The Conspiracy

Obama visits Holocaust museum [News]

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama announced new sanctions on Iran and Syria and a renewed commitment to preventing genocide and mass atrocities.

“We need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities, because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people,” Obama said at the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum on April 23.

“The steps the president announced could make a big difference in the government’s capacity to prevent future genocide; the test will come in whether our leaders have the wisdom and will to use the new tools effectively,” said Mike Abramowitz, director of the genocide prevention program at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Politico’s Mike Allen reports.

President Barack Obama also toured the museum with Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who introduced Obama at the event. Wiesel stressed the importance of using the memory of the Holocaust to stop massacres in Syria and nuclear proliferation in Iran and defending Israel.

“The greatest tragedy in history could have been prevented had the civilized world spoken up,” Wiesel said.

Wiesel went on to say, “Israel cannot not remember. And because it remembers, it must be strong just to defend its own survival and its own destiny.”

This was Obama’s second time at the Museum. Notables in the audience included:

  • Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren
  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
  • White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew
  • White House Press Secretary Jay Carney
  • Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
  • Family members of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, a Holocaust Museum security guard who was shot by an anti-Semite who attacked the museum.

Obama used that opportunity to defend his record on preventing mass violence in Libya, Syria, Sudan, Uganda and Côte D’Ivoire.

“Those who stick with [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad know that they are making a losing bet,” Obama said. (The Syrian government and rebels recently formed a “cease-fire” with the help of UN envoy Kofi Anan, even though shelling continues in major cities).

Obama urged attendees to stop future genocide by preventing “seeds of hate” from “[taking] root.”

“We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen, because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent,” Obama said.

Obama also defended Israel and echoed what he told AIPAC Policy Conference in March: that he has fought delegitimization of Israel and the notion that Zionism is racism.

“‘Never again’ is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms, including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world.”
Obama concluded the event greeting and embracing members of the audience, including Holocaust survivors.

“To Elie and to the survivors who are here today, thank you for not giving up,” Obama said. “You show us the way. You show us the way. If you cannot give up, if you can believe, then we can believe.”

Zach C. Cohen is the New Voices D.C. Bureau Chief. He is the editor-in-chief of The Eagle at American University. Zach has contributed writing and reporting to TIME Magazine, the Jewish Daily Forward, AWOL, AmWord and the Suburban News. Follow him on Twitter at @Zachary_Cohen.

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