–Representative Napolitano Questions Assistant Secretary Fried about Evans
WASHINGTON–DC–Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Chairman Ken Hachikian called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday to address reports that the US Ambassador to Armenia–John Marshall Evans–is being forced from office based on truthful and forthright statemen’s he made last April about the Armenian genocide.
In a March 8 letter–Hachikian asked Secretary Rice to comment on published accounts (California Courier–March 9–2006) that the Ambassador is being recalled–well before the normal end of his term of office–due to his remarks during a series of presentations to Armenian American communities across the country.
Speaking last year to an Armenian American gathering at the University of California at Berkeley–Evans said–"I will today call it the Armenian genocide? I informed myself in depth about it. I think we–the US government–owe you–our fellow citizens–a more frank and honest way of discussing this problem.
"Today–as someone who has studied it? there’s no doubt in my mind [as to] what happened . . . I think it is unbecoming of us–as Americans–to play word games here. I believe in calling things by their name." Referring to the Armenian genocide as "the first genocide of the 20th century," he said: "I pledge to you–we are going to do a better job at addressing this issue." Evans also disclosed that he had consulted with a legal advisor at the State Department who had confirmed that the events of 1915 were "genocide by definition."
Within days after his remarks and the conclusion of a speaking tour of Armenian American communities–Ambassador Evans was apparently forced to issue a statement clarifying that his references to the Armenian genocide were his personal views and did not represent a change in US policy. He subsequently issued a correction to this statement–replacing a reference to the Genocide with the word "tragedy."
Later last year–the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA)–in recognition of his honesty and commitment to principle–decided to honor Ambassador Evans with the "Christian A. Herter Award," recognizing creative thinking and intellectual courage within the Foreign Service. Sadly–as Washington Post staff writer Glenn Kessler revealed on June 9–AFSA withdrew its award following pressure from "very serious people from the State Department."
In his letter–Hachikian wrote that–"the prospect that a US envoy’s posting–and possibly his career–has been cut short due to his honest and accurate description of a genocide is profoundly offensive to American values and US standing abroad–particularly in light of President Bush’s call for moral clarity in the conduct of our international affairs."
He added that–"if–in fact–punitive measures are being taken against Ambassador Evans–this would represent a tragic retreat from our nation’s core values. It would also represent a new low in our government’s shameful complicity in the Turkish government’s campaign of denial. Not only does the State Department continue to be publicly silent as Turkey criminally prosecutes its writers and citizens for speaking about the Armenian Genocide–it appears the State Department is following Turkey’s lead by muzzling and punishing an American diplomat for his speech and his acknowledgment of a genocide that is extensively documented in the State Department’s own archives."
The ANCA letter also urged Secretary Rice to respond in a timely manner to the series of written questions on this matter submitted on February 16 by Congressman Adam Schiff during her testimony before the House International Relations Committee. Among these questions was a specific request that the Secretary assure the Committee that the Department of State has not taken–and will not take–any punitive action against Ambassador Evans for speaking out about the Armenian genocide.
Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) also submitted a series of questions about the reported recall of Ambassador Evans to a senior State Department official during his testimony before the US House International Relations Committee.
As a follow up question–addressed to Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried–the California Congresswoman asked for a clarification of any restrictions placed on State Department officials concerning the use of the word "genocide" when discussing the extermination of 1.5 million Armenia’s starting in 1915. She also inquired about US policy on the Turkish blockade of Armenia and the proposed Caucasus railroad line circumventing Armenia.
Responding to a reporter’s question at the State Department briefing–spokesperson Sean McCormack said–"I’m not aware that we have recalled anybody… I believe that he’s still serving as ambassador in Armenia."