Ask about genocide

A note to Bob Schieffer, moderator of the third US presidential debate: Ask US President Barack Obama about his "troubling" genocide policy.

October 22, 2012 21:58
3 minute read.
US President Obama at White House Rose Garden

US President Obama speaks in White House Rose Garden 370. (photo credit: Yuri Gripas / Reuters)


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Six months ago, President Barack Obama announced the establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board. It was the first time the United States officially took upon itself the responsibility for protecting civilians in other countries. Yet six months later, the Board still has no office, phone number, website or email address. The time has come to ask why – and Monday’s presidential debate is the place to do the asking.

The Obama administration’s troubling policy regarding genocide is one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington. Yet, surprisingly, the issue has never come up for public discussion. This week’s third and final presidential debate, which will focus on foreign policy, would be an appropriate forum to ask about the nonexistent Atrocities Prevention Board and other curious aspects of Obama’s genocide policy.

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A few questions that moderator Bob Schieffer should consider asking President Obama:

1. Last April, you announced the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board. Six months later, it still has not begun functioning. Why

2. The president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2009 for sponsoring the Arab militias that have been “murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing, and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property” in Darfur. Flaunting the indictment, Bashir has traveled openly to numerous Arab and African countries, some of them major recipients of US aid, such as Egypt, Iraq and Libya. Why have you never criticized those regimes for hosting Bashir?

3. Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia recently introduced an amendment suspending non-humanitarian aid to countries that host visits by President Bashir, and the House Appropriations Committee adopted the amendment. The outgoing prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has likewise said: “Stopping the assistance to those who help Bashir will work and it’s not happening. Stop all the money to them and they will arrest Bashir, it’s simple.”

Why is the administration opposing the Wolf Amendment?

4. In June, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno- Ocampo said, “There’s ongoing genocide [in Darfur]... the new weapons of the genocide – starvation and rape – are working very well.” Does your administration acknowledge that this is the current situation in Darfur?

5. In July, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reported from Sudan that the Bashir regime is carrying out “mass atrocities that echo Darfur” against non-Arab tribes in the Nuba Mountains. Kristof accused you of “dithering” and “paralysis,” and wrote, “I am not only embarrassed by my government’s passivity but outraged by it.”

He also charged, “we now have the spectacle of a Nobel Peace Prize winner in effect helping to protect [one] of the most odious regimes in the world.”

Are you concerned that prominent supporters of yours, such as Mr. Kristof, may withdraw their support of your re-election because of your policy regarding Sudan?

6. In 2009, your envoy to Sudan, J. Scott Gration, said that US policy should be to reward the Sudanese leaders with “cookies” and “gold stars,” rather than take a more confrontational approach. Is that still your position and if so, why?

7. Last December, your new envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, said that “we do not want to see the ouster of the [Bashir] regime, nor regime change.” Is that still your position and if so, why?

8. President Bashir has important allies. Russia and China are his major arms suppliers. The Arab League sees his indictment as an anti-Arab conspiracy by Western imperialists. Is your hands-off policy regarding Bashir influenced by a desire to avoid angering Moscow, Beijing, or the Arab League?

9. As a candidate in 2008, you vowed, “I won’t turn a blind eye to slaughter” of civilians abroad. A Schoen-Penn poll earlier this year found 69 percent of Americans believe the United States “should prevent or stop genocide or mass atrocities from occurring in another part of the world.” Are you concerned that many Americans may conclude that you have broken that campaign promise?

10. In the past, US forces have captured tyrants and terrorists abroad, such as Manuel Noriega in Panama, the hijackers of the Achille Lauro, and Saddam Hussein. Would you consider taking military action to capture President Bashir?

The writer is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, and coauthor, with Prof. Sonja Schoepf Wentling, of the new book Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the ‘Jewish Vote’ and Bipartisan Support for Israel.

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