At Last! The Head of Ghad… General Younis
by Alexander Cockburn, August 3, 2011
It is surely one of the great strategic screw-ups in the history of war and intelligence analysis. In March, after the second UN Security Council resolution used by NATO to launch its bombing campaign, the predictions were that Tripoli and thus Ghadafi would fall within two or three weeks. Right and left alike, though not yrs truly, said it was a sure thing.
Yet, here the Guide still is, addressing rallies in Tripoli surrounded by a sixth of Libya’s entire population, while in the other end of the country, it seems that one faction in Benghazi, that of Mustapha Abdul Jalil, head of the rebel Transitional National Council, has just murdered Abdel Fatah Younis, commander of the Libyan rebel forces. There are various accounts, none of them attaching the slightest credence to Jalil’s faltering initial suggestions that it was Ghadafi’s guys who did it. One has Younis being taken prisoner on grounds of opening secret negotiations with Tripoli (very conceivably true), then taken to the desert and shot, along with his bodyguard of two colonels; another that he was tortured to death in Tripoli. Either way this renders moot Sen. John McCain’s letter last week to Jalil warning that credible accounts of serious human violations by the rebels were undercutting whatever support the NATO onslaught retained in Congress.
We are beginning to see some very graphic accounts and videos of the actual conduct of the rebels in torturing and executing prisoners and suspected Ghadafi loyalists in Benghazi, not to mention compulsory reimposition of the burka for women and kindred evidence of rabid fundamentalism among NATO’s clients.
The same day this news of Younis’s killing came, Britain recognized the rebels as the legitimate government of Libya and gave them the okay to take over Libyan government facilities in London. There seems to be civil war in London, since foreign secretary William Hague had come off his hardline stance against negotiations with Tripoli. By way of thank you, as his men pumped bullets into Younis, Jalil swiftly requested the $25 billion in Libyan government funds, held by NATO powers, which if turned over — which I strongly doubt — will no doubt enter many a private rebel account, not to mention private NATO accounts — which aim was evident from the start, when Benghazi opened a “central Libyan bank.”
This is one of the greatest humiliations of NATO in its history (also, to be petty, a terrific smack in the eye for the analytic and political acumen of a prime propagandist in progressive circles for the rebels, Prof. Juan Cole, whose blogs on Libya have been getting steadily more demented.) Incidentally, they keep calling for Ghadafi to “step down.” In constitutional terms, which is what NATO must keep in mind, I believe he did some time ago.
Does DA Vance have the steel to go after Strauss-Kahn?
Did a man ever look jauntier than Dominique Strauss-Kahn a month ago, any woman more effervescent than the loyal wife at his side, Anne Sinclair?
The sex assault charges that had doomed the IMF chieftain’s prospective run for the French presidency were in tatters, shot down by a brutal story in the New York Times (by Jim Dwyer, William Rashbaum and John Eligon) in which two anonymous law enforcement officials, presumably speaking separately, given the three bylines, said the alleged victim, housekeeper Nafissato Diallo, was a demonstrable liar and that phone taps to a drug dealer friend of hers in prison showed she was chasing a big money settlement. The leakers carefully went to the Times on June 30, with the story published on July 1, although already circulating on Thursday evening. This meant that Operation Destroy Diallo dominated the headlines with only a very weak comment by Diallo’s lawyer, Ken Thompson, the following Tuesday, July 5.
Hot on the heels of this came a story in the New York Post claming, on the basis of another anonymous source, that Diallo was a seasoned hooker.
From the office of District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. trickled predictions that soon the charges against DSK would melt away, reduced at most to a misdemeanor. From France came tidings that a renewed DSK presidential challenge might not be far off, once the New York case had been tidied away.
But here we are a month later and, if such a thing were possible, DSK looks even worse than at the moment he was dragged off by the New York cops to Riker's Island, charged with rape.
First, the French writer Tristane Banon reaffirmed her accusations that eight years ago in Paris DSK had locked the door and jumped her in the course of an interview, that she'd barely fought off a frightening physical assault and that he was like “a rutting chimp.”
A brisk war of similes soon followed, when Tristane's mother, Anne Mansouret, was quoted as saying to French police that in 2000, in a voluntary but “clearly brutal” physical engagement with DSK in an OECD office, he'd comported himself like a filthy drunk, heedless of all needs but his own, among which the need to “dominate” was paramount.
This was a Wendi Deng-style right hook to DSK's defenders who had claimed the former IMF director couldn't keep his pants zipped but that he wasn't the violent type.
The overall impression that DSK might merit an entry in any update of Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis was heightened by news stories saying that Diallo was his third sexual engagement — his lawyers claim the sex with Diallo was “consensual” — in the hours before he quit the New York Sofitel.
