Threatened with Censorship and Ouster by PEN’s Henchmen

by JOHN V. WALSH

In the vast and ever expanding firmament of Western Human Rights NGO’s, PEN, America Center, the writers’ organization, is far from the most luminous and ordinarily barely visible. But a dark side of PEN came clearly into view with the hiring of Suzanne Nossel as its executive director. And the same dark side is becoming all too apparent in organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both of which have also employed Nossel in the past.

Nossel is former Undersecretary of State under Hillary Clinton and advocate of “Smart Power,” the title which she gave to an article in Foreign Affairs some years back and which emerged as a catch phrase for State’s policies under the bellicose Clinton. In Nossel’s words, ““To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism…(which) should offer assertive leadership — diplomatic, economic, and not least, military — to advance a broad array of goals…” (Emphasis, jw)

Nossel’s hiring by PEN was enough to cause Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Chris Hedges, to resign from PEN and cancel his talk at PEN’s “Festival” in NYC last week, citing Nossel’s “relentless championing of preemptive war—which under international law is illegal—as a State Department official along with her callous disregard for Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians and her refusal as a government official to denounce the use of torture and use of extra-judicial killings.” Nossel’s appointment also spawned a petition calling for her dismissal at Change.org (Readers are encouraged to sign here.)

Last Monday at the opening of PEN’s “Festival of World Voices” at Cooper Union in NYC, a protestor distributed fliers containing the same the information as above. The flier called on attendees and others to sign the petition calling for Nossel’s dismissal. When the leafleter stood on the steps of Cooper Union so that he was able to reach each person entering, a security guard appeared and told him to go back onto the sidewalks. Upon questioning by a passer by, the security guard stated that the order came from PEN, not Cooper Union. The leafleter stood his ground, and the guard backed down.

Then once the proceedings began, the protester carried in a large sign, “No to War. No to Nossel. Sign the Petition.” Nossel was there in the front row watching what happened next. A swarm of guards tried to stop the protester, but he continued to the front and sat down with his sign. They told him to leave or abandon his sign. He did not. Finally, after some scurrying around by the PEN officials, Nossel’s enforcers departed. It seemed that an arrest would be unseemly publicity for PEN. As Coleen Rowley and Anne Wright have shown us in the case of Amnesty International, America, “free speech” organizations are not very tolerant of speech that points out their blind spots or their service to the U.S. Empire.

In fact Nossel’s appointment is an epiphenomenon, like an unsightly rash or foul odor that warns of a long festering disorder inside. Nossel’s appointment may be seen as the most visible and overt symptom of Western subversion that goes back to the very founding of the “human rights” NGO’s, as James Peck demonstrates in his meticulously researched study, Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-opted Human Rights. So like many symptoms that may seem minor at first, it attracts our attention as to its underlying meaning. And if one looks more carefully at PEN’s web site, one finds evidence of the underlying rot. There one finds not one mention of Julian Assange or Bradley Manning but a good deal about Pussy Riot and Ai Weiwei, as well as Cuban and Iranian dissidents. And that is certainly just as the U.S. State Department would want it.

It is time for the human rights movement to return to the ideals of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and to end its succor to the US Empire. And to remember that human rights begins at home.

So what can be done now? For starters we can all sign the petition addressed to the president, officers and trustees to remove Nossel. It is a small first step but a concrete one. Sign here and send to your contacts, high and low, far and wide.

John V. Walsh can be contacted at John.Endwar@gmail.com. Sign the petition to remove Nossel. The concern goes beyond PEN to the entire ideological apparatus of the U.S. Empire.

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman