Shortly after ISIS arrived in Palmyra, the regime launched air strikes on the city, heedless of its ancient monuments. A decade earlier, in 2003, the photographer Kevin Bubriski had been there, viewing the same sites through his Hasselblad lens. As if anticipating their fate, Bubriski preserved the beauty and grandeur of its various sites—including the Temple of Allat, the Valley of the Tombs, and the Monumental Arch—in exquisite black-and-white photographs that appear together for the first time in Legacy in Stone: Syria Before War. The book is a collection of arresting—and at times, haunting—photographs from three of Syria’s six UNESCO-designated world heritage sites. Five of these, including two captured in this volume, have since been partially or completely destroyed.
If reporting evidence of war crimes brought no consequences for the criminals, then truth had lost its value and journalists had become dispensable. By actively targeting media staff, the Assad regime also made it too dangerous for journalists to visit opposition-held areas. This has allowed it to conduct its subsequent rampages under a pall of uncertainty, assisted by its Western apologists. Was Marie Colvin’s sacrifice worthwhile? It is tempting to say no—that in an indifferent world, no story is worth dying for. But Colvin’s life is itself a rebuke to such pragmatism. Chris Martin’s documentary, Under the Wire, is a fitting tribute to that commitment to bear witness.