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Will Obama's new atrocities board lead to more Libya-style operations?

President Obama Monday announced the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board – an advisory panel dealing with potential genocides. The board is seen as a victory for the White House's 'interventionist' wing.

By Staff writer / April 23, 2012

President Obama and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel leave after lighting candles in the Hall of Remembrance as they toured the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington Monday.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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Washington

Declaring that the United States and the world can do a better job of halting – and even preventing – genocide and other crimes against humanity, President Obama on Monday announced creation of a new advisory body to help generate action against human-rights calamities.

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The president also used a day focused on human rights to issue an executive order that for the first time will allow the US to impose sanctions on foreign nationals who use new technologies – such as cellphone-tracking software and Internet monitoring – to commit human-rights abuses.  

The new advisory group, to be called the Atrocities Prevention Board, will act as an early-warning mechanism for the White House and other federal agencies. The group, which is made up of key agencies and outside organizations with their ears to the ground around the world, met for the first time at the White House Monday.

Creation of the new board represents a victory for the “interventionist” wing of the Obama foreign policy apparatus. The president’s announcement was hailed by Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations and a key advocate of a forceful US role in Libya last summer.

Ambassador Rice, who is considered by some a leading candidate to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State in an potential Obama second term, said in a statement that “atrocities” like those of Libya, Cote d’Ivoire, and Syria “are not inevitable.” But she added they will only be stopped by strengthening “the world’s will and capacity to make ‘never again’ an enduring reality.”

The new board will be chaired by Samantha Powers, the National Security Council senior director for multilateral and humanitarian affairs and another interventionist hawk.     

Using the Holocaust Museum in Washington as the backdrop for his announcement, Mr. Obama pointed to ongoing oppression and state-sponsored violence in Syria as an example of the kind of crisis that prompted creation of the new body.

“The Syrian people still brave the streets, the Syrian people have not given up, so we will not give up,” Obama said. The United Nations estimates that at least 9,000 Syrians have died in 13 months of political crisis, although independent groups say the toll is closer to 11,000.

Obama’s initiative grew out of a presidential directive last year that the US consider prevention of mass atrocities and genocide “a core national security interest and core moral responsibility” of the 21st century, Rice said.

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