. But she escaped from his Gallic embrace and told her story to the Hotel Sofitel and to the press. And that was simply all there was to it!
And then it began to come out ... That was simply NOT all there was to it.
Almost as soon as the New York prosecutors began handling the case, they found amazing things. The maid had lied about many things -- in fact, about almost everything. She had originally said that, after her "encounter" with Strauss-Kahn, she immediately reported the situation to the hotel manager. Only she didn't; she cleaned another room, and then went back to clean up his room before she met the head of housekeeping and recounted what had happened.
Most important, she lied to the immigration authorities; she told them she had been gang-raped by the military, when it turned out she had been raped twice by two civilians.
But that was only the beginning. New York detectives are a smart bunch, and they soon found that the day after her "time of troubles" the maid telephoned a friend in the federal pen suspected of drug smuggling 400 pounds of marijuana. During the course of the call, she mentioned that Strauss-Kahn was a wealthy man and there could be benefits for her.
This simple little girl from Guinea wasn't so simple at all. She had five cell phones; she had bank accounts in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania, with deposits totaling $100,000. When asked about these "discrepancies" in her talk with the police, the maid pretended to be unaware of most of it.
She did admit to awareness, when she was filing for her immigration status as a petitioner for political asylum, that she had memorized her rape account as part of her application. The rape account, on audio, had been prepared for her by her male friends -- perhaps the same ones who put the $100,000 in her bank accounts.
Still one more aspect of her application for asylum here deserves attention. She has said that she was afraid her 15-year-old daughter, who also came here under asylum laws, would undergo genital mutilation if they were to return to Guinea. This is, indeed, a horrible operation in Africa and parts of the Middle East, performed on girls in puberty; the clitoris is cut out. But the possible threat of it is also being used as an ostensible reason for requesting asylum.
While one cannot say for sure at this point, it looks very much as though the maid and her friends are mulcting the system. She may be an innocent, playing an innocent role for the men who are so adept at smuggling food and guns into Guinea, a small country on the west coast of Africa.
In fact, her whole story looks most notably like the kind of drug smuggling one finds all over Africa and the Middle East.
If all of these first findings turn out to be true, it may very well turn out that she and her friends, and not Strauss-Kahn, will be the ones to be investigated. All the defense lawyers have to do to let Strauss-Kahn go free is to prove that the Guinean maid is not a credible witness.
In the end, it comes down to a case of immigration fraud and whether she can answer the ever-increasing number of questions that are now being asked.
And we thought this was going to be a case about Dominique Strauss-Kahn! Shows how you shouldn't make judgments in the beginning, doesn't it?