Senators Boxer, Sarbanes, Coleman, Kerry, and Dodd Encourage Fellow Senators to "Take a Stand" to End the State Department's Complicity in Genocide Denial

September 7, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC – Following more than two months of delays, and amid growing controversy and bipartisan opposition to his nomination, Richard Hoagland moved a step closer today to winning Senate confirmation to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“The ANCA remains firmly opposed to the Hoagland nomination, and will continue to seek to block his confirmation until he publicly states that he does not question the Armenian Genocide, and the State Department explains both its firing of the current Ambassador as well as the role of the Turkish government in this controversy,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We are grateful for the support of Senators Boxer, Coleman, Dodd, Kerry, and Sarbanes, and look forward to working with them, and others, to prevent the Administration from making a mistake that would hinder our ability to represent U.S. interests and advance American values in Armenia and the surrounding region, as well as undermining our moral standing on genocide prevention worldwide.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, by a vote of 13 to 5, approved Ambassador-Designate Hoagland’s nomination. For over forty minutes, Senators spoke forcefully on the nomination, each affirming the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide. Those opposed to the nomination urged their colleagues to take a stand against the Administration’s complicity in genocide denial. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), in her remarks, noted that “The only way to express our deep disappointment that he [Amb. Evans] was recalled, it seems to me, is to vote ‘no’.” Answering concerns about the absence of an U.S. Ambassador to Armenia during an extended confirmation process, Sen. Boxer argued, “I agree that it is important that we have an Ambassador there. But isn’t easy for the Administration to simply say ‘we will speak the truth’, and then we will have our Ambassador.”

Senator Coleman noted, “I agree with the Senator from California. At a certain point and time you say this is it – it is not about politics; it’s not about one Administration or another. As somebody of the Jewish faith, I grew with the concept of ‘never forget’ and the power of ‘never forgetting’ . . . it is simply not right.” I think this is our opportunity, in terms of the oversight that we do, to say it is wrong; bring back Ambassador Evans and change the policy.”

In his remarks, Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) expressed concerns about the nominee’s ability to accurately and effectively communicate the Administration’s position on the Armenian Genocide. Noting that, in correspondence with Ranking Democrat Joseph Biden (D-DE), Amb. Hoagland had needed to make changes to his initial written responses to a series of Senate inquiries, Sen. Sarbanes noted that, “Ambassadors deal with language. It is very important. You pick the wrong word, you create a lot of problems. They have revised other answers. And so, I looked through the revisions, and approve of them, but it raises a question in my mind: ‘where was the understanding and sensitivity on the part of this nominee on responding to the questions that had been submitted to him in the first place. What does it say that we got those answers in the first place?’”

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), voted against the nomination as a matter of principle. “For us to recall an ambassador because he utters the word ‘genocide’, is to cow-tow, to cave-in to those who change history, something we are witnessing today with [President] Ahmadinajad in Iran who says the Holocaust didn’t exist. So it is even more important that we say something to the contrary. We are not going to allow revisionism. We are not going to allow people to push the United States of America around and say what you can and can’t say about what’s happening with respect to history. We honor history and we honor the truth. I don’t think we do so if we allow this Administration to take the contrary policy.”

Sen. Dodd echoed these concerns noting that, “I might normally be willing to go along with the proposition of letting the Ambassador go, but seems to me, with events in Darfur and statements by the President in Iran on the Holocaust, the whole notion of ‘genocide’ seems to be under assault in many ways. . . I think it important that we tell the Administration that this is unacceptable.”

Senators Boxer, Coleman, Dodd, Kerry and Sarbanes voted against the Hoagland nomination. All other Senate Foreign Relations Committee members, voted for nomination, paving the way toward full Senate consideration of the matter. Senators can delay the nomination by placing a “hold” on the nominee for an indefinite period of time. The ANCA is leading a nationwide grassroots campaign to urge Senators to delay the vote until key issues surrounding the nomination are meaningfully addressed.

On two previous occasions, June 28th and again on August 1st, the panel had delayed its consideration of Ambassador-Designate Hoagland’s nomination. These delays were prompted by bipartisan concerns over a series of controversies over the nomination. Among these points of contention were is the nominee’s written response to Senator Boxer’s inquiry, in which he questioned the genocidal intent of the Ottoman Turkish government. Also of concern to members of the panel is the State Department’s firing of the current U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Marshal Evans. His early recall from Yerevan is widely seen as retribution for his public statements, in February of 2005, calling for an end to “word games” by the U.S. government in avoiding the proper recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Despite dozens of Congressional inquiries, the Administration has yet explain its reasons for firing Amb. Evans or to reveal the communications it received from the Turkish government on this matter.

To date, more than half of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Senators George Allen (R-VA), Joseph Biden (D-DE), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Norm Coleman, Christopher Dodd, Russell Feingold (D-WI), John Kerry and Paul Sarbanes, have contacted Secretary Rice or questioned Ambassador-designate Hoagland directly regarding his nomination or the firing of Ambassador Evans. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and most recently Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with over sixty Members of the U.S. House have also expressed serious concerns to the State Department on this matter.

In a September 1st letter, the ANCA urged Members of the Committee to block the Hoagland nomination until:

1) Ambassador-designate Hoagland provides a responsible and unambiguous public statement affirming that he does not question the clear genocidal intent of the Ottoman Turkish government against its Armenian population.

2) The State Department provides a full, honest, and public explanation regarding the reasons for the controversial firing of the current Ambassador, John Marshall Evans.

