WASHINGTON–DC–The controversy surrounded the firing of US Ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evans continued to grow this week with a powerful statement by the Co-chairman of the Armenian Caucus–calls for Congressional hearings–and a series of as yet unanswered inquiries from the national media during the State Department’s daily press briefing–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In a May 25 statement on the House floor–Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) forcefully condemned the Administration for forcing Ambassador Evans to vacate his post for publicly affirming the Armenian genocide. He voiced his "fear that the Government of Turkey may have played a role in this unfortunate event. I strongly believe they have expressed concern to the White House over Evans’ remarks last year. In fact–immediately following his remarks–Evan issued a "correction," all too seemingly at the behest of the Administration. We must not allow a third party to interfere in US diplomacy and refrain from declaring the truth in order to promote relations with Turkey."
Congressman Pallone noted that he has yet to receive an explanation from the State Department–despite having written a letter to the Secretary more than two months ago requesting a thorough description of the reasons behind the Ambassador’s recall.
Commenting on similar unanswered letters and questions posed during Congressional hearings regarding this controversy–he noted that–"now–the White House has made an ‘official’ announcement but still has not given an explanation." He closed by expressing his "hope that the newly-appointed US Ambassador to Armenia–Richard Hoagland–will not play the word games of the White House–and comply with Turkey’s campaign of genocidal denial."
The White House made the recall of Ambassador Evans official this week with the public announcement of his replacement–Richard Hoagland.
As he has repeated over the past several months–the State Department spokesperson–Sean McCormack–again avoided answering a direct question last week about the reasons for Ambassador Evans’ recall. In response to persistent questioning–he limited his remarks to generically praising Ambassador Evans’ service–noting his replacement–and repeating the stock-phrase that he and other senior Administration officials "serve at the pleasure of the President."
The ANCA has called for Congressional hearings to investigate the firing of Ambassador Evans. Using the ANCA website–activists can send their legislators a free ANCA WebFax asking them to call for hearings of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee. These letters call for a full hearing–featuring testimony from all the key figures involved in this situation–as well as a thorough examination of the role of the Turkish Government in exporting its suppression of speech to the United States.
The ANCA WebFaxes state–in part–that–"Ambassador Evans is–in effect–being punished for honoring his President’s pledge to properly recognize the Armenian genocide–a promise that George W. Bush made on the campaign trail in February of 2000 but abandoned once in the White House. Ambassador Evans should be praised–not dismissed–for rejecting ‘gag-rules’ imposed by the Turkish Government on the discussion of the Armenian genocide by America’s leaders at home and diplomats abroad."
The letters close by expressing outrage that the "Administration has lacked the courage to speak honestly–either to Congress or the American people–about its reasons for firing Ambassador Evans. Hopefully–these hearings will provide the transparency that we–as citizens–have the right to expect of our government."
Earlier this week–sixty Members of Congress–led by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA)–sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking for clarification of the reasons behind Ambassador Evans’ recall. Prior to this letter–Representative Pallone–Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA) each independently called on the State Department to explain reports that Ambassador Evans was being recalled because of his speech on the Armenian genocide. They have yet to receive any response to their inquiries.
Following his statemen’s last February–Ambassador Evans was forced to issue a clarification that his references to the Armenian genocide were his personal views and did not represent a change in US policy. He subsequently issued a correction to this statement–replacing a reference to the genocide with the word "tragedy."
The American Foreign Service Association–which had planned to honor Ambassador Evans with the "Christian A. Herter Award," recognizing creative thinking and intellectual courage within the Foreign Service–reportedly rescinded the award following pressure from the State Department a few days before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Washington–DC to meet with President Bush.