WASHINGTON, DC – Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have expressed disappointment at the Administration’s repeated failure to provide a clear and straightforward explanation for the dismissal of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evans, even as the State Department issued yet another letter sidestepping the issue, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In their response to the May 22nd letter spearheaded by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) and cosigned by 60 House members, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Jeffrey Bergner failed, once again, to address reports that Amb. Evans’ was being recalled for his statements on the Armenian Genocide. The letter began with the well-worn refrain that “All Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President and as advocates of the President’s policies.” He went on to argue that, “allegations that the U.S. is removing Ambassador Evans under pressure from the Government of Turkey are simply untrue,” despite the fact that numerous Turkish press accounts in March of 2005 reported that then Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Faruk Logoglu did indeed protest Amb. Evans’ remarks to State Department officials.
The State Department’s letter, sent to House Members on July 11th, went on to state that “The United States has never denied the tragic events of 1915. . . . We believe this tragedy is of such enormous human significance that its characterization should be determined through heartfelt dialogue, not through diplomatic or political proclamations.”
Several House Members immediately reacted to the response, expressing concern that the State Department has, yet again, avoided providing a clear reasoning for the Amb. Evans firing.
“The Bush Administration has once again failed to answer the question of whether or not the early departure of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans is related to comments he made about the Armenian Genocide. Moreover, the Bush Administration continues to duck when given the opportunity to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide,” explained Rep. Markey. “The time has long since passed for President Bush to follow through on his campaign promises and properly recognize the Armenian Genocide. Only after President Bush accurately refers to the mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide can we finally tear down the last walls of denial.”
Similarly, Congressional Armenian Genocide resolution lead sponsor George Radanovich (R-CA), lamented that “This response was, unfortunately, what we have come to expect from the Administration and those before it – respectfully acknowledging the mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians, but refusing to properly call it genocide. It is simply incomprehensible to me how anyone can recognize the tragic events of 1915, then turn around and implicitly deny that genocide occurred by refusing to call it such for political reasons. I just don’t understand that.”
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) wrote a letter back objecting to the State Department’s response and calling the President’s actions on Armenian Genocide recognition “woefully inadequate.” Rep. Levin stated, “I did have a strong negative reaction to your comments about 1915. I urge the President to do more than ‘call on all concerned parties to engage in thoughtful introspection’ which is woefully inadequate in the face of the Administration’s repeated failure to call a genocide a genocide.”
Again responding to the State Departments July 11th letter, eRep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) noted that, “The State Department’s non-response on the issue of Ambassador Evan’s departure confirms what we all know — the Ambassador was pushed out the door for telling the truth about the Armenian Genocide. This marks a sad day for the State Department when it compounds an unwillingness to acknowledge one of the great crimes in human history and more, disciplines those who do.”
Rep. Schiff also commented on the State Department’s lack of response to a series of questions submitted during a House International Relations Committee hearing with Secretary Rice in February 16, 2006. “Secretary of State Rice’s failure to adequately respond to questions I posed to her on this issue at a hearing months ago, is a further indication of the Department’s illicit motive for Evan’s hasty removal.”
Similarly, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) noted that “The belated response from the State Department regarding our inquiry into the removal of Ambassador Evans is yet another statement without a real explanation. Reports suggest that Evans is being unjustly penalized for speaking the truth. It is unacceptable for the Bush administration to punish Evans for his comments. What he did was courageous and should be viewed as such.”
In their letter to the State Department, Rep. Markey and fellow Congressional cosigners expressed special concern about the destructive precedent of recalling a U.S. diplomat for speaking truthfully on matters of historical record. They wrote that, “we must not allow the perception to linger that he [Amb. Evans] is being required to vacate his position early for accurately labeling the cataclysmic events of 1915 as genocide.” The Representatives, noting President Ronald Reagan’s references to the Armenian Genocide, reminded Secretary Rice that Amb. Evans “did nothing more than succinctly repeat the conclusions enunciated by those before him.”
The Congressional signatories also expressed concern about the role of the Government of Turkey in the impending removal of Amb. Evans from his posting. “Were the United States to allow the views or beliefs of a third country to interfere with our diplomatic postings to the Republic of Armenia,” wrote the House members, “it would establish a dangerous precedent and be injurious to the long-standing relationship built on trust and friendship between the two countries.”