(This article was originally published on October 22, 2012.)
Suspicious that your neighbor might be up to a little genocide?
On August 4, 2011, the White House issued a press release touting the creation of a “standing interagency Atrocities Prevention Board”. Later, the administration announced that the Board was to be headed by Samantha Power — the Obama foreign policy advisor who was removed from Obama’s 2008 campaign for referring to Hillary Clinton as a “monster”, and who once advocated that the U.S. consider invading Israel.
Six months following a PR rollout planned around Holocaust Remembrance Day and culminating with a speech by Obama at the Holocaust Museum, little evidence exists of any Board activity beyond a connection to a bizarre FBI website referring people who have information “concerning a specific incident of genocide or a war crime” to the FBI tip site.
From the 2011 release:
President Obama is committed to strengthening the United States Government’s ability to prevent mass atrocities and serious human rights violations. In 2010, he created the first-ever White House position dedicated to preventing and responding to mass atrocities and war crimes. And in Kyrgyzstan, Cote d’Ivoire, Libya[!], Sudan, and elsewhere, this Administration has prioritized the protection of civilians and the prevention of mass atrocity and serious human rights violations, and employed a wide range of economic, diplomatic, and other tools in service of those ends.
Today, President Obama is directing a comprehensive review to strengthen the United States’ ability to prevent mass atrocities. The President’s directive creates an important new tool in this effort, establishing a standing interagency Atrocities Prevention Board with the authority to develop prevention strategies and to ensure that concerns are elevated for senior decision-making so that we are better able to work with our allies and partners to be responsive to early warning signs and prevent potential atrocities.
The confounding sentence does little to detail what responsibilities the Board would actually be entrusted with, or how it would carry out its mission. One year later, it is not apparent that the Board itself had any clarity regarding what actions it should take in pursuit of the “President’s directive”.
Following the press release, Obama officially announced the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board nine months later, on April 23, 2012, at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, four days after Holocaust Remembrance Day:
We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities. So I created the first-ever White House position dedicated to this task. It’s why I created a new Atrocities Prevention Board, to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission. This is not an afterthought. This is not a sideline in our foreign policy. The board will convene for the first time today, at the White House.
The public response generally included skepticism and mockery, from the leftist Stephen Walt (co-author of the roundly condemned, anti-Semitic Israel Lobby) to conservative and mainstream outlets. Charles Krauthammer was particularly biting:
I kid you not. A board. Russia flies planeloads of weapons to Damascus. Iran supplies money, trainers, agents, more weapons. And what does America do? Support a feckless UN peace mission that does nothing to stop the killing. (Indeed, some of the civilians who met with the peacekeepers were summarily executed.) And establish an Atrocities Prevention Board.
With multiagency participation, mind you. The liberal faith in the power of bureaucracy and flowcharts, of committees and reports, is legend. But this is parody.