A few thoughts on this Devyani Khobragade visa fraud nonsense. Brace yourselves:
1) If the allegations are true, Khobragade is to women’s empowerment what Ted Haggard and Larry Craig are to self-righteous biblical heterosexuality. It defies the imagination. We’re told that while she peddled high ideals about the duty to lift poor, oppressed women out of poverty and oppression and whatnot, she was simultaneously conspiring to deprive a female member of her household staff the minimum wages that she owed her as an hourly employee in the United States, and going so far as to falsify this woman’s visa application. All gall was not divided into three parts, but Sangeeta Richard’s pay was, so that Khobragade could help herself to two of them. This is the behavior of a raging hypocrite and a terminally entitled bitch. You just can’t make this shit up.
2) There are usually adequate civil remedies for this sort of scam. The main goal of these remedies is to recoup the proceeds of the fraud for victim restitution; secondary but still imporant goals include recovering court costs and punitive damages so that maybe asshats of that ilk will think twice before trying to pull that shit again. In a case against a foreign consular official such as Khobragade, the most important thing for the plaintiffs (government or private) to do is to promptly freeze the defendant’s assets pending trial. As a foreign national, Khobragade can be expected to have financial accounts outside the United States, probably in jurisdictions whose courts are deferential to the banks as a matter of national corruption. Victorious plaintiffs do not want to be left trying to enforce foreign judgments in Swiss or Antiguan courts. At a bare minimum, this process is expensive and a gigantic administrative pain in the ass; often, it’s downright impossible. Enforcing a US federal court judgment against Khobragade in an Indian court would involve a somewhat different sort of idealism, considering how badly Diplomatic Security and the Marshals appear to have hurt India’s national fee-fees in this case and, more broadly, the likelihood that Khobragade is able and willing to pull strings in the Indian judiciary.
2a) That said, it is not at all unreasonable to prosecute Khobragade. The US Attorney’s Office has a fairly strong chance of convincing a trial judge or a jury that she acted with criminal intent to defraud a much poorer and weaker woman working thousands of miles from home of her due wages for a menial job. There is a huge amount of prosecutorial overreach and iniquity in the federal criminal system, but this case isn’t it.
3) Khobragade’s attorneys and US Attorney Preet Bharara have given contradictory accounts of how Khobragade was treated during her arrest and booking. This is one of the most troubling aspects of the case. Either Khobragade is crying wolf about a system that treats many arrestees badly but treated her well or Bharara is lying (or inadvertently relaying lies from lower-level officials). My gut feeling at this point is that Bharara is telling the truth and Khobragade is lying her ass off, happy to throw uncountable thousands of poor and indigent detainees with legitimate abuse claims against the US Marshals under the bus in pursuit of her own aggrandizement. I’m unaware of any other case in which Bharara wasn’t aboveboard. At other times, however, I’ve had gut misgivings about Bharara, Diplomatic Security, and the Marshals in this case. Sadly, there’s no telling how depraved or corrupt a given federal law enforcement officer or agency can be. Official evil gets swept under the federal rug all the time, and the public often has no clue until after the fact. I’d be naive to assume that Bharara is clean as a whistle and uncorruptible.
4) There has been a huge public outrage in India over the fact that Khobragade was strip-searched in the course of being booked into federal detention. This is being taken as a grievous violation of her person as an Indian diplomat and an even worse violation of her womanhood. The protestors screaming about these indignities fail to note that Khobragade had been granted limited diplomatic immunity for her official activities during business hours and that, by all accounts, she was booked in a thoroughly professional manner in accordance with established US Marshals procedures. I’ll be sympathetic to this caterwauling outrage if I can be convinced that poor female arrestees in India, women more or less of Sangeeta Richard’s class, are consistently booked into jail without being strip-searched or manhandled in any fashion. I’m certainly not holding my breath for confirmation of such lenient treatment from Indian prostitutes.
