This is just too delicious not to mention: the digital footprint of Vogue magazine’s ill-timed suck up to Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad has disappeared from the web, according to a story in today’s Washington Post.
It was only slightly over a year ago, March 2011, that veteran Vogue scribe Joan Juliet Buck, obviously impressed by the blood-stained dictator’s wife’s “energetic grace” and Christian Laboutin shoes, penned these words:
“Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. …The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls ‘active citizenship.’”
It was rotten timing that the husband of the "Rose in the Desert," as Vogue dubbed Mrs. Assad, set about slaughtering participants in “active citizenship” almost before Ms. Buck’s glowing profile was gone from the newsstand. Just as well Ms. Buck got in some serious shopping at those chi chi Damascus shops (the Dict graciously supplied a car and driver) when she could, because I hear things are just a mess now.
It does so muck up the shopping when security forces loyal to Desert Rose’s worse (?) half engage in the massacre 9,000 Syrians. I blogged on the Vogue story (“The Devil’s Wife Wears Christian Laboutin” and “Why Be a Mere Arbiter of Fashion When You Can Be a Dictator”), and fortunately, I preserved some tidbits of Ms. Buck’s excellent adventure in Syria for posterity:
[Mrs. Assad] is a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her "the element of light in a country full of shadow zones." She is the first lady of Syria.
I couldn’t help but muse: Would those shadow zones have referred to dungeons in which political prisoners disappeared or was it just a reference to lengthening shadows after a long day shopping?
Asma's husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary.
Now, we know a little bit more about the—ah—incentives offered for voting for him…
And you wouldn’t believe the souvenirs…
There are souvenir Hezbollah ashtrays in the souk, and you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Four Seasons. Its number-one enmity is clear: Israel. But that might not always be the case.
In another item (“Bloody Chic, If You Ask Me”), I was moved to muse on the popularity of the Assads among certain folk:
Will somebody please tell me why the fashionable folk (Vogue, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called Bashir al-Assad a reformer, though she subsequently withdrew the accolade) persist in looking more favorably towards the Assad regime than do the people who live there? He has long been a darling among dictators, with "idealists" urging the establishment of a U.S. Embassy in Syria (they got their way). Is it the clothes, some hidden ideological affinity missed by me? He's a monster, folks.
The U.S. doesn't have the arms and men (and women) to deploy to aid the rebels in Syria, even if we knew what to do. But we must be ashamed of the moral muddle of U.S. policy.
Well, let’s see—Assad’s still a monster, and our policy towards Syria is still arguably a muddle. But Joan Juliet Buck is having second thoughts. The Washington Post notes:
Buck, the story’s author, suggested in an interview with NPR last week that the children who appeared in the Vogue photos probably weren’t the Assads’ real children, but decoys planted for security purposes. Buck said it was “horrifying” to have been near the Assads. Her biggest regret: that Vogue chose to call her profile “A Rose in the Desert.
Vogue is edited by Obama bundler Anna Wintour.