U.S. Ambassador John Evans, speaking at a public town-hall meeting held in Fresno made a powerful statement about the importance of Armenian Genocide recognition.
In response to a question from the audience, Ambassador Evans said, “I will today call it the Armenian Genocide.” Ambassador Evans told community members he had studied the Genocide, having read Prof. Richard Hovannissian’s work on the Armenian Genocide, the compilation of U.S. newspaper accounts of the Genocide, a book about the Germany’s involvement in the Genocide, and the recent Nobel Prize winning book “A Problem from Hell,” about the U.S. response to 20th century genocides.
The comments on the Genocide were repeated at forums held at UCLA and UC Berkeley.
“I informed myself in depth about it,” said Evans, “I think we, the U.S. government, owe you, our fellow citizens a more frank and honest way of discussing this problem. Today, as someone who’s studied it… There’s no doubt in my mind what happened.”
Evans said he had also consulted with a State Department lawyer who confirmed that the events of 1915 were “genocide by definition.”
Various past and present US administrations and officials have avoided using the word “genocide” for the Armenian case [President Ronald Reagan acknowledged the Armenian Genocide in an April 22, 1981 statement], using various descriptive phrases and euphemisms, instead. Noting that “No American official has ever denied it,” Evans nevertheless said, “I think it is unbecoming of us as Americans to play word games here. I believe in calling things by their name,” but he pointed out that the official policy of the US has not changed.”
Evans also emphasized that he believed that the International Convention on Genocide, an agreement approved by the United Nations in 1948 condemning and indicating punishment for the crime genocide, applies only to events occurring after 1948. “We do not dispute the facts, but these treaties are meant to apply to future events,” said Evans.
“The Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century,” said Evans, remarking that since it was the first occurrence, the world wasn’t equipped to respond appropriately. “We made many mistakes after WWI. They sowed the seeds of WWII.”
“I pledge to you, we are going to do a better job at addressing this issue,” said Evans.
However, the United States State Department issued a statement that Ambassador Evans’ remarks reflected his private opinion. A “corrected version” of the Ambassador’s comments can be found at http://www.usa.am/news/2005/february/news022805.html.