March 24, 2006
Source: Fresno Bee (California)
John Evans, a career diplomat, may be about to discover that speaking the truth can have severe personal and professional consequences -- especially when it is a truth one's bosses wish to avoid.
Evans is the American ambassador to Armenia -- for now. His transgression came last February, when he spoke at UC Berkeley, where he had gone to accept a prestigious award from the American Foreign Service Association.
In the course of his address, according to the Los Angeles Times and other news sources, he said that it was "unbecoming of us as Americans to play word games here. I will today call it the Armenian genocide" -- something The Bee and many others have been saying for years.
Since then, Evans has been made to issue a "correction," and seen the State Department force the association to rescind its award. Now his job is threatened. Shame on the State Department.
Evans was referring, of course, to the actions of the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to after the end of the First World War. During that time the Turks killed some 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children, by most estimates. Their stated reason: The Armenians were supporting Turkey's ancient enemy, Russia, in that conflict.
No doubt many Armenians did just that. The enmity between Muslim Turks and Christian Armenians has run deep for centuries. But the Turks set out to systematically destroy an entire people, not just enemy combatants, in the first -- though sadly not the last -- genocide of the 20th century. Some Armenians were able to flee, including the ancestors of the Armenian Americans who've made such valuable contributions to the Valley for many decades.
Several American administrations, abetted by the State Department, have tiptoed around Turkish sensibilities because of that nation's strategic importance on the southern flank of the former Soviet Union. Whatever merit that pragmatic approach might have once had vanished with the fall of the communist giant.
Today Turkey desperately wishes to join the European Union, but the EU has strongly urged that recognition of the genocide be a condition for Turkish membership.
It's past time for the State Department, Congress and the administration to do the same. The facts are plain. The history is clear. Turkey offends the victims' survivors with its intransigence,
but hurts itself most of all when it continues to deny what the entire world knows.
John Evans doesn't deserve this either.