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The Unfolding Sagas of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Anwar Ibrahim: A Study in Parallels

On the Double

I noted before that Dominique Strauss-Kahn — disgraced former International Monetary Fund head and accused rapist — is aping an unfortunate aspect of the life of Anwar Ibrahim, as both are over-60 money managers who allegedly have a hard time keeping their genitalia out of places in which they are not welcome. The last three days have brought more revelations to the fore that only serve to heighten those parallels.

First and foremost, the charges against Strauss-Kahn now more closely mirror those against Anwar: Instead of ordinary rape, it is now forced sodomy of his victim, a maid at the hotel at which he was staying. That the man’s accuser may have HIV may explain Strauss-Kahn’s stay in the infectious disease ward at Riker’s Island, and his current status on suicide watch. (That he was denied bail on the strength of French protection of another sex offender, Roman Polanski, has to be gnawing at him in a uniquely French way.) While this does nothing to change the heinousness of the alleged crime nor to change the essence of the charge, the increased strength of the parallel is disturbing.

Both men have also resorted to pleading in the alternative. Anwar has denied the charges against him, and suggests that the entire affair is a government plot. Strauss-Kahn has done one better, first asserting that he had an alibi and that the entire encounter never happened, and now claiming that the entire encounter was consensual.

Anwar, of course, lacks Strauss-Kahn’s ability to switch his story to consent, because although he is basically being tried for forced sodomy, consensual sodomy is illegal in Malaysia. Instead, in another parallel, he and Strauss-Kahn have apparently both hit on what they clearly believe will save them from their current plights: A puff-campaign by surrogates abroad.

In Strauss-Kahn’s case, a veritable university full of economists and French politicians has lined up to excuse the man or his actions or both, as if being an economist with a nice job title exculpates a man from allegations of brutal rape.

In Anwar’s case, his private stable of mouthpieces has begun to collapse, most notably in the defection of blogger Raja Petra, whose public break with Anwar served as notice that Anwar’s incompetence and duplicity were finally taking a toll. Nevertheless, Anwar still has legions willing to excuse him of any act, including a former Vice President and Paul Wolfowitz, a former State Department official (who has himself had trouble associated with keeping his pants on).

Arguably the most depressing result of these campaigns abroad has been the support generated at home for the two men in their own parties. Anwar’s party — basically a cult-of-personality — has held together in the apparently firm belief that their figurehead, convicted of corruption and long associated with radical Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood, is the victim of an elaborate government conspiracy. Similarly, a majority of Frenchmen, including a supermajority of Strauss-Kahn’s party, believe that he is the victim of a government plot.

These are depressing facts on a number of levels, not least because it means that both men’s parties are willing to treat alleged, forced sodomy by men with power against those without as a mere distraction from politics. If the allegations against these men are proven, they are guilty not merely of crimes, but of degradations of human dignity; and yet their supporters see only the politics in which these men participate.

They are also prime examples of the kind of destruction these men have perpetrated in their careers — polities wracked by suspicion and cynicism. They are mile markers on the pathway to broken political careers and a status as a late-night talk show joke. (It is no surprise that Anwar is already being associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose aging-lothario status appears to have cost him a marriage and is making many of his political backers rue the day they helped shepherd him into electoral politics.)

The right thing to do would be to step down, for the sakes of their parties, their polities, and their countries. Strauss-Kahn appears to have had this decision taken from him for now, as he has been placed on a leave of absence. It is a sad statement on the man that Anwar cannot even bring himself to do the same.

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The Unfolding Sagas of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Anwar Ibrahim: A Study in Parallels

On the Double

I noted before that Dominique Strauss-Kahn — disgraced former International Monetary Fund head and accused rapist — is aping an unfortunate aspect of the life of Anwar Ibrahim, as both are over-60 money managers who allegedly have a hard time keeping their genitalia out of places in which they are not welcome. The last three days have brought more revelations to the fore that only serve to heighten those parallels.

First and foremost, the charges against Strauss-Kahn now more closely mirror those against Anwar: Instead of ordinary rape, it is now forced sodomy of his victim, a maid at the hotel at which he was staying. That the man’s accuser may have HIV may explain Strauss-Kahn’s stay in the infectious disease ward at Riker’s Island, and his current status on suicide watch. (That he was denied bail on the strength of French protection of another sex offender, Roman Polanski, has to be gnawing at him in a uniquely French way.) While this does nothing to change the heinousness of the alleged crime nor to change the essence of the charge, the increased strength of the parallel is disturbing.

Both men have also resorted to pleading in the alternative. Anwar has denied the charges against him, and suggests that the entire affair is a government plot. Strauss-Kahn has done one better, first asserting that he had an alibi and that the entire encounter never happened, and now claiming that the entire encounter was consensual.

Anwar, of course, lacks Strauss-Kahn’s ability to switch his story to consent, because although he is basically being tried for forced sodomy, consensual sodomy is illegal in Malaysia. Instead, in another parallel, he and Strauss-Kahn have apparently both hit on what they clearly believe will save them from their current plights: A puff-campaign by surrogates abroad.

In Strauss-Kahn’s case, a veritable university full of economists and French politicians has lined up to excuse the man or his actions or both, as if being an economist with a nice job title exculpates a man from allegations of brutal rape.

In Anwar’s case, his private stable of mouthpieces has begun to collapse, most notably in the defection of blogger Raja Petra, whose public break with Anwar served as notice that Anwar’s incompetence and duplicity were finally taking a toll. Nevertheless, Anwar still has legions willing to excuse him of any act, including a former Vice President and Paul Wolfowitz, a former State Department official (who has himself had trouble associated with keeping his pants on).

Arguably the most depressing result of these campaigns abroad has been the support generated at home for the two men in their own parties. Anwar’s party — basically a cult-of-personality — has held together in the apparently firm belief that their figurehead, convicted of corruption and long associated with radical Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood, is the victim of an elaborate government conspiracy. Similarly, a majority of Frenchmen, including a supermajority of Strauss-Kahn’s party, believe that he is the victim of a government plot.

These are depressing facts on a number of levels, not least because it means that both men’s parties are willing to treat alleged, forced sodomy by men with power against those without as a mere distraction from politics. If the allegations against these men are proven, they are guilty not merely of crimes, but of degradations of human dignity; and yet their supporters see only the politics in which these men participate.

They are also prime examples of the kind of destruction these men have perpetrated in their careers — polities wracked by suspicion and cynicism. They are mile markers on the pathway to broken political careers and a status as a late-night talk show joke. (It is no surprise that Anwar is already being associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose aging-lothario status appears to have cost him a marriage and is making many of his political backers rue the day they helped shepherd him into electoral politics.)

The right thing to do would be to step down, for the sakes of their parties, their polities, and their countries. Strauss-Kahn appears to have had this decision taken from him for now, as he has been placed on a leave of absence. It is a sad statement on the man that Anwar cannot even bring himself to do the same.

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