Now Diallo has given interviews to Newsweek and ABC, giving what Newsweek's experienced Paris bureau chief Chris Dickey has described on ABC as a “convincing” account of going into DSK's suite, being attacked by a naked man with white hair coming out of the shower, forced to her knees with his penis shoved into her mouth, then spitting out the ejaculate on her uniform, and on the carpet where it was later collected along with her saliva by the cops establishing the DNA traces.
I've always thought Diallo's lawyers had done her no favors by keeping her under wraps. Diallo is a homely looking, vigorous 32-year old West African woman with an ample bust, which is probably what caught DSK's eye. If they'd introduced her to the public back at the start of the case, it would have been harder to trash her in the New York Times interview.
By July 7 the NYT conceded that the timeline on Diallo’s use of her computer key destroyed the line that alleged violent sexual assault was followed by an odd return to cleaning work next door. Not so. Here's the timeline.
At 12:06 p.m. she used her card on Strauss-Kahn’s room, 2806.
At 12:26 p.m. she used her card on room 2820 again, and then in the same minute used it again on room 2806 [the adjacent suite].
By 12:28 p.m. Strauss-Kahn had gone to the front desk and checked out.
But Kenneth Thompson, the maid’s attorney, offers this scenario to the Law Blog cited with comment in the Wall Street Journal:
The maid cleaned room 2820 for an hour and a half. She was going back and forth to the linen closet during that time, which explains the three key card uses to that room.
The VIP rooms are large, and take a while to clean. “Those rooms have to sparkle,” Thompson told the Law Blog.
She finished and was waiting for her supervisor to come inspect the room when she saw the room service attendant coming out of 2806.
She asked if that room was empty and was told it was. She entered the room, which explains the key card entry at 12:06 p.m. The attack allegedly occurred.
She came out of the room and went down the hallway because she didn’t know what to do, according to Thompson.
While she was waiting for her supervisor (who still had yet to arrive), Strauss-Kahn allegedly dressed quickly and she saw him leave the room and get on the elevator, Thompson said.
Apparently unsure what to do, she went back into room 2820 for one minute, came out, went back to room 2806 and put her card in the door and opened it.
Her supervisor arrived soon after to find her in the hallway, near the elevator, according to Thompson. They went back into room 2806 together and the accuser allegedly asked the supervisor, “Can a guest do anything they want to in this hotel?”’
The charges by Murdoch's New York Post about Diallo being a hooker seem tendentious, doled out by DSK's defense team, with zero substantiating evidence.
DA Vance is now in a tricky position. Propelled into his post by big liberal money, he raced to throw the book at the alleged rapist DSK, imposing savage demands for bail conditions. Then, when Diallo was caught telling a few fibs to US asylum officials, to boost her chances of legal status in the US, one of two things happened.
Either Vance panicked and gave the green light for the leaks to the New York Times, or enemies in his office or in the New York police (“law enforcement officials” is a pretty catchall) — perhaps found by DSK’s US defense team including ex CIA officers in the pr firm TD International used by DSK, decided to cut the ground from under him and leaked a highly prejudicial story against Diallo to the Times. So far as the DA green-lighting the story, if the phone call between Diallo and her Ivoirian friend in prison did have damaging information in it, why is there no peep about that in the DA's letter to the prosecutors citing flaws in Diallo’s record of truthfulness. If the DA knew this information about the prison call was being splashed all over the press across the holiday weekend was wrong and harmful to his case, why didn't he call an emergency press conference and refute it? Same thing for the prostitution story: why didn't the DA call a press conference and refute it? By saying nothing, it looks like the DA was willfully participating in smearing his own witness.
Thompson may have been the person who turned over Diallo’s tax and bank records to the defense and then they turned them over to the DA without saying they got them from Thompson. Typically, the IRS and bank would require the individual to sign a release. Since the victim wasn't arrested by the DA, how could he have got those records under subpoena?
There are some signs that the Times feels burned a bit by its relaying of the June 30 hit job since its story last week goes into detail about the entirely misleading account of Diallo’s phone conversations in the Fulani language with her friend in prison which was aimed at consigning Diallo to sink into discredited obscurity as a liar and potential blackmailer. Incidentally, it’s now confirmed what Pam Martens wrote on our CounterPunch site on June 17. Per the NYT, Diallo’s lawyer Thomson, as Alan Dershowitz was suggesting, had met with DSK's lawyer(s) while the prosecution was building its case. The Times said Thompson and the defense for DSK had agreed to share information or words to that effect. That doesn't look good at all for the civil suit. Why should Thompson be sharing anything when he hasn't even filed a civil suit and has no discovery orders from a judge?
After a hammering in the press for three weeks in July her only hand left to play was to go public, and thus far the strategy has been devastating to DSK. Now it's all up to Vance. If he allows DSK to escape with a misdemeanor charge or no charge at all he'll be discredited among not only the big liberal backers who paid for his run to be DA, but also popular constituencies in New York who will be important for his future political career, whether as DA or beyond.