3) The Administration explains any and all communications, directly or indirectly, between the U.S. government and the Turkish government concerning Ambassador Evans.

Since February of this year, the ANCA has led nationwide efforts to demand answers concerning the recall of Ambassador Evans and, later, to educate Senators about the adverse impact of sending an envoy to Armenia that has called into question the genocidal character of Ottoman Turkey’s systematic destruction of its Armenian population.

For an overview of the firing of Ambassador Evans and the Hoagland controversy, visit:

The full text of the ANCA’s September 1st letter is provided below.


September 1, 2006

Dear Senator ::::_

I am writing to respectfully encourage you to vote against the confirmation of Richard Hoagland to serve as our nation’s next Ambassador to Armenia. This nomination, as you know, is scheduled to come before the Foreign Relations Committee during its September 7th business meeting.

Our opposition to Ambassador-designate Hoagland’s nomination is rooted in three areas of profound concern:

1) Ambassador-designate Hoagland’s denial of the Armenian Genocide

Ambassador-designate Hoagland, in a written response to an inquiry from Senator Barbara Boxer, specifically called into question the genocidal intent of the Ottoman Turkish perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide. The nominee compounded this profoundly offensive and patently inaccurate statement by describing, in response to a question from Senator John Kerry, the affirmation of this crime against humanity as a mere allegation.

In his response to Senator Boxer’s Question #2, which asked why the nominee believes the Armenian Genocide does not meet the U.S. Government’s definition of genocide, the nominee indicated that he does not believe a genocide was committed against Armenians because there was supposedly not a specific intent. He selectively cites only one of the five “understandings” expressed by the U.S. at the time of our ratification of the Genocide Convention. In choosing to respond to this question by raising this one particular understanding, which concerned the intent requirement – and not others, the nominee clearly indicated his mistaken view that the Armenian Genocide should not be considered a genocide. Notably, the supposed lack of intent is the very claim the Turkish government uses to deny the Armenian Genocide.

These comments clearly go far beyond the bounds of the Administration’s traditional practice of non-recognition of the Armenian Genocide. His remarks are, in fact, consistent with the Turkish government’s outright policy of genocide denial. As such, we are concerned that Ambassador-designate Hoagland’s statements, which reflect neither U.S. policy nor American values, would seriously hinder his ability to effectively represent our government’s interests in Yerevan. Senator Norm Coleman commented eloquently on this last point during Ambassador-designate Hoagland’s June 28th confirmation hearing, stating that, “I cannot imagine an Ambassador to Israel being effective without talking about the Holocaust. I am not sure how we can continue to have Ambassadors to Armenia who can be effective, unless they give recognition to the Genocide.”

By virtue of his own words, Ambassador-designate Hoagland has raised the necessity of confronting and rejecting a nominee who has unilaterally and dramatically gone beyond U.S. policy by actually denying the genocidal character of Ottoman Turkey’s systematic destruction of over 1.5 million of its Armenian citizens. The Foreign Relations Committee should not approve Ambassador-designate Hoagland’s nomination until he has renounced his denial of the Armenian Genocide. His profoundly offensive written statements cannot be remedied with semantic gestures, clever wording, or technical revisions. Ambassador-designate Hoagland must provide a responsible and unambiguous public statement affirming that he does not question the clear genocidal intent of the Ottoman Turkish government against its Armenian population.

2) The Administration’s failure to explain Ambassador Evans’ firing

The Department of State, despite more than a dozen Senate inquiries and questions from more than sixty U.S. Representatives, refuses to provide a meaningful explanation for firing the current U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evans, a Foreign Service veteran with thirty-five years of exemplary service. According to media and other accounts, it appears that the Administration has recalled Ambassador Evans simply for speaking the truth about the Armenian Genocide. If this is in fact the case, Ambassador Evans’ firing would represent a tragic surrender of our country’s principles and a setback to our nation’s genocide prevention efforts worldwide. The Senate deserves an explanation regarding Ambassador Evans and should not approve a new envoy to Yerevan until the reasons for the controversial firing of the current ambassador are fully, honestly and publicly articulated.

3) The Administration’s misleading statements about Turkey’s role

Compounding the Department of State’s unresponsiveness has been its misleading response to inquiries regarding its communications with the Turkish government on the circumstances surrounding Ambassador Evans’ recall. In a letter, dated June 28, 2005, written on behalf of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Senator Joseph Biden, the State Department denied that the Turkish government had even approached the Administration on Ambassador Evans’ comments on the Armenian Genocide. However, Foreign Agents Registration Act filings with the U.S. Department of Justice document that registered agents of the Turkish government, on at least four occasions, communicated with the State Department on this exact subject. Moreover, Turkish media reported that the Turkish Ambassador to the United States did, in fact, communicate his displeasure to the State Department about Ambassador Evans’ statements.

The Foreign Relations Committee should not approve a new ambassador until the Administration explains its misleading response and fully explains any and all communications, directly or indirectly, between the U.S. government and the Turkish government concerning Ambassador Evans, and the role a foreign government may have played in the conduct of our nation’s foreign policy.

Based on these considerations, and in order to ensure that the interests and the values of the American people are effectively represented in Yerevan, we respectfully call upon you to cast your vote against the Hoagland nomination.

Thank you for your consideration of our urgent request for your support. Please know that our community looks to you for leadership on this vital issue. If you should have any concerns, please contact our office at (202) 775-1918 or

Sincerely yours,

Kenneth V. Hachikian

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 *
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