by James Corbett
16 April, 2012
France’s 2012 presidential election cycle is finally winding up this month as the country prepares to head to the polls this Sunday for the first round of voting. For the candidates, it’s a time to consolidate their vote, energize their base and rally their troops on the home stretch. For the electorate, it marks the end to what has been a particularly grueling campaign, one that has been at times surprising, salacious and terrifying.
Contrary to all expectations, the first major event of the French presidential election occurred almost one year ago, not in Paris but in a New York hotel room, where Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and at the time a leading candidate in the presidential race, was embroiled in a sex scandal. Accused of sexually assaulting a made at the Sofitel New York Hotel on May 14, 2011, Strauss-Kahn found his presidential aspirations scuppered as he was quickly arrested, indicted, and placed under house arrest. By July, significant holes had been discovered in the prosecution’s account and on August 23 the case was dropped completely, but the damage had already been done to Strauss-Kahn’s reputation, and he had taken himself out of contention for the presidency.
Although the media predictably chose to focus on the sexual nature of the scandal, a pattern of outside involvement in the affair formed a remarkable undertone to the story, one that fingered Sarkozy’s campaign as the ones who potentially orchestrated the entire event.
On April 28, 2011, just two weeks before the alleged incident, Strauss-Kahn was profiled in the French daily Libération, which noted he was “worried his political opponent, Nicolas Sarkozy, would try to frame him with a fake rape.” Subsequent analysis of hotel security cameras showed the hotel’s chief engineer, Brian Yearwood, and an unidentified man high-fiving, clapping and dancing in celebration after the incident was reported to the police. Right before the incident was reported, Yearwood had been in contact with John Sheehan, a security director for Accor, the French-based company that owns Sofitel. Sheehan’s boss, René-Georges Querry, was a close associate of Sarkozy’s intelligence coordinator, Ange Mancini, before joining Accor. The first person to break the news of the arrest was an activist in Sarkozy’s party, who managed to tweet news of the incident before it was even made public by the NYPD, because, he alleged, he had a “friend” who worked at the Sofitel.
Regardless of the nature of the allegations or how they transpired, Strauss-Kahn’s political career was over and Sarkozy had one less political heavyweight to contend with in his bid for re-election.
The campaign took another unexpected turn in March of this year, when a series of shootings targeting French soldiers and Jewish civilians gripped France and drew the attention of the world. The shootings resulted in seven deaths and five injuries in three separate incidents over the span of eight days. When the gunman was identified as 23 year old French Muslim Mohammed Merah, a narrative was quickly formed that this was a terror attack by a “self-radicalized lone wolf” and comparisons were soon drawn to other spectacular terrorist incidents. Sarkozy himself likened the effect of these shootings on the French psyche to the effect the 9/11 attacks had on the American psyche.
Interestingly, exactly as in 9/11 and the 7/7 London underground bombings, details quickly began to emerge calling into question the official narrative of the attack. Far from a “lone wolf” or a “clean skin,” Merah was revealed to have been debriefed by French internal intelligence, or DCRI, after a visit to Pakistan in 2011. The fact that he had asked for a particular DCRI agent during his siege led many to question whether he had in fact been an informant for French intelligence, a possibility later confirmed by a source in an Italian newspaper article.
Despite the as-yet unresolved nature of these serious claims, what political commentators and journalists from across Europe and around the world noted in the immediate wake of the attacks was how the dramatic siege was likely to boost Sarkozy’s political campaign.
But now, as the French prepare to head to the polls and cast their ballot for the next President of the Republic, there is something more at stake than mere political grandstanding or prurient sex scandals. Instead, as scholars, journalists, politicians and even the people of France have repeatedly pointed out, the presidency of incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy has been doggedly centered on catering to American interests abroad. In a decisive break with Gaullist tradition, Sarkozy has so doggedly pursued a policy of appeasement toward Washington that he has from the very outset earned the French nickname Sarko l’Americain.
What many don’t realize is that, far from a simple moniker, Sarkozy’s ties with the American political establishment are in fact quite real, and easily documentable.
In an explosive 2008 article, Réseau Voltaire founder and French dissident Thierry Meyssan traced Sarkozy’s family lineage directly to the heart of the CIA. In 1977, Sarkozy’s faher, Pal Sarkozy de Nagy-Bosca, a Hungarian aristocrat, divorced Nicolas’ step-mother, de Ganay. Christine then married Frank Wisner, Jr., son of famed CIA official Frank Wisner, Sr., who established the CIA’s Operation Mockinbird to implant controlled assets in the news media in the late 1940s. According to Meyssan, it was Wisner, Sarkozy’s step-father, who insisted that Nicolas install arch-globalist, Iraq war supporter, and “humanitarian intervention” advocate Bernard Kouchner as his Foreign Minister.
Sarkozy’s half-brother, Olivier, went with his mother, Christine de Ganay, when she married Wisner, eventually settling in America. Maintaining good relations with his step-family, including Nicolas, Olivier now goes by the name “Oliver,” and was appointed as co-head and Managing Director of the now infamous Carlyle Group’s Global Financial Services group less than one year after the Sarkozy became President of France.
Earlier this month I had the chance to talk to Professor Michel Chossudovsky, Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization, about Sarkozy’s presidency, and what these American ties mean for the formulation of French foreign policy.
As election day approaches, polls are showing that the French electorate is hungry for change, with opponents on both Sarkozy’s left and right gaining momentum with Sarkozy battliing to hold his ground. A damning poll for the Journal du Dimanche last weekend showed Sarkozy with a 64% disapproval rating, making him the least popular president in the history of the survey. If he does indeed fall to surging Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in the second round of voting next month, as expected, he will be the first President since d’Estaing in 1981 to fail to secure a second term. In such an event, much ink will doubtless be spilled on the downfall of the once high-flying Sarkozy and his political legacy, but the French public, as well as the next President, would do well to understand the distinctly American tenor of Sarkozy’s term in office. For the French people, after all, this election represents a referendum on Sarkozy’s policies as much as a chance to support alternatives.
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