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Hoagland was nominated to be the US Ambassador to Armenia by Bush to replace John Evans who was recalled for calling the genocide a genocide. During tough confirmation hearing at the committee level, he denied the Armenian Genocide. He finally pass the committee, but his confirmation was put on hold by Senator Bob Menendez.
Nomination as Ambassador
Senate Panel Endorses New U.S. Envoy To Armenia
By Aram Vanetsian in Los Angeles
September 7, 2006
The U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee voted on Thursday to endorse President George W. Bush’s choice of the new U.S. ambassador to Armenia, despite strong objections voiced by some of its members.
The 13-to-5 vote, which was twice delayed by the panel this summer, paves the way for the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Richard Hoagland’s endorsement by the full Senate. Hoagland will take over from fellow career diplomat John Evans.
Evans is widely believed to have been recalled by the Bush administration over his public description of the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide. His sacking sparked an uproar from the influential Armenian-American community which lobbied dozens of senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to raise their concerns with the administration.
Hoagland’s refusal to term the Armenian massacres a genocide during confirmation hearings at the Senate committee in June only added to the community leaders’ anger. In a September 5 written response to Senator Joseph Biden, a ranking Democrat who helped to again delay the confirmation vote last month, a senior State Department official argued that Hoagland simply articulated Washington’s policy on the highly sensitive issue. While admitting that some 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians were massacred between 1915 and 1918, Bush has avoided the use of the word “genocide” in his annual messages to the Armenian Diaspora in the United States.
“The President’s approach appears to be yielding a new readiness in Turkey to reexamine this horrific chapter of Turkey’s past with greater moral clarity, building on previous efforts, such as the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission,” Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Bergner wrote to Biden. “Honest introspection and recognition of a painful history can do true justice to the victims of these cruelties.”
Why he should not be confirmed
Asserting that the Armenian Genocide does not qualify as an instance of genocide
Ambassador-designate Hoagland has disqualified himself as the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia by engaging in denial of the Armenian Genocide.
Consistent with the denials issued by the Turkish government, Ambassador Hoagland argues that the Armenian Genocide does not qualify as an instance of genocide because of the absence, on the part of the perpetrator, of a "specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part," the victim group.
In a July 14th response to a written question from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) concerning why the U.S. does not consider the Armenian Genocide an instance of genocide, Ambassador-designate Hoagland selectively cited one of the five "understandings" expressed by the U.S. at the time of the U.S. ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, namely that, "genocidal intent meant a 'specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part,' the group as such."
Additionally, in a dramatic retreat to the more blatant forms of denial typical of the State Department's opposition to Armenian Genocide recognition during the 1980s, Ambassador-designate Hoagland referred to statements on the Armenian Genocide as allegations. In a response to a written inquiry from Senator John Kerry (D-MA) concerning Turkey’s criminal prosecution of journalists for writing about the Armenian Genocide, Ambassador-designate Hoagland characterized their factual affirmations of the Armenian Genocide as simply allegations.
As Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) stated during Ambassador-designate Hoagland's confirmation hearing, "I am not sure how we can continue to have Ambassadors to Armenia who can be effective, unless they give recognition to the Genocide." Sadly, Ambassador-designate Hoagland has gone far beyond the traditional Administration practice of failing to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide. He has, instead, placed himself firmly into the camp of the Turkish government by publicly denying the genocidal nature of this crime. His nomination, if confirmed, would represent a dramatic escalation in U.S. complicity in Turkey's campaign of denial.
Providing contradictory statements or failing to respond to U.S. Senate inquiries
Ambassador-designate Hoagland has disqualified himself as the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia by making contradictory and inconsistent statements to the U.S. Senate regarding his views on the Armenian Genocide. In many instances, he did not respond to specific Senate inquiries.
In responses to questions submitted by Senators Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and John Kerry (D-MA), he denied that he had been counseled not to refer to the events of 1915 as the Armenian Genocide. Yet, in the course of responding to questioning at his confirmation hearing and to several dozen written inquiries, he went to extreme lengths to avoid using this term. Either he has misled Senators regarding the guidance he has received, or he has chosen to avoid using the term genocide on his own accord - both profoundly troubling developments that disqualify him from serving as the U.S. envoy in Yerevan.
More broadly, Ambassador-designate Hoagland's July 14th claim that the Armenian Genocide does not meet the U.S. government's definition of genocide stands in stark contrast to his repeated assertions to U.S. Senators that the Administration does not deny the events of 1915:
- In response to a question about U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide from Senator Allen (R-VA) during the June 28th confirmation hearing, Ambassador-designate Hoagland asserted that, "No one in this administration has ever denied the events beginning in the 20th century at the end of the Ottoman Empire that befell the Armenian nation and people."
- In response to a question from Senator Coleman (R-MN) regarding whether Ambassador-designate Hoagland agreed with then-Governor Bush's statements affirming the Armenian Genocide, he stated: "I fully agree that the events that occurred on 1915 and following were of historic proportion. As I said well-documented, horrific and horrifying and as we heard from Senator Sarbanes in his statement early on -- hundreds of valleys devastated no family untouched. It was historic. It was a tragedy. Everyone agrees with that."
- In response to a written inquiry from Senator John Kerry (D-MA) asking if he disputed a series of nine facts about the Armenian Genocide, Ambassador-designate Hoagland did not dispute that: "The atrocities conceived and carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 … resulted in the elimination of the more than 2,500-year presence of Armenians in their historic homeland."
- In response to subsequent questions from Senator Kerry asking about the Administration’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of its non-recognition, Ambassador-designate Hoagland stated that, "the Administration does not deny the tragic events that occurred in the final years of the Ottoman Empire," and that: "the Administration does recognize the massacre or forced exile of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire."
Abandoning America's leadership on genocide prevention
Ambassador-designate Hoagland has additionally disqualified himself as the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia by failing to grasp the fundamental need for U.S. moral leadership in condemning and preventing genocide.
In response to a question from Senator Kerry, Ambassador-designate Hoagland stated that, "The U.S. believes that the question of how to characterize these horrific events is of such enormous human significance that it should not be determined on the basis of politics, but through heartfelt introspection among academics, civic leaders, and societies."
Ambassador-designate Hoagland's formulation could not be more deeply flawed. It is precisely because of the enormity of the Armenian Genocide that the U.S. should address this crime with absolute moral and historical clarity. By delegating the characterization of the Armenian Genocide to a dialogue between the unrepentant perpetrators of Genocide and the survivors and descendants of those who perished, the Ambassador-designate argues for effectively reducing our nation's response to genocide to the level acceptable to the Turkish government. Our nation's human rights policy should never be held hostage by a foreign country - particularly one that is regularly cited as among the world's worst human rights abusers.
For these reasons, we respectfully request that the U.S. Senate not move forward with Ambassador Hoagland’s nomination.
July 18, 2006