Hoagland Must not be Confirmed Until US Policy Change on Genocide

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by Harut Sassounian
September, 2006
The California Courier

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Sept. 7 on the nomination of Richard Hoagland, the Ambassador-Designate to Armenia. This is the third attempt by the Bush administration to get Hoagland confirmed ever since May when the White House first announced the recall of Amb. John Evans.

On June 28 and August 1, the Foreign Relations Committee postponed action on Hoagland's nomination, after complaints from more than 60 Congressmen and a dozen Senators from both parties about the lack of a clear statement by the State Department as to why Amb. Evans was being dismissed from the Foreign Service. The members of Congress, the media and the Armenian American community were all incensed that the administration, under pressure from Turkish officials and their lobbyists, would fire such a distinguished career diplomat simply for saying "Armenian Genocide," during a February 2005 pubic appearance in California.

Hoagland's confirmation hearings have become a tug of war between the Bush administration and a large number of Senators who would like the U.S. government to reconsider its refusal to characterize the Armenian Genocide as such. Administration officials have been lobbying hard to get the members of the Foreign Relations Committee to vote for Hoagland on Sept. 7. Anticipating victory, they have already ordered the departure of Amb. Evans from Armenia. He is scheduled to return to the U.S. on Sept. 10.

In a lengthy interview with Armenia's state TV, to be broadcast on Sept. 6, Amb. Evans spoke warmly of his time in Armenia and tried to avoid discussing the details of the controversy that led to his recall. When asked why his term as Ambassador to Armenia lasted only two years and not the usual three, he diplomatically replied: "As you know, there is no set term for an Ambassador. I said it before; I serve at the pleasure of the President. I am very pleased to have recently received a nice note from Pres. Bush, thanking me for my service here. I would note that the voyage of Kilikia [a replica of a medieval Armenian sailboat that has been sailing around Europe] and my term here in Yerevan have been almost exactly co-terminus. The Kilikia set sail in 2004 and I came here then. The Kilikia will come back to Armenia just a week or two after I depart. I think the coincidence makes my point. Three years' voyage by Kilikia would have been no better in a qualitative sense than 2 years."

When asked if he has been offered a new diplomatic post, he replied: "It is true that when I leave here, I intend to go to New York and take a kind of a sabbatical year. Eventually, I expect to get back to Washington, but not any longer in the diplomatic service. I have resigned and I will be retiring from the diplomatic service, but not retiring to a life of inactivity."

Asked to comment about his reference to the Armenian Genocide in February 2005 while visiting California, he said: "I have not discussed this question here in Armenia. There are some questions that we are talking among ourselves about in the United States. The record is clear and it is available on the American Embassy website for anyone who wants to see."

When pressed further on whether he was leaving Armenia for having used the term "genocide," he replied: "I would not put it that way. You have said to that way. At some point, I may write a book and you will have the full picture."

It is obvious from these remarks that Amb. Evans has remained a gentleman and a consummate diplomat to his last days in office, promising to disclose more about his controversial dismissal in his memoirs. Clearly, he is leaving his post with more of a sense of relief than bitterness.

This week, all readers should contact their Senators and urge them to hold up the vote on Hoagland in order to force the Bush administration to reverse its immoral and unacceptable policy of refusing to characterize the Armenian Genocide as genocide. The Foreign Relations Committee should be asked once again to postpone the scheduled vote on Sept. 7. Should Hoagland make it out of Committee, the full Senate should postpone floor action on his nomination until the administration stops playing silly word games with the Armenian Genocide!