Chris Hedges: Why I Resigned from PEN

Updated : Sep 10, 2019 in Articles

Chris Hedges: Why I Resigned from PEN

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network.
I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. In May, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist
Chris Hedges was supposed to be speaking at an event for PEN. Instead, he told them he
would not be speaking there and actually resigned from the organization. Now joining us to talk about why he took these
steps is Chris Hedges. As I said, he’s a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He’s a senior fellow
at The Nation. He was, previously to that, bureau chief of The New York Times in the
Middle East. He’s also author of a New York Times bestseller, Days of Destruction, Days
of Revolt. Thanks very much for joining us, Chris. CHRIS HEDGES: Thank you, Paul. JAY: So what happened? HEDGES: Well, it was over the appointment
of a former State Department official named Suzanne Nossel, who had been one of the most
fervent cheerleaders for the Iraq War, indeed had written in support of the war in Foreign
Affairs, had embraced the administration’s policy, whether that’s drone attacks, the
assassination of U.S. citizens, the curtailment of civil liberties, had not spoken out against
torture. She had left the State Department. She had worked for Hillary Clinton and then
gone on to Amnesty International, where she used the resources of Amnesty International
to mount a campaign in support of NATO’s continued occupation of Afghanistan. She held a kind
of a shadow summit when NATO met in Chicago, and invited Madeleine Albright with a bunch
of other former officials to speak, and locked out antiwar dissidents like Colonel Ann Wright,
Coleen Rowley, and others. And then she moves on to PEN. And PEN is a
global organization like Amnesty International that purports to speak on behalf of dissidents.
PEN has refused to raise their voice against the draconian incarceration methods used against
Bradley Manning. Indeed, they don’t even mention Bradley Manning. And that was just, for me, too much. I couldn’t
be part of this festival in May, nor finally could I continue as a member of PEN if they
were going to appoint somebody who in my mind has amply demonstrated utter disdain for all
the core values that a group like PEN says it defends. JAY: And was there a fight in PEN about her
appointment? HEDGES: I’m not in the, you know, upper echelon
of PEN to be able to answer that. One would hope there was. This was a long track record
of and embrace of preemptive war, which of course under international law is illegal,
and utter failure to speak out on behalf of the oppressed, including on the Palestinians.
She’s been nothing but a cheerleader for the right-wing Israeli onslaught against the Palestinians.
But I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe the board is that checked out that there wasn’t
a fight. JAY: Talk a little bit about what this ideology
is. And what I mean by that, and some people call it humanitarian imperialism, but this
whole outlook that it’s almost like any means is okay if you get to some theoretical end,
which is supposedly democracy, although I’m not sure where they would point to where such
means ever led to that end. But they seem to believe it. HEDGES: Well, it’s the white man’s burden.
You know, it comes with a healthy or a hefty dose of racism, a belief that we can impose
our values, which are of course deemed to be superior to the values of all other cultures,
by using the 101st Airborne to cement those values in place. I mean, I speak as somebody
who spent 20 years as a war correspondent. And the whole idea that you can begin to even
use the word human rights when you are employing the kinds of weapons systems–and I think
if you haven’t been around these weapons systems, it’s very hard to convey the utterly destructive
power. I mean, Hellfire missiles not only throw out fragments that kill, you know, everyone
in a radius upwards of half a mile, but they suck the oxygen out of the air. I mean, oftentimes
people are just–there’s no actual marks on their body. They’ve suffocated to death. And
cruise missiles, 90 millimeter tank rounds, I mean, these are massive ordinances. And
at that point, you know, you can’t use industrial military power to impose human rights. And
Afghanistan and Iraq are perfect examples of that. But this kind of beknighted imperialism, that’s
not particularly new. King Leopold did it in the Congo. You know, we have done it around
the globe in the name of democracy and freedom and liberty, all these abstract terms that
when you’re actually on the ground in places like El Salvador, Nicaragua–I covered both
of those wars–it’s absurd if not finally obscene. And she’s part of this long tradition, believes
that we have a right to use our overwhelming military force to occupy, control, invade
other countries in the name of our values. And as someone, of course, who’s spent many
years, two decades, on the outer regions of empire, you know, Conrad got it in Heart of
Darkness: it’s the horror, the horror. These people do not want to be occupied. This–you
know, Muslims in the Middle East do not want to be occupied, and they are resisting that
occupation. And the methods by which that occupation is cemented into place and that
resistance is crushed are extremely brutal and violent and cruel and unjust. And she
offers a kind of moral veneer for, in my mind, you know, a deeply immoral project. And the
idea–I mean, she has no right or no business running any human rights organization. [crosstalk]
into these organizations is just a sign of how corrosive this neoliberal ideology has
become. JAY: What reaction have you had from PEN? HEDGES: They haven’t reacted. I don’t think
they’ll lose too much sleep over my resignation. JAY: They seem to have someone who agrees
more or less with this outlook sitting as president of the United States right now.
He seems to have made several appointments of people who share this kind of outlook,
Susan Rice and others. Do you see any distinction between what this new PEN leader thinks with
the leader of America? HEDGES: No. She’s completely in lockstep with
this entire project. And that’s why she was working for the administration. And again
it’s this kind of odd revolving door. I mean, we see it in the military and the quote-unquote
defense industry. But now we’re seeing it from government officials, who push through
these policies and refuse to stand up against or to protect the most basic of human rights,
including right to trial, freedom from torture, moving into human rights organizations, the
hijacking of human rights organizations to promote imperial projects. And, again, that’s
not new. The misuse of humanitarian agencies is not new. But what’s disturbing is that
these people are now–are running them. JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Chris. HEDGES: Thank you. JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real
News Network.