In any event, Honey Bharara don’t care. He was glad to make Raj Rajaratnam the biggest loser at FCI Devens (or, for all I know, the biggest enthusiast on French toast stick day at the mess hall), and he’ll be just as glad to make an Alderson mountain mama out of Devyani Khobragade. Maybe it’s a Nixon-goes-to-China thing, or maybe he’s just extra annoyed when people from his native country come to his new home and make overclass criminal asses of themselves. Or maybe I’m just seeing a nonexistent pattern because it’s a good excuse to use the phrase “Honey Bharara.”
5) This donnybrook is like DSK all over again. After Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested by the NYPD on suspicion of rape and perp-walked to jail by a surprisingly serene-looking detective from the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, there was a lot of noise in France about how, le gasp! he had been humiliated by the police on camera in violation of French law, the jury pool had been prejudiced by this humiliation, ad nausaem. The particular due process crowd venting this shock showed rather little concern for the seriousness of the allegation that DSK had forcibly raped a hotel housekeeper. The prospect of one of their country’s senior politcians being a violent sexual deviant didn’t bother them too much, but the fact that one of their senior officials was walked to a police car in front of a press scrum for a few seconds after being arrested for forcible rape had them up in arms.
6) The angry reaction in India to Khobragade’s strip-search during booking is doubtlessly informed by the current epidemic of sexual assault in that country. Placing these two situations on the same moral plane would be ridiculous, but the sheer volume and brazenness of India’s undersexed young men would put anyone living around them on edge. Indians are genuinely and legitimately alarmed about the dangers that Indian women face just by going out in public. Indian rape culture isn’t a tall tale embellished over the course of its circulation by a marginal activist class; it’s for real. It scares the shit out of people to hear of a woman getting gang-raped and beaten to death while minding her own business on a city bus, and shortly thereafter of another woman getting raped in a disused factory that she was photographing and being told by her attackers that she was asking for it by being there. Consciously or subconsciously, it has to affect people when one of their country’s diplomats gets assigned overseas from this matrix of sexual violence, only to be stripped and sexually probed by a jailer over a sort of metastatic employment contract dispute.
Incidentally, the quickest and easiest solution to India’s rape culture is whores. Lots and lots of whores. The festering sexual aggression of these men is largely the result of sex-selective abortion and infanticide. There are too many undersexed men chasing too few receptive women. It’s inevitably a disaster. No amount of official sexual conservatism can keep a lid on such a cauldron.
Slutty MILFs might be an effective outlet for the easier cases, but quite a few of these guys need to be civilized by professionals first. They bring some powerful antisocial dorkitude to the yard.
By the way, anyone offended by the earthy language in the last two paragraphs is a total concern troll. I’ve suffered my share of involuntary celibacy, and believe you me, you do not want to scale that shit up to an entire society. What you get is North India.
7) With any luck, the most important deterrent effect of Khobragade’s prosecution won’t be on garden-variety wage cheats of her own kind. The United States has given much worse people full diplomatic immunity. There are a lot of sociopathic, subhuman shitstains employed in government service by various family satrapies along the Persian Gulf. These are exactly the kind of people who will happily abuse diplomatic immunity as a facilitator for their hobbies of threatening, beating, and raping the help. Occasionally, they indulge these perversions openly in front of, say, Florida sheriff’s deputies. The proper thing for a law enforcement officer to do in that situation is to physically intervene and beat the shit out of any royal asshat who threatens him or any of his colleagues, but this is far too much to expect of Florida “law enforcement.” Really, though, I shouldn’t exempt the Upper 47. It would be a rare American cop indeed with the courage and principles to stand up to some Eurotrash collateral heir to the family tinpot dictatorship for brutalizing his Filipina maid. It takes balls for an American cop to go full Stacey Koon on a violent, evil motherfucker who comes from old money (oil business) and is regarded by the US government as a legitimate aide to one of our valuable “allies.” It’s a lot easier to beat a homeless schizophrenic to death or accidentally spark a race riot by having a roadside rumble with a dust fiend. Putting an entitled consular princess in the clink for coming to our shores to commit visa fraud and wage theft sends exactly the right message.
Kelly and Rodney, pray for us.