On the other hand, if he presses a full-down attempted rape case against DSK he'll go into the courtroom with a witness whose record of truth-telling is — however understandable — less than 100%.
DSK's wife, the enormously rich Anne Sinclair, drew a parallel between her husband's travails and the Dreyfus affair — DSK is Jewish — which is silly. Is a case that convulsed France for years to be compared to DSK's? Are there intimations of anti-semitism? The answer is no.
The Diallo-DSK case is still alive. The next hearing is three weeks away, on August 23. Then we'll see what sort of steel is in Vance's spine.
The Norsemen, Breivik & Lind
Everyone talks about Norway’s peaceful traditions, now destroyed by Anders Breivik’s day of mass murder. Tell that to the Irish Christians on Lambay Island, or the monks of Iona, victims of the first Viking raids in 795 AD, not so long ago when you take the long view. Breivik worried about Muslim immigration, with an alien faith. The Vikings had their furious Gods, certainly not Christian. Truth be told, the monasteries in Ireland had been attacking each other before the Norsemen ever set foot in the Emerald Isle. In 807 the monasteries of Cork and Clonfert went at each other with, as the choricle put it, “an innumerable slaughter of the ecclesiastical men and superiors of Cork.”
Norway has also sent its modest contingents to assist in recent US Coalition onslaughts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Incidentally, on the topic of Breivik, we have had an enquiry from a reader noting that Breivik’s “Manifesto” has plagiarized material from William Lind, erstwhile Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation, and asking that since CounterPunch published material by Lind, what is our precise relationship to this contributor. The inference seems to be that we published racist neo-Nazi propaganda which helped inflame Breivik. God knows what he would say about our contributor William Blum, considering the late Osama bin Laden famously cited Bill as one of his favorite writers.
As any CounterPuncher can quickly establish by reviewing Lind’s contributions through our “Search” function at the top of our home page, we published columns on the conduct of America’s wars by Lind between 2003 and 2007, in the Bush years because, from a conservative position, he was a trenchant and knowledgeable military analyst and critic of the US onslaughts on Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. Lind had been a participant of the military reform group, trenchant critics of the Pentagon.
His column was distributed by the Center and we would pick it up if it was on themes we cared for, which did not include Lind’s commentaries on many other matters, the cultural downslide of America and so forth.
CounterPunchers should know that its editors stand responsible for pieces CounterPunch publishes — though we obviously don’t agree with every word in the roughly 3,000 pieces we put up on our site every year. We publish and where necessary edit articles for the edification of a large and intelligent regular readership. We don’t publish anti-Semitic or Nazi propaganda, as assessed by any rational person. I add this because many people eager to throw these terms around are irrational and usually malevolent. If you read our website with any frequency you will know where we’re at, as a left, radical enterprise. We’ve always held it as part of our brief — stemming from political appreciation of the actual prospects here in the USA — that we should acknowledge positive political work and insights on the libertarian front and the right and from original viewpoints. Every once in a while some Trotskyite purist like Louis Proyect will hoist his skirts and jump up on the kitchen table, aghast at the sight of an “incorrect” thought or assault by CounterPunch, often specifically me, on the canons of political and cultural PC as sedulously observed by this politically and intellectually demure old Trot. Then, when I say something he likes he’ll dispense a grateful bouquet.
We don’t hold ourselves responsible for articles our contributors publish elsewhere. We have neither the time nor inclination to dredge through their lifetime archive on the internet to scrutinize articles they may have written one, five, ten or twenty years ago. These days we get regular requests from contributors to purge our archives of their seditious thoughts because they are up for a job, or are in a tenure battle. A new search site has just been launched to enable the internet bloodhounds to pursue their blacklisting tasks more efficiently. That’s not our world.
Who First Looked at Chapman’s Odyssey?
In her stimulating piece on this CounterPunch last week Caroline Rooney quotes Shakespeare lines in Hamlet, suggesting that Ophelia's name derived from a conflation of two characters in Homer’s Odyssey.
My co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair points out that “Chapman's translation of the Odyssey didn't appear until 1616 (i.e., 16 years after Hamlet). Was there an earlier English version of Homer? Maybe my boy Marlowe wrote Hamlet after all … There was an earlier translation (1581) of the Iliad by Arthur Hall, a member of parliament, but it was dreadful doggerel and Hall was prosecuted (I seem to remember) for the equivalent of publishing porn — the Gershon Legman of his time. In any event, most of the story of Troy that the English read had been passed down through Virgil's pro-Hittite version or through the French lays and romances. But the Odyssey was almost unknown among the non-Greek-readers until Chapman.”
Rooney writes, “I have tried to find out from Shakespeare scholars on my campus. I don't think there was an earlier English version, and it has generally been assumed that Shakespeare would not have read Homer. But drafts of Chapman or other language versions may have been in circulation. A mystery for the experts to unravel.”