Foreign Service Agency Wrongly Withdraws Award from Amb. Evans

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Foreign Service Agency Wrongly Withdraws Award from Amb. Evans


By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier


The American Foreign Service Association took the very unusual step this week of rescinding the prestigious “Constructive Dissent” award that it had decided to bestow upon U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, during a special ceremony that was to be held at the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room of the State Department on June 17.


The AFSA is the professional association of the United States Foreign Service. It represents 26,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees of the Department of State and Agency for International Development. The Secretary of State usually attends the group’s annual award ceremony.


Last February, during his tour of various Armenian communities in the United States, Amb. Evans publicly referred to the extermination of the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide. “I will today call it the Armenian Genocide,” the U.S. Ambassador said. “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 is no doubt in my mind 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 first Genocide of the 20th century,” Amb. Evans said, “I pledge to you, we are going to do a better job at addressing this issue.”


Amb. Evans knew that his frank comments ran counter to the official line of recent U.S. administrations that have avoided using the term genocide to characterize the mass killings of Armenians.


After complaints from Turkish officials to the U.S. government, Amb. Evans was forced by his superiors to issue “a clarification,” stating that he used the term “genocide” in his personal capacity -- and he now found that to be “inappropriate.” To make matters worse, Amb. Evans was then forced to correct his “clarification,” replacing the word “genocide” with “Armenian tragedy.”


Since Amb. Evans had dared to challenge the position of his own superiors, he was nominated for the AFSA’s coveted “Constructive Dissent” award. The AFSA’s web site explains that this award “publicly recognizes individuals who have demonstrated the intellectual courage to challenge the system from within, to question the status quo and take a stand, no matter the sensitivity of the issue or the consequences of their actions.” The AFSA states: “The purpose of the Dissent Awards is to encourage Foreign Service career employees to speak out frankly and honestly.” It also states that the Constructive Dissent Awards “offer an opportunity to publicly recognize and honor the courageous and thoughtful actions of our colleagues, over and above their responsibilities.”


Last week, Haygagan Jamanag, a newspaper published in Yerevan, reported that Amb. Evans was the winner of this year’s “Constructive Dissent” award. Since the name of the honoree was not yet officially announced, I contacted the AFSA in Washington, D.C., and was told that Amb. Evans was indeed the winner of this prestigious award. I was also told that he was selected because of his stand on the Armenian Genocide.


As this column was about to go to print, I received an unexpected call from an AFSA official in Washington, informing me that the Award Committee had just met and decided to reverse itself and “withdraw the award” from Amb. Evans. When I asked why, the answer was “no comment.”


We can safely speculate that the same cast of characters at the upper echelons of the Bush Administration, who had earlier forced Amb. Evans to withdraw his remarks on the Armenian Genocide, had now succeeded in forcing the AFSA to rescind this award.


Incredibly, what they were taking away from Amb. Evans was not just any award. It was an award for dissenting from the Bush administration’s immoral position on the Armenian Genocide. It was an award for simply telling the truth! Amb. Evans was basically repeating what Pres. Ronald Reagan had said back in 1981 in his Presidential Proclamation, acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. It would seem that Bush administration officials are not afraid to go after an Ambassador, but they would not dare to take on Pres. Reagan who committed the same sin of telling the truth!


It is a telling sign of our decadent times that an individual has to be given an award for having “the courage” to tell the truth -- and worse yet, have that award unfairly taken away from him.


All those who side with truth and justice, should complain to the AFSA (berger@afsa.org) for its withdrawal of Amb. Evans’ award and ask that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (http://contact-us.state.gov) have it reinstated promptly.




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