Fmr State Dep’t official who denounced Goldstone Report leapfrogs from Amnesty Int’l to prestige literary org PEN

on 13 Comments

I think this is how the world works. PEN, the literary and human rights organization, has a new director, Suzanne Nossel. PEN says Nossel has “deep experience in the … human rights arena.” Certainly she has got the right wax on her skis. Just a year  six months ago Nossel got the top job at Amnesty International. Coleen Rowley and Ann Wright rightly deplored the hiring of someone with a record of supporting military interventions:

Nossel is herself credited as having coined the term “Smart Power,” which embraces the United States’ use of military power as well as other forms of “soft power,” an approach which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced at her confirmation as the new basis of State Department policy.

An excerpt from Nossel’s 2004 paper on “Smart Power” published in the Council on Foreign Relations’ Foreign Affairs magazine sounds a lot like Samantha Power’s (and also traces back to Madeleine Albright’s) theories:

“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 posits that a global system of stable liberal democracies would be less prone to war.

“Washington, the theory goes, should thus offer assertive leadership — diplomatic, economic, and not least, military [our emphasis] — to  advance a broad array of goals: self-determination, human rights, free trade, the rule of law, economic development, and the quarantine and elimination of dictators and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).”

And look what Nossel said about the UN Goldstone Report: it put “the most negative possible spin that you could put on Israeli behavior.” (As if the killing of nearly 400 children was ambiguous.)

“It draws a series of inferences about Israel’s motives and behavior that are simply not supported by the facts…. We do take exception to that…”

Nossel’s record doesn’t hurt you in elite institutions. In fact, it’s a prerequisite.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

Other posts by .

Posted In:

13 Responses

  1. Les
    January 30, 2013, 10:41 am

    Does PEN have a history of promoting hasbara?

  2. Donald
    January 30, 2013, 11:23 am

    I didn’t know she was at the top of Amnesty International USA (I missed the earlier post). That’s deeply disappointing–what the hell happened that someone like that would get the top position?

    • Philip Munger
      January 30, 2013, 5:46 pm

      When my wife found out about Nossel’s AI appointment, she dropped donating to AI and donated her usual AI amount to JVP.

  3. Cliff
    January 30, 2013, 11:31 am

    what qualified her for the position at AI?

    who voted her in?

  4. sardelapasti
    January 30, 2013, 2:10 pm

    “who voted her in?”
    Donor money, who else?

  5. Krauss
    January 30, 2013, 2:14 pm

    I remember her. My guess is that the rank-and-file probably detested working under a committed Zionist.

    She probably felt the winds blow in her face and jumped ship.
    Amnesty is a far more prestigious organization in comparison to PEN, which is no ugly duckling, but it does not have the international reach and influence like Amnesty.

    People ask how she got promoted. My guess is probably some kind liberal Zionist, a ‘mild’ one, who still resents the grassroots left and prefers the company of champagne socialists, is in her orbit. Which would make sense, since she’s one of those people herself.

    Either way, the fact that she even got to lead Amnesty international is pretty shocking to begin with. But it’s still significant that she left after just 6 months. That’s not normal and there’s a reason behind it.

  6. HarryLaw
    January 30, 2013, 2:58 pm

    Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright amongst others penned a letter last July asking how someone advocating what amounted to US state dept policy could get such a job, see here..

  7. HarryLaw
    January 30, 2013, 3:31 pm

    On Nossels work at the UN Human Rights Council Nossel said…The third area we focused on is defense of core principles. At the top of our list is our defense of Israel, and Israel’s right to fair treatment at the Human Rights Council. This is the most challenging issue we face. It is not something by any means that is unique to the human rights council, and I know this has been discussed by Hillel and others who have looked at what is happening across the UN System and across the international system. Israel faces a degree of isolation that is heightened, and we certainly see that at the Human Rights Council. We have been very consistent in standing up and calling votes on resolutions that are biased or one-sided or non-constructive. We will do that even if we are the only one voting against; we don’t . hesitate. see here

  8. Henry Norr
    January 30, 2013, 4:18 pm

    This is great news – she can do far less harm at PEN than at Amnesty!

    Note, though, that the post is incorrect in saying that Nossel held “the top job at Amnesty International.” She was Executive Director of the U.S. branch, Amnesty International USA. The top job at Amnesty International overall is Secretary General. That position has been held since 2010 by Salil Shetty.

    Turns out that AI USA actually announced Nossel’s resignation back in mid-December, though that development doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention at the time. (A Google search turns up basically nothing about it from December except this post from a blog run by CodePink’s Maine coordinator, which includes a letter from AI-USA’s chairman announcing the resignation.) Nossel had started work there last January (not six months ago, as stated above). If anyone knows the back story on her resignation after less than a year on the job, do tell!

  9. ToivoS
    January 30, 2013, 6:42 pm

    Angry Arab today suggests amnesty and human rights watch should just drop the disguise and go into formal alliance with the US Dept of State. Their record with respect to the current civil war in Syria and Israel always is quite abysmal.

  10. Coleen Rowley
    January 30, 2013, 6:55 pm

    Any doctrine or principle, no matter how well-intentioned or good, can usually and quickly be perverted.

    The new body of human rights and humanitarian (law of warfare) can probably be largely remedied by simply re-asserting a couple of principles: 1) do not elevate human rights of individuals over the much more well established jus ad bellum (Kellogg Briand Pact) and Nuremberg Principle law that wars of aggression are the “supreme crime”, that all wars must be justified as in self defense and as a very last recourse; 2) human rights and humanitarian NGOs should work completely independently of any country’s, especially the superpower and its allies’, national interests.

    As it stands right now, however, the “Smart Power” spectrum (that Nossel came up with and which constitutes US policy) IS exactly the same as the UN formulation of “Right to Protect”. Instead of the military force option being last, especially vis a vis militarily weak countries, it seems to be nearly the first option in both “Smart Power” and R2P. The US (and whatever allies it can get) tend to avoid submitting to any real international systems but play judge, jury and policeman of the world for their own selfish national interests, not the human rights interests of the rest of the world. Diana Johnstone explained much better than I can what’s going on in this Minneapolis Star Tribune opinion piece: “Responsibility to Protect” is a power play”

  11. Coleen Rowley
    January 30, 2013, 7:05 pm

    It seems some of the best legal minds and voices against torture and other war crimes, even Phillipe Sands, are not addressing these inherent tensions, preferring to speak out against the resulting war crimes instead of the root cause of the war crimes: and

  12. Nevada Ned
    January 30, 2013, 11:12 pm

    Suzanne Nossel was appointed to head of Amnesty USA after she had served in the US State Dept., running the operation that brought down Qaddafi in Libya. But before the 2009 State Department job?
    She has written for Dissent magazine. Here’s a sample…”The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran—bent on regional domination, aggressive toward Israel, and hostile to the United States—is as serious a threat as the United States has confronted in recent decades.”
    (Unfortunately the rest of Nossel’s articles in Dissent are behind a pay wall).
    Sound familiar?

    I wonder if Nossel used her articles in Dissent magazine (and also in Foreign Policy in 2004) to raise her public profile, in much the way way the Jeanne Kirkpatrick used an essay a generation ago (“Dictatorships and Double Standards”) in Commentary magazine to raise her profile.

Leave a Reply