06 08 30 - Armenians try to stall appointment of US envoy By Yvonne Abraham, Globe Staff
|August 30, 2006;
When John Evans, the US ambassador to Armenia, last year described the deaths and forced exile of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians early in the last
century as genocide, the local Armenian community rejoiced.
Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts The Bush administration has described the events in Ottoman Turkey as ``horrific" and a
``tragedy," but not as genocide. Turkey, an important US ally, strongly objects to that description, calling the deaths and deportations the outcome of a civil
conflict with bloodshed on both sides.
But even though he retracted the comments, Evans, a 35-year State Department veteran, was recalled from his post in May, a move many Armenians contend was
punishment for his characterization of Turkey's role.
Now, Armenians and their backers in Congress are trying to hold up the appointment of the man President Bush wants to succeed Evans, Richard E. Hoagland, who has declined to describe what happened as genocide.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has delayed its consideration of Hoagland's appointment because of the controversy. At a June confirmation hearing, senators grilled Hoagland, who said he wanted to avoid ``getting stuck in the past and vocabulary."
US Representative Edward J. Markey, a Democrat who represents Watertown, home to a longstanding and vocal Armenian-American community, said, ``I don't think
he should be confirmed until President Bush publicly states that there was a genocide and allows his new ambassador to make that same statement."
The committee plans to meet Sept. 7 to decide Hoagland's fate. Congressional aides said the vote on whether to recommend that the full Senate approve the
nomination will be close.
If the senators reject Hoagland, Bush could make a recess appointment. Armenian communities across the country will be watching closely.
``We would be disappointed if he were appointed without an acknowledgement of genocide," said Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of
America , a Washington-based citizens advocacy group.
After Evans was recalled, Markey sent a letter to the administration, cosigned by 59 other House members, questioning the apparent dismissal. US Senators John
F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrats, sent a similar letter.
In response, a State Department assistant secretary wrote that ``all US ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President and as advocates of the President's policies," and he denied Evans was being removed under pressure from the Turkish government.
The controversy over Evans and Hoagland is the latest of many battles that have consumed Armenian communities.
In a lawsuit now pending in US District Court in Boston, a teacher and a student from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School and the Assembly of Turkish
American Associations have demanded that the state Department of Education include dissenting views in a state curriculum guide on the topic.
Armenians and their supporters say including those views is like endorsing the stance of Holocaust deniers.
Harvey Silverglate, a First Amendment lawyer who has argued that excluding the dissenting views is a violation of the principle of free speech, said ``every
American citizen has the right to state his or her view as to whether or not this was a genocide."
But, he added, ``if somebody is officially representing the United States and the US government has a certain position, it is reasonable for the
administration to insist that the official convey the official US position."
Yvonne Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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