  • good on him if we all had his guts the banksters would all be out on the curb already.
    ps well worth donating for Real News thx for the great work guys

  • Good for you Chris Hedges for calling out an "agent provocateur" and for setting an example for the rest of us for standing on principle! You have the moral high ground and the power to transform. Keep it coming! More and more people are beginning to understand what you have been saying in your books. And thanks to The Real News for bringing this newsworthy story to the public's attention.

  • what "PEN" exactly ?
    PEN international? USA? English PEN Centre ?
    that's where a link or two, would be very-nice-to-have

  • Chris Hedges always has a way of putting global issues in terms of common sense so every one can and should have a clear understanding of what is truly going on. I have a great deal of respect for this man. We could use more journalist like him, for sure.

  • This issue further confirms my believe that charities are simply other types of corporations catering for the sentimental pangs of conscience of comfortable brainwashed Western consumers.

  • This the inevitable consequence of organizing institutions in a hierachy. The ladder climbers are increasingly pro-establishment the further up the structure you go.

  • Here are a few acronyms for PEN:
    Peruvian Nuevo Sol (Currency)
    Public Education Network
    Poder Ejecutivo Nacional (Argentina)
    olyethylene Naphthalate (electrical insulation material)
    Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
    Partido Encuentro Nacional (Paraguay)
    Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists
    Personal Education Number
    Pennsylvania Environmental Network
    Etc. Etc. there are many more.
    Does anyone know which PEN this story refers to?

  • While economics wise I may not agree with Chris, he is a good principled man, and in these times we desperately need far more of those. This man is definitely a hero.

  • "Human rights" organizations and NGO's are a farce and a joke too. They too are tools for imperialism and neo-liberal capitalism. Nothing but fakes and frauds with all their do-gooder, pious and moralistic posturing and pretensions.

  • good to see one of the numerous neocon corporatist satellites orbiting both parties. Time for a real 3rd choice in American politics.

  • Thank you. Acronyms are be really annoying when they are not spelled out at least once in an article. I once came across a list put out on a British educational website, and the only acronym they didn't spell out was their own.

  • Chris Hedges is a man of principle and integrity.

    I applaud his move and am grateful for his public resignation from the organization that brought awareness to the hypocrisy present in these NGO's.

  • Liked and added to a few of my playlists. Looking up Suzanne Nossel at Wikipedia, I can only agree with Chris Hedges surely being right.

  • But you speak of PEN International, which has different groups, apparently many. The one that Chris Hedges is specifically speaking about evidently seems to be PEN American Center, the largest group in the US and based in NY. US also has another PEN group based in L.A. According to the Wikipedia page about Nossel, she was appointed Exec. Director of PEN American Center on 16 Jan 2013.

  • I forgot to mention is that Wikipedia has pages for both PEN International and PEN American Center. The former has links for the latter group and others, and also provides historical info. It means basically nothing to/for me. I hadn't heard of this org. until listening to this video with Hedges. But the PEN Intl Wikipedia page mentions a few names of notable historical members I think to have sometimes seen before, and one is Harold Pinter, who I think to recall has a good reputation.

  • Thank you, once again. Its pretty clear that its about writers and literary people, but quite confusing as to the various branches. Never mind, so many things are, these days.

  • It's a bit confusing and am not going to bother with it more. I don't recall having ever heard or read of the organization until now, so while it may be important to some people, learning morer about it isn't going to do me much good. It's interesting to have Chris Hedges speak out about it and to learn a little about it, but ….
    We already know well enough that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded and refused to some meritorious people, and then awarded to plenty of extreme criminals.

  • I am so sorry you felt the need to write to me after leaving a 'comment" for this video. you are a troll

  • But Imperialism and Colonialism has always presented a veneer or respectability.
    Go back to British Colonialism, from which te USA got it's ideas from.
    This has been the basis for war and destruction for hundreds of years.

  • I do not want to stand with any organization that pushes for war, and agrees with what is being done to the Palestinian's by the Israeli's. We should all contact PEN and give them a piece of our minds about their support for a person who supports war. PEN probably succumbed to all of the bribes, and decided that if you cannot beat them, better join them.

  • To quote Chris himself: "You are very rarely and I would say almost never rewarded for virtue, for acts of moral conscience. Indeed most often, you are pushed aside, ridiculed, belittled."
    I would be satisfied already if people stopped treating those who posses integrity like shit.

  • Phillip Ruddock was foreign minister of Australia when Australia went into Iraq and was involved in the Children Overboard affair (which falsely demonized refugees).

