WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) today welcomed the “hold” placed by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on the confirmation of Richard E. Hoagland as the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia based on his opposition to the Bush Administration’s refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
“We join with Armenians from New Jersey and throughout the United States in thanking Senator Menendez for his principled stand in blocking the Hoagland nomination,” said Ken Hachikian, Chairman of the ANCA. “The Senator’s hold represents a victory for our nation’s standing on human rights and genocide-prevention.”
In blocking the Hoagland nomination, Sen. Menendez stressed that, “as a leader and defender of democracy, it is our nation’s responsibility to speak out against injustice and support equality and human rights. But if the Bush Administration continues to refuse to acknowledge the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide, then there is certainly cause for great alarm, which is why I am placing a hold on this nominee.” He added that, “I will continue to work with my colleagues in the United States Senate to make strides toward ensuring that all people, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, receive protection from policies of discrimination and hate that lead to genocide.”
On September 7th, after more than forty minutes of intense debate, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Ambassador-Designate Hoagland’s nomination. Following the vote, the ANCA announced that it would continue to urge Senators to place a hold on the Hoagland nomination.
On two previous occasions, June 28th and August 1st, the panel delayed its consideration of the nomination due to bipartisan concerns over a series of controversies. Among these points of contention were the nominee’s written responses 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 was 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 to 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 Senator Menendez’s remarks are provided below:
Text of Senator Menendez’s remarks, September 12, 2006
It is well known that more than 90 years ago, the Ottoman Empire brutally tortured and killed 1.5 million Armenians. Between 1915 and1923, innocent men, women, and children were murdered or forced to flee their country and live in exile. Though the horrors suffered by the Armenian people have haunted them for the past century, many — including our very own President — have refused to label the atrocities for what they are: genocide.
In my view, all Americans must recognize that the atrocities committed from 1915 to 1923 constitute genocide. We do not use that word lightly. But the word itself makes a powerful statement about the horrors suffered by the Armenian people. As Samantha Power, the leading expert on Genocide said in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, “The extermination of Armenians is recognized as genocide by the consensus of scholars of genocide and Holocaust worldwide. The failure to acknowledge this trivializes a human rights crime of enormous magnitude.”
Recent developments have caused many to wonder about the administration’s actions regarding the Armenian genocide. Over the past few months, there has been great controversy surrounding the departure of John M. Evans, the Ambassador to Armenia. Ambassador Evans, a highly respected diplomat with a record of service, is leaving his three year assignment one year early. Under normal circumstances, this would not be cause for great alarm. However, we know that the Ambassador’s departure comes after he went against the Bush Administration’s stance and acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. The fact that he is being replaced after vocalizing that “the Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the twentieth century,” is cause for great concern among all who advocate for human rights.
The Senate is planning to vote on the nomination of the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Richard E. Hoagland. Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Hoagland has declined to acknowledge the mass killings of the Armenians as genocide, and has said that if confirmed, he would work to represent the President’s policy. I have great concerns that Mr. Hoagland’s confirmation would be a step backward. Considering Mr. Hoagland’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide as anything more than horrifying events, I do not feel that his nomination is in the best interest of Armenia and her Diaspora.
I simply cannot support the confirmation of a new Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia until all of questions over Ambassador Evans’ replacement have been answered. I believe that the United States, Armenia, and all who are committed to human rights should support an Ambassador to Armenia who recognizes the genocide that took place there more than 90 years ago.