President Barack Obama on Monday said he was taking a stand against global atrocities.
Speaking at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., after touring the exhibits with Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, Obama announced a host of actions to back up his words. He's establishing an Atrocities Prevention Board to be comprised of high-ranking federal officials and outsiders with their ear to the ground. He also announced new sanctions that target top leaders in Syria and Iran. Additionally, he issued an executive order that allows American officials to impose sanctions on foreign nationals found to have used technology, including cellphone tracking and Internet monitoring, in perpetuating human rights abuses.
In total, Obama said that preventing atrocities is a “core national security interest.” And while he said the United States can't, shouldn't and won't intervene militarily in every instance, he emphasized the importance of making sure that atrocities never happen again.
“We must tell our children. But more than that, we must teach them,” Obama said. “Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.”
Holocaust Museum official Michael Abramowitz told the Washington Post that the steps Obama discussed “are potentially — and I stress the word ‘potentially’ — very important.”
“The government historically, and I say this across administrations, has not been up to the job of responding to mass killings and genocide,” Abramowitz said. “The test will be whether these tools are institutionalized across the bureaucracy, whether they gain bipartisan support and whether they outlast this administration.”
Obama also announced the first National Intelligence Estimate on global atrocities, to determine the risk of atrocities across the global. A National Intelligence Estimate is the collective view of the U.S. intelligence community on a major issue of national importance.
“This is not an afterthought,” Obama said, according to The New York Times. “This is not a sidelight in our foreign policy.”