Vice President Joe Biden was the featured speaker at a special event yesterday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in honor of the life and legacy of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos.
Vice President Biden spoke about the importance of the Museum as a living memorial to the Holocaust. He referenced the role of the Museum and the Genocide Prevention Task Force in advancing a new understanding that genocide is preventable.
“The Museum is a tireless advocate for public policies that make genocide prevention a priority.”
“The Museum is a living memorial and a beacon to visitors from around the world."
To the Vice President, Tom Lantos was the embodiment of the words, "Never Again."
“Tom was infected with the words ‘Never Again.’”
“To him it was simple: evil must be confronted head-on.”
“The Holocaust gave rise to a shift in thinking about mass slaughter.”
The Vice President spoke about the importance of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), and referenced the United Nations Security Council’s call to Libya to uphold its commitment to R2P.
“R2P is a simple but novel concept that states must protect their citizens. It is a core element of our national security strategy.”
“Preventing genocide is an achievable goal.”
The Vice President outlined four important steps to genocide prevention:
1. Recognize early warning indicators and respond accordingly“We can’t do everything, but there is a lot we can do.”
2. Develop and implement strategies to prevent violence
3. Enhance training and enrich doctrine for foreign service officers and the military to help them identify and confront atrocities.
4. Work with international partners to coordinate efforts.
The Vice President discussed the referendum in South Sudan, where these approaches worked. He recognized the direct and sustained engagement of the President, as well as other organizations, including the Museum in the lead up to the referendum. The fact that the referendum took place without violence is irrefutable proof that atrocities are preventable. But, he continued, the carnage in Darfur also demands our attention.
“The principle that atrocities are inevitable need not be true.”
Biden reiterated US commitment to bringing perpetrators to justice, including Ratko Mladic and leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
“We must reinvigorate our efforts to bring the worst war criminals to justice.”
“There cannot be lasting peace without accountability.”
In reference to current events in North Africa and the Middle East, Biden said that the violence must stop, leaders must guarantee freedoms of speech and assembly, and there must be genuine political reforms.
The Vice President concluded with a quote from Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in Congress: “The veneer of civilization is paper-thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.”
View photographs from the event.