WASHINGTON–Concerns continued to grow this week regarding the circumstances surrounding the firing of US Ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evans–as Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) becomes the ninth member of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee to call for clarification of the State Department policy on the Armenian Genocide–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
In a written statement submitted as part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Ambassador Designate to Armenia Richard Hoagland–Sen. Feingold noted that–"I want to express my deep concern about the Administration’s reluctance to acknowledge the acts of genocide that were committed against the Armenia’s almost a century ago. The Administration’s continued failure to recognize these tragic events is troubling to me and to those who share my belief that we should speak honestly about–and insist on accountability for–past crimes against humanity and genocide."
Among specific questions to the Ambassador Designate–Sen. Feingold asked: n Why was Ambassador Evans removed as Ambassador to Armenia? n What is the Administration’s policy towards acknowledging the Armenian genocide and what boundaries have been set for your position as Ambassador to address or speak about the Armenian genocide? n Do you anticipate that the departure of your predecessor–Mr. Evans–will harm US-Armenian relations? How do you plan to respond to those in the Armenian community who are upset about his departure?
Sen. Feingold’s concerns are shared by half of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee members – including Senators George Allen (R-VA)–Ranking Democrat Joe Biden (D-DE)–Barbara Boxer (D-CA)–Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)–Norm Coleman (R-MN)–Christopher Dodd (D-CT)–John Kerry (D-MA) and Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) – who must first approve Amb. Evans’ replacement prior to a full Senate confirmation. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed action on Ambassador Designate Hoagland–while quickly voting for the incoming Ambassadors to Switzerland and Ireland–who were before the Committee the same day as Ambassador Designate Hoagland.
During the June 28th nomination hearing–Sen. George Allen (R-VA)–Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)–and Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) pressed the nominee for an explanation of the State Department’s guidance regarding the use of the word "genocide" to properly characterize this crime against humanity. Senators Allen and Coleman peppered the nominee with numerous questions and expressed frustration as the Ambassador-Designate avoided giving direct answers to any of the questions–resorting to the use of euphemisms.
In addition–Representatives George Radanovich (R-CA)–Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–and Adam Schiff (D-CA) have urged Secretary Rice to reconsider the decision to recall Amb. Evans. Over the past several months–scores of Senate and House Members have directed questions to State Department officials–calling for answers surrounding the controversial firing of Amb. Evans–including 60 Representatives who joined Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) in a letter to Secretary Rice–Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) who submitted questions to Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried–and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) who submitted questions to Secretary Rice. Massachusetts Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry also asked Secretary Rice for clarification on Amb. Evans’ dismissal. The Administration has either failed to provide responses or provided responses–which have been largely perfunctory–citing that Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President–but giving no clear insight into the State Department’s decision to dismiss the career diplomat after 35 years of distinguished service.
The State Department–with the blessing of the White House–fired Amb. Evans in response to his February 2005 statemen’s before American audiences in the United States–during which he properly characterized the Armenian Genocide as "genocide."
Following his statemen’s–Amb. Evans was 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." The American Foreign Service Association–which had decided to honor Amb. Evans with the "Christian A. Herter Award," recognizing creative thinking and intellectual courage within the Foreign Service–reportedly rescinded the award following pressure from the State Department in the days leading up to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington–to meet with President Bush.