The Emily Latella Award for Awards

From Holden:

The American Foreign Service Association says nevermind.

The American Foreign Service Association recently announced that John M. Evans, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, was to receive a prestigious award for “constructive dissent” for characterizing as genocide the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. His comments stirred such a diplomatic tempest that Evans not only had to retract his remarks but also had to later clarify his retraction.

Earlier this week, however, the selection committee met again and decided to withdraw the honor, known as the Christian A. Herter Award. They decided not to offer any award in the category, reserved for a senior foreign service officer. Other awards are issued for officers at lower levels.

The timing of the association’s decision appeared curious, given it came just before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Washington for a meeting with President Bush to bolster strained U.S.-Turkish relations. John W. Limbert, president of the association, said that no one at the organization can remember an award being withdrawn after it had been announced.


Speaking to an Armenian group in California, Evans referred to the “Armenian genocide” and said that the U.S. government owes “you, our fellow citizens, a more frank and honest way of discussing the problem.” He added that “there is no doubt in my mind what happened” and it was “unbecoming of us, as Americans, to play word games here.”

Armenian groups hailed his comment, noting Evans was the first U.S. official since President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to refer to the Armenian deaths as genocide. But the comments infuriated Turkey. Evans issued a statement saying U.S. policy, in which the United States “acknowledges the tragedy” and encourages “scholarly, civil society and diplomatic discussion” of the event, had not changed.

Evans said he used the term “genocide” in “my personal capacity” during “informal meetings” and “this was inappropriate.” After more complaints from Turkey, Evans corrected the statement a day later and removed a reference to genocide, instead calling it “the Armenian tragedy.”

Thank the heavens for the thought police.