    He was a proud member of Amnesty International and wore his Amnesty pin everywhere he went. Amnesty publicly kicked him out.

  • They're 120mm tank rounds Chris. I also don't see Hellfires sucking that much oxygen out of the surrounding air unless they're the thermobaric variety. In that case, I'd guess the deaths were due to overpressure instead of suffocation. Dead is dead, though.

  • After 10 years the Republic of Iraq is now a failed state just like Afghanistan. Iraq under Saddam Hussein was dictatorial but not as corrupt and failed as it is today. But for western imperialists they job was gone. The Iraqi economy is now privatized and all wealth belongs to western oil companies and Iraqi state bureaucrats. Democracy is just a tool just by the Iraqi government in the same way Saddam used Arab-socialism as a tool.

  • I condemned International PEN for keeping Margaret Atwood in it's membership after she cynically went to Israel to collect a 12 million dollar prize. Thousands of Canadians wrote to her imploring her not to go, thereby giving Israel the stamp of respectability and insulting the Palestinian people. I was shocked by her high-handed dismissal of these letters. She seemed to be completely unaware of what was happening in Palestine. I lost all respect for her. She never replied to my letter.

  • i like how you show websites to cite what he is saying. it would be awesome if you could provide those links in description.

  • PEN and Amnesty International might have been geunine when they were formed. But give them some time and they will be infiltrated by corporate donors, international bankers and of course..INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES. Every notice people like Nossel in an organization? If you find one, you found the mole. Thank you Chris Hedges for remaining loyal to your values. You are bastion of moral and ethical values in a sea of slick, scumbaggin little paycheckers like this Nossel quack.

  • LOL. Does anyone smell a Zionist piece of shit? I do. LMFAO. This is the fucking trash minded scum that now rule the world. So much fun ahead for all of us.

  • Well Atwood is another member of the Zionist cabal. Jewish "professionalism" in the 20th century was a key factor in Zionist cheerleading throughout the 20th century. There are plenty of great feminist authors, but Atwood gets the limelight. It's no mistake either. She's a humanitarian when it comes to women, just not Palestinian women. Another well paid propagandist for the Rothschilds. People need to smarten up about this..the protestants did it too.

  • And of course…you wonder why there are so many heinous and obnoxious comments on Hedges for not liking Nossel…She's Jewish so every sockpuppet that loves Zionism is on here shouting obscenities and acting like wild animals. Of course, Hedges never mentions anything about it, but Nossel is a Zionist and no one says a word because she is under the guardianship of the Rothschilds. That's why she's on PEN. She is there to co-opt peace movements for uber wealthy international banking classes.

  • I lost respect for Amnesty Intl. when they let Aung San Suu Kyi speak last year while the genocide against the Rohingya was starting.

  • I have been a big fan of Mr. Hedges' wrtten works going back to "War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning". I agree with his assessment of the current American and global predicament. BUT!…when speaking to the media PLEASE drop all of the "uhms". I didn't count but I wouldn't be surprised if it reached 1,000 "uhms". This is a basic communication imperative. The more "uhms", the less people will put confidence in what your'e saying.

  • Agreed. Big money co-opted it. They need to be stopped. The Zionists have taken these organizations over and they have installed their agents as leaders. The Rothschilds and their agents–Suzanne Nossel–are all installed into leadership positions. It's no fucking joke.

  • Why has some of the audio been censored during playback sometimes? Playback keeps going silent on me

  • I recall her leadership of Amnesty International and the poster campaign she instigated in favour of bombing Libya. I resigned from Amnesty International at that point and will not be rejoining. Nossel is a warmonger…that was evident to me, but not to Amnesty International apparently!

  • Your being a little over-critical, Ive listened to many of his speeches and in none nor even in this one have I noticed his over-use of "um." Im sure he obviously does say it often because you wouldn't hav said this if he wasn't doing so, but I didnt notice it at all til I just read your comment. In fact I have always thot he was a fluid public speaker and extremely well versed in getting his point across with the utmost intelligence.

  • I've never believed in that if some1 uses the words "um" or "like" often, that people will think they'r lying or stupid. I know there's a public speaking profession that's grown into its own industry that do constant studying and polling to determine what words evoke certain responses and so on. But usually what Ive found is that overall this is all based on fact, but I think it has many exceptions-it doesn't take into account the listeners level of understanding of the topic being talked about.

  • I see your point. I guess I've just been influenced by the way I was brutally critiqued when I was in Army OCS when I said "uhhm" while giving a briefing. I was told "you keep saying uhhm and your audience (in my case my subordinates) will have no confidence in what you're are saying!" It doesn't matter that I was correct in what I was saying but was I persuading those listening to me. Anyway, its a petty thing I know. I still respect Hedges and his work.

  • Complex ideas and ideation require some pauses sometimes….Please understand to define and explain these complex systems and relationships is almost a Herculean task. I have often heard that Prof Chomsky reads several newspapers a day….and I would offer that Mr. Hedges is most likely in the same league. I wouldn't be so critical if I were you. I do public speaking for a living too….and while I don't say Uh, or um…..I am not developing intensely difficult cognitive functions either.

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