Kicking off the week after the world somberly marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Obama marked the 67th year since the liberation of Europe’s death camps with the announcement today of his new Atrocities Prevention Board.
‘”Never again” is a challenge to nations,” Obama said. “It’s a bitter truth — too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.”
Introducing Obama at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel pointedly reminded the president that “again” was unfolding right under his nose.
The Nobel laureate wondered aloud whether world leaders had “learned anything” from the failure to act to stop the World War II atrocities.
“If so, how is it that Assad is still in power?” said Wiesel. “How is it that the Holocaust’s No. 1 denier, Ahmadinejad, is still a president? He who threatens to use nuclear weapons — to use nuclear weapons — to destroy the Jewish state. Have we not learned? We must. We must know that when evil has power, it is almost too late.”
“Mr. President, we are here in this place of memory,” he continued. “Israel cannot not remember. And because it remembers, it must be strong, just to defend its own survival and its own destiny.”
The morning began when Wiesel led Obama on a tour of the museum, culminating in the president placing a lit candle in front of the Buchenwald section in the Hall of Remembrance. He did so to mark his great-uncle’s role in liberating Ohrdruf, a sub camp of Buchenwald, in April 1945; that great-uncle, Charles Payne, criticized Obama’s 2009 visit to the camp as being “not because of me I’m sure, but for political reasons.”
Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) began last Wednesday at sundown, when Obama was attending campaign events out of town, and ended Thursday evening, after Obama welcomed the BCS National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide to the White House.
When he came to the event Monday, he was armed with his new bureaucratic atrocities initiative — the APB “will help the U.S. government identify and address atrocity threats, and oversee institutional changes that will make us more nimble and effective,” according to the White House — and campaign-friendly “fact sheets” on the president’s actions thus far.
“The Obama administration has amassed an unprecedented record of actions taken to protect civilians and hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable,” the White House fact sheet on comprehensive atrocity strategy stated. This was followed by a string of claimed accomplishments, including “leading international efforts to bring pressure to bear on the abusive Qadhafi and Asad regimes” and “leadership of a successful international military effort to protect civilians in Libya,” though it was arguably France and the United Kingdom who led in this regard.
Obama touched on many of the fact sheet points in his speech, taking credit for saving lives in South Sudan (which is now on the brink of all-out war with Sudan), Côte D’Ivoire, Libya and Central Africa — another White House fact sheet was dedicated to administration efforts at “mitigating and eliminating the threat to civilians posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
“We possess many tools — diplomatic and political, and economic and financial, and intelligence and law enforcement and our moral suasion — and using these tools over the past three years, I believe — I know — that we have saved countless lives,” Obama boasted.