The photo at left shows the the al-Askari shrine, in the central Iraqi city of Samarra, as it looks now. On the right is the way it was before it was bombed.
The shrine was 1200 years old and was sacred to Shiite Muslims. It's my understanding that bombing this shrine is tantamount to bombing the Church of The Holy Nativity in Bethlehem or St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. How can anyone describe this act - the destruction of a beloved, ancient religious holy site for the purpose of stirring up sectarian violence-- as anything but pure evil?
Not freedom-fighting, not a noble nationalist insurgency, and decidedly not the fault of the United States or Israel. Simply the evil act of men who have become monsters.
The question now is whether this event will escalate and destroy the fledgling Iraqi democracy. This CBS news link to James Robbins' NRO piece argues that it will not. Everything I heard on the MSM this morning argued that it will. No one knows. We can only hope and pray.
UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson just got back from Iraq. His piece in NRO is an absolute must-read. Excerpt:
Most would agree that the Americans now know exactly what they are doing.
They have a brilliant and savvy ambassador and a top diplomatic team. Their bases are expertly run and secured, where food, accommodations, and troop morale are excellent. Insufficient body armor and unarmored humvees are yesterday’s hysteria. Our generals — Casey, Chiarelli, Dempsey — are astute and understand the fine line between using too much force and not employing enough, and that the war cannot be won by force alone. American colonels are the best this county has produced, and they are proving it in Iraq under the most trying of conditions. Iraqi soldiers are treated with respect and given as much autonomy as their training allows.
Again, the question now is an existential one: Can the United States — or anyone — in the middle of a war against Islamic fascism, rebuild the most important country in the heart of the Middle East, after 30 years of utter oppression, three wars, and an Orwellian, totalitarian dictator warping of the minds of the populace? And can anyone navigate between a Zarqawi, a Sadr, and the Sunni rejectionists, much less the legions of Iranian agents, Saudi millionaires, and Syrian provocateurs who each day live to destroy what’s going on in Iraq?
Agree with him or not (and I do agree with him), Hanson's one of the most compelling foreign affairs writers living.