Midday on Wednesday, June 29, France erupted in an "explosion of joy" on learning that Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier had been released by the Taliban after 547 days in captivity. Reporters in Afghanistan for state-run television France 3, the two men were flown home the following day. Looking pale but healthy, they embraced loved ones on the tarmac and received a hero's welcome back at French TV, where Taponier hefted a camera onto his shoulder and promised soon to be back at work. Niggling questions about how much money had been paid for their release, and whether the French president would carry through on his threat to punish the reporters for straying from their military handlers and allowing themselves to be kidnapped, were forgotten during the day's delirious celebrations.
France was surprised the next day when they learned that another one of their captives -- this one held under house arrest in a $50,000-dollar-a-month rental in Manhattan's TriBeCa neighborhood -- might soon be coming home. The New York Times was reporting that the sex abuse case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was "near collapse," because of doubts about the credibility of his accuser. Conspiracy theorists and others in France who had refused to believe the housekeeper's story suddenly seemed justified. The country was transfixed as they watched Strauss-Kahn's pious Muslim accuser back flip into a lying harlot, trying to pull off an African scam. She had lied to the grand jury investigating the case, lied to the prosecutor, lied on her asylum application, and lied on her tax forms. Her bank account was flush with drug money, and she conducted nefarious business on five cell phones (four of which she had forgotten to mention to the police).
The day after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn, she had used one of these phones to call a Gambian drug runner incarcerated in Arizona. (The French press is reporting that the man is her "husband.") Stories differ on whether this conversation was recorded by officials in Arizona (tracing a drug network) or New York (checking the credibility of a witness), but, in any case, five weeks passed before the conversation was transcribed from a unique dialect of Fulani. "Don't worry," the accuser apparently told her husband-fiancé-business partner in Arizona, as they talked about DSK. "This guy has lots of money. I know what I'm doing." The naïve woman, who claimed never to have heard of DSK, seems to have been aiming for his bank account from day one. Regardless of what may or may not have happened in Sofitel room 2806, the prosecutor no longer had a credible witness. By Friday of that eventful week, DSK had been released from house arrest, and the court had ordered that his million-dollar cash bond and five-million-dollar insurance bond be returned to him.
France expects soon to be witnessing another teary reunion on the tarmac as DSK is welcomed home. He has lost his job, his political career is destroyed, and he faces another charge of sexual assault in France. Feminists are not pleased that the brute might go free, and the French president has his own problems with the new hostage-cum-hero, who was once expected to beat him in the upcoming presidential election. These qualms will likely be forgotten for a day or so, as the country erupts in another "explosion of joy" at getting their man freed, this time from the American Taliban. In the meantime, my French friends are filling my ears with ever-more-elaborate conspiracy theories about the DSK case, and all I can do at this point is shut up and listen.