ISIS and their followers are first and foremost a human tragedy. They are despicable death cults which kill in the most barbaric ways imaginable. They enslave people, rape women and children, and degrade the most fundamental elements of human dignity.
But beyond this, ISIS and Al-Qaeda are also a plague to culture. These terrorists do not resist destroying ancient monuments, artifacts, sculptures, paintings, musical instruments and have frequently attacked people for the ‘crime’ of watching football matches.
Today, a sad report from the Russian Ministry of Defence provides the world with aerial footage showing that the façade, including the famed proscenium of the Roman Amphitheatre in Palmyra, has been destroyed by ISIS.
This is not only a big blow to one of Syria and the world’s most treasured monuments, but it is a tragedy for the Syrian and Russian troops who gave their lives in liberating Palmyra from the last ISIS occupation in March of 2016.
The amphitheater was the scene of a moving concert of Russian musicians led by the world-renowned maestro Valery Gergiev which took place shortly after the city’s liberation.
Some might be tempted to now say that such a stirring moment was in vain. I disagree.
The reason that Palmyra was re-captured by ISIS was due to an influx of ISIS fighters from the east, including quite probably from Iraq, where the American-led coalition is doing a frankly terrible job at supposedly fighting ISIS in Mosul.
Fighters streamed in, possibly with covert Turkish and/or US assistance and re-took the ancient city. It came at the moment that the Syrian Arab Army and their allies had fully liberated terrorist held East Aleppo. ISIS wanted to do its best to take this glorious moment away from the Syrian people.
Although the monument has tragically been destroyed, I believe that human life is worth more than even the most sacred monuments. In the proverbial Sophie’s Choice between saving Palmyra and saving the lives of thousands in Aleppo, Syria made the right decision in concentrating on Aleppo.
It is also important to understand that in destroying the amphitheater’s façade, ISIS is making a final statement before Palmyra is once again liberated by advancing Syrian Arab Army troops.
ISIS is hell-bent on leaving a trail of destruction behind it. But a monument even greater than the amphitheater in Palmyra will be a free and sovereign Syrian Arab Republic. This will be a modern monument to the victory of modernity over forces from a dark age, a victory for the righteous over the Satanic force that ISIS represents, a victory for those capable of creating civilisation over those who are only capable of destroying it, a victory for the forces of tolerance over the forces of death.
If I had to choose between a free Syria and an ancient monument, I would choose a free Syria.