It is not often that the Manolo finds himself opining directly on the matters political, but in this case he must make the exception. In February of this year, the Vogue magazine ran the exceedingly fawning piece written by Joan Juliet Buck on the wife of Bashar al-Assad, the dictator-for-life of Syria.
Here is the small, bitterly ironic taste:
Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s 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.
“The element of light in the country full of shadow zones.” the Manolo is sure that this must bring great comfort to the thousands of political prisoners languishing in Syrian jails.
But Asma al-Assad likes to help where she can:
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’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it.”
And now the Manolo includes this recent news video of ordinary Syrians participating in “active citizenship”:
You will notice that all across Syria the security forces of the first lady’s husband are engaging these young, active citizens in the spirited debate about the proper role of empowerment in Syria. As of this writing, perhaps as many as 300 active citizens have had their mindset permanently changed by violent death.
But such mundane things are not the concern of the Vogue, not when Brangelina is involved!
When Angelina Jolie came with Brad Pitt for the United Nations in 2009, she was impressed by the first lady’s efforts to encourage empowerment among Iraqi and Palestinian refugees but alarmed by the Assads’ idea of safety.
“My husband was driving us all to lunch,” says Asma al-Assad, “and out of the corner of my eye I could see Brad Pitt was fidgeting. I turned around and asked, ‘Is anything wrong?’ ”
“Where’s your security?” asked Pitt.
“So I started teasing him — ‘See that old woman on the street? That’s one of them! And that old guy crossing the road? That’s the other one!’” They both laugh.
The president joins in the punch line: “Brad Pitt wanted to send his security guards here to come and get some training!”
That would be one way to insure the paparazzi do not get too close.
One more short passage, and the Manolo is done:
When I first arrive, I’m met on the tarmac by a minder, who gives me a bouquet of white roses and lends me a Syrian cell phone; the head minder, a high-profile American PR, joins us the next day.
And so now the Manolo is wondering, who is this American public relations, big-wheel genius who managed to provide the wife of the Syrian tyrant her own Vogue tongue bath the few weeks before the mask slipped? And where does this person draw the line? Should we be keeping the eye out for the Parade Magazine profile of Mrs. Ahmedenijad?
Of the course, it is one of the iron laws of human nature: power attracts sycophants.
So, the Manolo imagines that it was not especially difficult to convince the famously power-mad Anna Wintour that the glossy feature on the strikingly beautiful and cultured wife of Bashar al-Assad was the excellent idea. All that was needed was being able to ignore those pesky blood stains.