The civilized world was appalled when the Taliban dynamited and destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan, monumental statues that had stood for 1,500 years. There was similar outrage when Islamic State group fighters laid waste to the even more ancient site of Palmyra. Now, President Donald Trump has expressed his willingness to engage in similar barbaric acts by bombing cultural sites in Iran, an action that would drag the United States down to the same miserable moral level as the fanatics American soldiers have been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In his current confrontation with Iran, Trump repeatedly warned that cultural sites were on his target list. The Pentagon has wisely balked at the idea, noting that it would be a violation of international law. Trump has backed off his threat, for now, but his peevishness about having to relent indicates he still has no understanding of why such an attack would put a dark stain on the image of America in the world.

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