FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail