White House gives in on Armenia envoy

LA Times, CA
Aug 4 2007

White House gives in on Armenia envoy
It pulls the nomination of Richard Hoagland. Senate objected because
he wouldn’t call mass killings by Turks ‘genocide.’
By Paul Richter, Times Staff Writer
August 4, 2007

WASHINGTON – The White House on Friday formally withdrew its nominee
for ambassadorship to Armenia, yielding to senators who opposed the
candidate because he refused to call World War I-era killings of
Armenians by Ottoman Turks a genocide.

The move came after the nominee, Richard E. Hoagland, a career
foreign service officer, asked President Bush in a letter to drop the
effort, saying he believed there was no longer any chance the Senate
would confirm his selection.

The administration submitted Hoagland’s nomination to the Senate in
2006, and again in January. But opposition quickly took shape because
in his confirmation hearing Hoagland, following administration
policy, deplored the killings but avoided using the word "genocide."

Turkey, an important U.S. ally, views the word as provocative and
inaccurate and has insisted that the deaths of 1.2 million Armenians
in the last years of the Ottoman Empire were not acts of genocide.

The mass killings are an increasingly contentious issue between
Congress and the Bush administration, and between the United States
and Turkey.

A majority of members of the House is now on record favoring a
pending resolution that would officially recognize the 1915-1923
killings as genocide. But Turkey, whose help the administration needs
in the Middle East, has been lobbying against the measure, warning
that it would further alienate the Turkish public.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who had used a parliamentary tactic
called a "hold" to block the nomination, said, "We’re obviously
pleased that the administration came to understand that I had no
intention of withdrawing my hold."

He said he hoped the new nominee would be "somebody who understands
the reality of the Armenian genocide and can express himself or
herself when the time comes for a nomination hearing."

Lawmakers and Armenian American activists had been watching the
nomination closely after the administration last year removed the
previous U.S. ambassador to Armenia, John M. Evans, for calling the
killings genocide.

U.S. officials said they expected Hoagland to be nominated for
another post soon. Bush believes Hoagland "would have done a
wonderful job, and thanks him for his willingness to serve his
country," said Emily A. Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman.

The administration did not identify its choice for the next nominee.
But officials said they had not shifted their position on the
genocide issue, raising the possibility that the impasse between the
administration and Congress would continue.

Hoagland has been in the foreign service for two decades. He was
ambassador to Tajikistan, and he has served in Russia, in several
posts in central and South Asia, and in staff posts in Washington.
The White House nominated Hoagland in the fall to replace Evans, who
left Armenia in September after two years on the job.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena) said the administration had erred badly
in adopting a view of the Armenian killings "to mollify an ally." He
said it was "bad enough" that the administration had evaded the truth
on the deaths of 1.2 million Armenians and "even worse when they
fired a career diplomat for speaking the truth."

Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), co-chairman of the Congressional
Caucus on Armenian Issues, said Hoagland not only avoided the word
genocide, but "seems to go out of his way to suggest that genocide
never occurred and that we shouldn’t speak out against it. Somebody
like that can’t effectively serve as ambassador to Armenia; this
issue is such an important part of your task."

In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 9% of Turks held a
favorable view of the U.S., a level considerably lower than in other
Muslim areas, including the Palestinian territories.