LOS ANGELES, CA – More than one million Armenians living in California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and throughout the Western United States welcomed the second “hold” placed by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on the controversial confirmation of Richard E. Hoagland as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia.
Senator Menendez’s decision yesterday to block this nomination comes just two days after the Bush Administration re-submitted Hoagland, a diplomat whose denial of the Armenian Genocide has generated widespread Congressional opposition and Armenian American community outrage. Senator Menendez placed his first hold in September of last year, effectively blocking Hoagland’s confirmation during the recently concluded 109th Congress.
Elected officials from the Western United States have played pivotal roles in this issue since it first emerged in 2005, with the State Department’s firing of Hoagland’s predecessor, John Evans, for publicly recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Among the efforts of these Western U.S. legislators have been the following:
* On March 8, 2006, Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA) submitted questions to Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Dan Fried regarding the reported firing of Ambassador John Evans because of his use of the word “genocide.” Fried’s response, submitted after more than three months, evaded the issue, noting simply that, “ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President.”
* On June 22, 2006, Representative George Radanovich (R-CA) and Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) joined Armenian Caucus Co-chairs Representative Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) in sending a letter strongly encouraging Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to “consider the recall of Ambassador Evans.”
* On June 28, 2006, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was joined by Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Russell Feingold (D-WI), John Kerry (D-MA), and Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) in submitting questions for the record for Hoagland to answer regarding the Armenian Genocide. Throughout the evolution of this issue, Senator Boxer has played a central role in defending Ambassador Evans, blocking Ambassador-designate Hoagland, and seeking to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. It was in response to her question that the nominee articulated views far beyond the bounds of the Administration’s already deeply flawed policy, actually calling into question the Armenian Genocide as a historical fact.
* On July 27, 2006, Representative Radanovich wrote a letter to Secretary Rice asking for clarification on Hoagland’s response to Senator Boxer’s question regarding Hoagland’s view that the Armenian Genocide did not qualify as genocide under the U.S. definition due to the absence of “specific intent” on the part of the Ottoman Empire.
* On August 3, 2006, then-Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) expressed “extreme concern” by Richard Hoagland’s reluctance to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, particularly after Ambassador Evans was dismissed coincidentally after using the term genocide. Senator Reid, who is now the Majority Leader, has consistently taken a principled stand in support of Armenian Genocide recognition.
* On August 4, 2006, Representative Jim Costa (D-CA) wrote a detailed letter to Secretary Rice asking for further clarifications regarding Ambassador Evans’ dismissal.
* On December 1, 2006, Senator Reid again acted by joining Senator Menendez in suggesting that President Bush withdraw the Hoagland nomination. 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 U.S.-Armenia relationship to expect Ambassador-designate Hoagland to carry out his duties under these highly contentious and profoundly troubling circumstances.” Later that same day, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) expressed “serious misgivings” regarding the dismissal of Ambassador Evans.
As a result of these efforts – and those of Armenian Americans from across the United States – the Hoagland nomination faced increasing bipartisan opposition throughout the 109th Congress. More than half of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and more than 60 U.S. Representatives raised concerns about the Hoagland nomination and the State Department’s refusal to explain the controversial firing of his predecessor.
“We join with Armenians from New Jersey and throughout the United States in thanking Senator Menendez, yet again, for his steadfast and principled stand in blocking the Hoagland nomination,” said Ken Hachikian, Chairman of the ANCA.
“We are proud that our elected officials here in the Western United States, and all across the country, acted to prevent a denier of genocide from serving as Ambassador to Armenia,” added Antranig Kzirian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region. “Sending a genocide denier to Yerevan would represent an affront to the Armenian people, a setback to U.S.-Armenia relations, and a retreat from our nation’s commitment to genocide prevention worldwide.”
In a statement released yesterday, Senator Menendez said that, “the State Department and the Bush administration are just flat-out wrong in their refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide. It is well past time for American diplomacy to drop the euphemisms, the wink-wink, nod-nod brand of foreign policy that overlooks heinous atrocities committed around the world. If there is any sincerity behind the Bush administration’s rhetoric about ‘liberty on the march’ – if ‘never again’ is to be more than a bumper sticker slogan – then American diplomacy should consist of nothing less than unvarnished honesty with our friends and enemies alike. And we must call genocide by its name.”
A recent poll of Armenian Americans found that 97% 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 3% noted that they “somewhat agreed” with this opposition. One percent reported that they “somewhat disagreed” with opposing Hoagland, and 2% indicated that they “strongly disagreed” with the opposition to his confirmation.
From the website of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) http://menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=267461
MENENDEZ PLACES SECOND HOLD ON HOAGLAND NOMINATION
Thursday, January 11, 2007
WASHINGTON – United States Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today placed a second hold on the nomination of Richard E. Hoagland, the Bush administration’s nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. This is the second hold Menendez has placed on Hoagland’s nomination since last September.
The hold, a parliamentary privilege accorded to U.S. Senators, follows the Bush administration’s re-nomination of Hoagland to serve in this post – a move necessitated by the lapsing of Hoagland’s previous nomination last year.
“By all accounts, Ambassador Hoagland is a distinguished career Foreign Service Officer who has served America with distinction and honor during his time at the State Dept.,” Menendez said. “However, given the circumstances and controversy surrounding Mr. Hoagland’s nomination, I believe that the best way to move forward would be for the president to nominate a new candidate for this ambassadorship.
“I also believe that the State Dept. and the Bush administration are just flat-out wrong in their refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide. It is well past time for American diplomacy to drop the euphemisms, the wink-wink, nod-nod brand of foreign policy that overlooks heinous atrocities committed around the world.”
“If there is any sincerity behind the Bush administration’s rhetoric about ‘liberty on the march’ – if ‘never again’ is to be more than a bumper sticker slogan – then American diplomacy should consist of nothing less than unvarnished honesty with our friends and enemies alike. And we must call genocide by its name.”
Menendez and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last month wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to withdraw the nomination of Richard E. Hoagland to be U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. Hoagland’s nomination has been beset by controversy from the outset.
Menendez in September lodged a hold on Hoagland’s nomination, using a parliamentary privilege afforded to U.S. Senators that prevented the ambassador-designate’s confirmation by the full Senate. Because of this controversy, Menendez and Reid called on Secretary Rice to advance another candidate for consideration.
The Ottoman Empire brutally tortured and killed nearly 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923 and forced half a million Armenians to flee their homeland.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.