Senator Schumer Calls on Bush to Withdraw Hoagland Nomination

WASHINGTON–Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), a long-time friend of New York’s Armenian community and senior member of the Senate leadership, has joined Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in urging President George W. Bush to withdraw the controversial nomination of Richard Hoagland to serve as US Ambassador to Armenia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). Citing the nominee’s denial of the Armenian Genocide, Senator Schumer, who serves as Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, noted, a January 17 letter to the President, that the nominee’s confirmation would undermine diplomatic relations between the US and Armenia, and offend the Armenian-American community. The Empire State Senator has been sharply critical of the Administration’s policy on the Armenian Genocide and its premature replacement of the previous Ambassador, John M. Evans, after he spoke truthfully in characterizing this crime as a genocide in speeches last year to Armenian American civic groups. "Genocide can not be neatly swept under the carpet. Armenian Americans are justifiably up in arms over the potential nomination of Richard Hoagland as the US Ambassador to their native country," said Senator Schumer. "Hoagland’s reluctance to classify the Armenian Genocide as the 20th century’s first genocide is a travesty, which leaves us to believe that he will march lock and step with the administration’s politically motivated stance of denial." He added that, "In order for justice to prevail, for progress to be realized and genuine reconciliation to be possible, there must first be recognition of the facts of history. That must start with a simple, unequivocal declaration that the Ottoman’s actions during the period in question were tantamount to genocide. I cannot support Mr. Hoagland, because, regrettably, he has not met that standard."We join with Armenia’s from New York and across the nation in expressing our appreciation to Senator Schumer for his principled stand against the Hoagland nomination," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "For more than three decades–going back to his early years in the New York State Assembly, as a member of the US House, and now as a leader of the Senate–Chuck Schumer has always been a powerful voice for justice and a great friend to the Armenian American community." The Senate’s confirmation of the Hoagland nomination has been the subject of growing Congressional controversy and Armenian American community outrage, culminating in two "holds" placed on his confirmation by Senator Robert Menendez–initially in September of last year, during the 109th Congress, and again in the 110th Congress after the President re-nominated him earlier this month. The New Jersey legislator’s second hold came just two days after the Bush Administration re-nominated Hoagland on January 9th. His first hold was placed after the Ambassador-designate, in response to questions posed to him during his confirmation hearing, went far beyond the bounds of the Administration’s already deeply flawed policy, actually calling into question the Armenian Genocide as a historical fact. Citing the opposition of the Armenian American community and the growing controversy within Congress surrounding the nomination, Senator Menendez was joined on December 1 by incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in calling on President George W. Bush to withdraw the Hoagland nomination and propose a new candidate to serve in this important diplomatic post. They stressed that, in light of the broad-based concerns within Congress, the extensive media coverage this issue has received, and the strong stand of the Armenian American community against the nomination, "it would serve neither our national interests nor the US-Armenia relationship to expect Ambassador-designate Hoagland to carry out his duties under these highly contentious and profoundly troubling circumstances." A recent poll of Armenian Americans found that 97 percent opposed the Hoagland nomination. Ninety-four percent of the respondents said that they "strongly agreed" with the Senate’s opposition to his nomination. An additional three percent noted that they "somewhat agreed" with this opposition. One percent reported that they "somewhat disagreed" with opposing Hoagland, and two percent indicated that they "strongly disagreed" with the opposition to his confirmation. More than half of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and more than 60 US Representatives have raised concerns about the Hoagland nomination and the State Department’s refusal to explain the controversial firing of his predecessor, John Marshall Evans, for speaking truthfully about the Armenian Genocide. The Department of State has also failed to offer any meaningful explanation of the role that the Turkish government played in the dismissal of Ambassador Evans, a diplomat with over thirty years of service at the Department of State The complete text of Senator Schumer’s letter is provided below. Dear Mr. President: I write regarding your re-nomination of Richard E. Hoagland to serve as United States Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia. I am deeply concerned that Mr. Hoagland’s nomination is not in the best interest of the US-Armenia relationship, nor in the best interest of our relationship with the Armenian-American community. As you are well aware, an estimated 1.5 million Armenia’s were killed and forced into exile by the government of Turkey between 1915-1923. Armenia’s, including women and children, were driven over mountains and deserts, while being deprived of food and water during the march. Others were deported to relocation centers in Syria and Mesopotamia. The Armenian people were practically eliminated from their homeland, which they had occupied for almost 3,000 years, and shrunk Armenia to less than one-fourth of its original size. On July 24, 1915, US Consul Leslie Davis wrote to Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, "It has been no secret that the plan was to destroy the Armenian race as a race. . . " The history and facts surrounding the events between 1915 and 1923 clearly show that the Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century. I am concerned that the United States’ official position, and the position of Mr. Hoagland, does not reflect these facts. In 1998, a group of 150 scholars and writers, many of whom were professors of history, theology, and law, including a Nobel Laureate, honored the 50th anniversary of the UN Genocide Convention by encouraging their government officials to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide as such. In Mr. Hoagland’s written testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from June 2006, he wrote that "This tragedy is of such enormous human’significance that its historical assessment should be determined not on the basis of politics, but through heartfelt introspection among civic leaders, scholars and the societies at large." Yet, his position, along with the Administration’s, fails to recognize opinions of world scholars and human rights groups. While I am cognizant of the realpolitik that perpetuates this position, genocide is not something that can just be swept neatly under the rug and forgotten. The evil at its core impels peoples, leaders and nations to recognize it, and decry it. Indeed, no progress or reconciliation is possible without forthright recognition of the facts of history. Since 1923, the Turkish government has worked tirelessly to deny the Armenian Genocide, and force its citizens to remain silent on the issue. Turkey instituted Article 301 in the Turkish penal code, which took effect on June 1, 2005. This article makes it punishable by imprisonment any person who denigrates "Turkishness" of the Republic of Turkey. Under Article 301, Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist, was retroactively charged with violating the article for statemen’s regarding the death of a million Armenia’s and thirty thousand Kurds, made to a Swiss magazine in February 2005. In October 2006, France passed a law making it a crime to deny the Armenian Genocide. Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey was studying retaliatory measures against France for passing such a law. Specifically because of his refusal to directly declare the true nature of the Armenian Genocide, Mr. Hoagland’s nomination faced significant problems during his confirmation hearings last session. In fact, more than half of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and over 60 members of the United States House of Representatives raised questions over the nomination. Considering these circumstances, and in the interest of justice and international relations, I respectfully urge you to withdraw his nomination. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response. Sincerely, [signed] Charles E. Schumer United States Senator


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