Congressman Frank Wolf

Representing the 10th District of Virginia

Wolf Says President's Words Ring Hollow On Preventing Genocide

Aug 7, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today asked President Obama if the Atrocities Prevention Board he created in 2012 has been convened to discuss the genocide taking place in Iraq.

In a pointed letter to the president, Wolf reminded him of the speech he gave at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial where he said the Atrocities Prevention Board would make the deterrence of genocide and mass atrocities “a core national security interest and core moral responsibility.”

Over the last two weeks, Wolf has spoken on the House floor, issued statements and written letters to the president in an effort to raise awareness about the atrocities taking place in Iraq.  He also has been openly critical of the Obama Administration’s failure to speak out about the systematic targeting of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.

“It is now clear to the nation and the world that your words were hollow; your ‘presidential directive’ apparently was nothing more than a token gesture,” Wolf wrote.  “You will come to sincerely regret your failure to take action to stop the genocide in Iraq.  Your conscience will haunt you long after you leave office.  Mr. President, say something; do something.” 

Below is the complete text of Wolf’s letter:

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
The President
The White House
Washington DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

In 2012, during an address at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, you announced the convening of the Atrocities Prevention Board, led by the White House, which would make the deterrence of genocide and mass atrocities “a core national security interest and core moral responsibility.”  You also stated “We're making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities.”  Throughout your speech, you repeatedly said "never again" would the world allow mass atrocities to occur.  

Tragically, mass atrocities are happening again today – and on your watch.  Genocide is taking place today in northern Iraq, where the Christian and Yezidi populations are being exterminated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  There is no question that systematic and targeted brutality is occurring.  Yet, as I said on the House floor last week, the silence from you and your administration is deafening. Why have you not spoken up, and why has the Atrocities Prevention Board not taken action?  Just today, the editorial page of The Washington Post described your administration's response to this emergency as “listless.” 

Over the weekend, approximately 200,000 Yezidis were forced to flee their homes.  Your own administration has reported that anywhere from 35,000 to 60,000 of these Yezidis took refuge in the Sinjar Mountains without any protection from the elements and little access to food and water.  Children and the elderly are dying of thirst, families are being separated and women and young girls are being raped and sold into slavery.

As I wrote in my letter to you earlier this week, ISIS has systematically destroyed and looted churches, monasteries, mosques and other significant historic landmarks, including Jonah's tomb.  The homes of Christians and other religious minorities have been marked with spray paint to target those who live there.  Families have been force to flee, often on foot, with nothing but literally the shirts on their backs.

We cannot pretend these atrocities aren’t taking place; there are now videos on the Internet being promoted by those sympathetic to ISIS proudly displaying their brutal and grotesque slaughter and abuse of Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities in Iraq. 

Your administration is aware of what is going on, yet you are doing nothing.  Just what is the point of having an “Atrocities Prevention Board” if it takes no action to prevent or stop atrocities?  When was the last time this board has met?  Has the board even been convened to address the genocide taking place in Iraq? 

Much like President Clinton has deeply regretted his failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, I believe you will come to regret your inaction for years to come.  

I want to remind you of one other thing you said at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012: 

“And finally, 'never again' is a challenge to nations.  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. 

 “Three years ago today, I joined many of you for a ceremony of remembrance at the U.S. Capitol.  And I said that we had to do 'everything we can to prevent and end atrocities.'  And so I want to report back to some of you today to let you know that as President I’ve done my utmost to back up those words with deeds.  Last year, in the first-ever presidential directive on this challenge, I made it clear that 'preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.

“That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there's an injustice in the world.  We cannot and should not.  It does mean 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.”    

It is now clear to the nation and the world that your words were hollow; your “presidential directive” apparently was nothing more than a token gesture.  You will come to sincerely regret your failure to take action to stop the genocide in Iraq.  Your conscience will haunt you long after you leave office.  Mr. President, say something; do something. 

Best wishes.

Sincerely,

Frank R. Wolf
Member of Congress