WASHINGTON–DC–Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–Co-Chairman of the Armenian Issues Caucus–expressed his extreme disappointment to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over reports that the US Ambassador to Armenia–John Marshall Evans–is being forced from office based on truthful and forthright statemen’s last year about the Armenian genocide.
In a March 10 letter–Pallone shared with the Secretary that he is "outraged that the State Department is recalling Ambassador Evans as retaliation for statemen’s he made in recognition of the Armenian genocide." He added that–"it is simply wrong for the State Department to punish Ambassador Evans for statemen’s he made that are factually correct. Accordingly–I am asking you for an explanation as to why Ambassador Evans was removed from his post. This is the wrong message to send to the world. I look forward to a timely response from your office."
Speaking last year to an Armenian American gathering at the University of California at Berkeley–Ambassador 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."
ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian–in a letter sent to Secretary Rice earlier this week–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."
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.