by Rafael Medoff
President Obama is scheduled to speak at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 23. Here’s what I would like to hear him say:
“Nineteen years ago this week, my predecessor, President Bill Clinton, stood on this very spot and recalled that even after the American government knew that the Holocaust was taking place, ‘doors to liberty were shut’ and ‘rail lines to the [death] camps within miles of militarily significant targets were left undisturbed.’ President Clinton was deeply troubled by our nation’s ‘complicity’ in the tragedy, and I am confident he would agree that we must learn from the mistakes that were made then.
“One major mistake was our government’s hesitancy to acknowledge, loudly and clearly, that the Jews were being singled out for mass annihilation. During my years in the United States Senate, I said the U.S. should publicly recognize that Turkey perpetrated genocide against the Armenians. Presidents, of course, face a unique array of pressures and considerations, and during my first years in office, I chose to use the Armenian term ‘Meds Yeghem,’ rather than ‘genocide,’ out of sensitivity to Turkey’s objections. But failing to acknowledge genocide paves the way for future genocides. I cannot be a party to that. From now on, I will not hesitate to state clearly that what the Armenians suffered was genocide.
“Another major mistake during the Holocaust was our government’s reluctance to take even minimal steps to rescue Jewish refugees. During the 2008 presidential campaign, I pledged that when it came to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, America would not allow mass murder to take place on my watch. ‘There must be real pressure placed on the Sudanese government,’ I said.
“But as president, I have often preferred to heed the advice of my more cautious advisers on this subject. Ideas such as imposing a no-fly zone over Sudan or forcefully challenging Sudan’s arms suppliers–Russia and China–were set aside in order to avoid unpleasant confrontations with Moscow and Beijing.
“We opted to refrain from trying to bring about the arrest of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for his role in the Darfur genocide. We held back from criticizing countries that hosted visits by Bashir, even when those countries were major recipients of U.S. aid.
“Critics warned that if Bashir remained free, he would continue his murderous ways. We did not listen. We should have. Today, the people of the Nuba mountains are paying a steep price. In that region at the border between Sudan and South Sudan, Bashir’s forces are again victimizing innocent men, women, and children.
“So today, the gloves come off. Today, we say to the world: we want regime change in Sudan. We want Omar al-Bashir behind bars. Our special forces around the globe will be employed, if necessary, to bring him to justice. And those who remember how American commandos apprehended the Achille Lauro hijackers, or Manuel Noriega –not to mention how they dealt with Osama bin Laden– know we are serious when we say to the Butcher of Darfur: You can run, but you can’t hide.
“An American ally, Israel, is today threatened with genocide. Iran’s rulers have vowed to wipe Israel off the map, and they seem determined to build the weapons of mass destruction needed to achieve that goal. I have urged the Israelis to refrain from taking military action against Iranian nuclear facilities so long is there is a chance of stopping Iran’s nuclear development through pressure, sanctions, and negotiations. Israel is concerned about the sanctions process dragging on so long that it enables the Iranians to complete construction of atomic weapons. Israel’s concerns are valid.
“And so today, I want to make it clear to Tehran that the round of talks which is now underway will be the last round. These talks must succeed within thirty days, or we will conclude that Iran was never is not serious about a negotiated solution. And we and our allies will act accordingly.
“I want to conclude my remarks by announcing a symbolic step that I will be taking, today, to reaffirm America’s commitment to preventing genocide. Jonathan Pollard has been incarcerated for the past 27 years for providing Israel with classified data that, among other things, revealed attempts by certain extremist regimes to develop weapons with which to destroy Israel. I am in no way condoning Mr. Pollard’s actions when I acknowledge that he was motivated by a desire to prevent a second Holocaust. As a small symbol of my administration’s own commitment to preventing another genocidal assault on the Jewish people, I have today granted clemency to Mr. Pollard.
“Speaking out against genocide, interrupting mass murder, apprehending the perpetrators, preventing the development of weapons of genocide–these must be the hallmarks of American policy around the world in the 21st century.”
As published in the Jerusalem Post – April 23, 2012