There has been growing concern that the United States and NATO have used the ideals of human rights as cover to launch wars of aggression. Iraq, Libya, Mali and now Syria stand out as examples, with the danger of Iran being next. Next to hyping overblown fears of weapons of mass destruction, human rights has been perhaps the most powerful catalyst to mobilize Western support for such wars. A...
There has been growing concern that the United States and NATO have used the ideals of human rights as cover to launch wars of aggression. Iraq, Libya, Mali and now Syria stand out as examples, with the danger of Iran being next. Next to hyping overblown fears of weapons of mass destruction, human rights has been perhaps the most powerful catalyst to mobilize Western support for such wars. A number of careful studies documenting this phenomenon have gained increasing attention, among them Jean Bricmont’s Humanitarian Imperialism and James Peck’s Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Coopted Human Rights. The use of human rights in this way not only builds public support for illegal and immoral wars that have resulted in the deaths of untold hundreds of thousands, but it also undermines the ideals of the international human rights movement. Critiques of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International-USA and Physicians for Human Rights for falling prey to government manipulation have emerged.
But now perhaps a new level has been reached in this effort at cooption with a former US Undersecretary of State under Hillary Clinton, until 2012, Suzanne Nossel, taking the position of Executive Director, first of Amnesty International-USA and now of PEN’s America Center. PEN Americas’s web site (www.pen.org) describes PEN as a “worldwide association of writers founded in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere; PEN is strictly non-political, a non-governmental organization.. PEN is composed of Centers, each of which represents its membership and not its country..” PEN’s charter states that it stands for the “ideal of one humanity living in peace in the world” and that its members are to “oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in their country or their community.” One would think that PEN is meant to be antiwar and stand for idea that the defense of human rights begins at home.
Hence we question the appointment of Nossel as executive director, who until recently, was a high administration official involved in wars that often appealed to the ideals of human rights. Such a revolving door history is all too reminiscent of defense contractors and government that make up the “Military Industrial Complex.” It is all the more disturbing that Nossel’s PEN America, raises pointed concerns about Pussy Riot and Ai Weiwei, but none about Bradley Manning or Julian Assange. And Amnesty International-USA, under Nossel's directorship in 2012, campaigned for “Human Rights for Women and Girls in Afghanistan—NATO: Keep the Progress Going” implicitly endorsing the spread of human rights by force of arms. Military intervention is a key component in Nossel's prior invention and promulgation of "Smart Power," a guiding concept at the Obama/Clinton State Department. At the State Department and writing for US-based, foreign policy think tanks, she was an ardent supporter of US military interventions.
We ask the general public to sign this petition because this is an issue of concern to all, and PEN seems an exemplar of the problem. In addition we all support PEN when we purchase the works of members or otherwise patronize them. We must be able to do so with a clear conscience if we are to continue.
In conclusion, we the undersigned, call on the President, Officers and Trustees of PEN to dismiss its new Executive Director, Suzanne Nossel. With Nossel in charge, PEN’s claim to speak truth to power rings hollow. With Nossel in charge, PEN cannot reasonably claim to be a “non-governmental” organization. With Nossel in charge, the idea that human rights begins at home is lost. And with Nossel in charge, PEN’s advocacy of “peaceful” approaches becomes hypocrisy.