None of that prevented Hollywood’s glamour couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, from visiting with the Assads to discuss their “refugee work.” Just-released photos captured rock star and “human rights” campaigner Sting and his wife enjoying a good laugh with the Assads in 2008. Vogue magazine, apparently immune to shame, ran a fawning profile of the dictator’s wife, “a rose in the desert.” “Asma al-Assad,” Vogue told its readers, “is glamorous, young, and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.” Along with fetching views of Asma, Vogue featured shots of Bashar playing on the floor with his children.
When images of bleeding and dead children — shot by Assad’s troops — began to cascade out of Syria, Vogue quietly removed the piece from its website.
Then-speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Assad in 2007 (against the wishes of the Bush administration) and came away satisfied with his cooperation. “We were very pleased with the assurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process.” In this, she was echoing a sentiment often expressed by former secretary of state James A. Baker, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, who argued that the key to peace in the Middle East was to “flip Syria.”
But no visitor was more enthusiastic about Bashar Assad than President Obama’s informal envoy, Senator John Kerry, who made six visits to Damascus between 2009 and 2011. In 2010, he said “Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.” Even after the tanks rolled into cities and began blasting away civilian demonstrators, Kerry stuck to his self-delusion: “My judgment is that Syria will move; Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it. . . . ”
The “shy doctor” became a cold killer. Those who, without a particle of evidence, persuaded themselves that he was ever anything else, were useful idiots.