Suzanne Nossel Executive Director of Amnesty International USA

September 30, 2012

Human Rights Investigations

Suzanne Nossel was appointed Executive Director of Amnesty International USA in January 2012. This is from her blurb on the Amnesty USA site:

Most recently, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations at the U.S. Department of State, where she was responsible for multilateral human rights, humanitarian affairs, women’s issues, public diplomacy, press and Congressional relations. At the State Department, Nossel played a leading role in U.S. engagement at the U.N. Human Rights Council, including the initiation of groundbreaking human rights resolutions on Iran, Syria, Libya, Cote d’Ivoire, freedom of association, freedom of expression and the first U.N. resolution on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Prior to that, Nossel served as Chief Operating Officer for Human

Suzanne Nossel

Rights Watch, where she was responsible for organizational management and spearheaded a strategic plan for the global expansion of the organization. During the Clinton administration she served as deputy to the Ambassador for U.N. Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where she was the lead U.S. representative to the U.N. General Assembly negotiating a deal to settle the U.S. arrears to the world body. During the early 1990s Nossel worked in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the implementation of South Africa’s National Peace Accord, a multi-party agreement aimed at curbing political violence during that country’s transition to democracy; she has also done election monitoring and human rights documentation in Bosnia and Kosovo. Nossel is the author of a 2004 article in Foreign Affairs magazine entitled “Smart Power” and coined the term that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made a defining feature of U.S. foreign policy.

Fundamental to understanding the thinking behind the new leadership at Amnesty International is an understanding of how Nossel conceives ‘Smart Power’ and her understanding of US foreign policy.

In her 2004 article Nossel states:

The Bush administration has hijacked a once-proud progressive doctrine–liberal internationalism–to justify muscle-flexing militarism and arrogant unilateralism. Progressives must reclaim the legacy of Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy with a foreign policy that will both bolster U.S. power and unite the world behind it.

So before having a closer look at what Nossel means by ‘Smart Power’, lets look have a quick look at Nossel’s heroes’ foreign policies.

It was President Wilson who took the US into the First World War and who, despite his splendid internationalist rhetoric, imposed the humiliating Versailles Settlement on Germany, a major factor in the rise of authoritarianism and eventually the Nazi Party. This was a man whose racism is evident from his writing:

“Self-preservation [forced whites] to rid themselves, by fair means or foul, of the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes.”

It was under Roosevelt’s watch that the USAF participated in the firebombings of Dresden and other German cities which resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians, refugees, innocent women and children.

FDR (and Truman) were also responsible for Operation Keelhaul under which Soviet POWs and refugees were returned to face internment, torture and in many case immediate execution by firing squads.

It was President Truman, another of Nossel’s heroes, who ordered the annihilation of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki via experimental terror weapons resulting in the massacre and maiming of some 200,000 Japanese women, children and old people.

He also took the United States to war against North Korea without consulting congress.

It was President Truman who participated in the McCarthy era witch hunts against American communists calling them “traitors.”

It was President Truman who set forth the Truman Doctrine in order to justify intervening in Greece on the side of the forces of the right against the anti-Nazi partisans saying:

At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one.
One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.
The second way of life is based upon the will of the minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression of controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.
I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

In the campaign against the Greek leftists, President Truman authorised the first use of napalm in warfare using ten spitfires and 200 German-made drop tanks.

The Truman Doctrine was of course a cloak for American imperialism and provided the theoretical justification for the support of repressive regimes, military dictatorships and terrorist gangs the world over.

President John F Kennedy saw Vietnam as an opportunity forth USA to show its “smart power” and by the time he was assassinated 6,000 US military were in the country (up from 900). It was this hero of Nossel who instituted the notorious program (Operation Ranch Hand) using chemical defoliants on the Vietnamese jungle and on farmers’ crops.

It was also Kennedy who on November 30, 1961 authorised aggressive covert operations against the communist government of Fidel Castro known as Operation Mongoose. Operation Mongoose was a secret program of terrorism against Cuba the ultimate objective of which was to be able to provide adequate justification for a US military intervention in Cuba.

Under President Kennedy, Operation Northwoods was formulated by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lyman Lemnitzer. This operation has been described by James Banford:

Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war

Apparently Kennedy didn’t care for this scheme nor Lemnitzer’s other suggestion which was for the launch of a surprise nuclear war on the Soviet Union. He was so disgusted with him, in fact, that he subsequently appointed him NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

What is smart power?

Suzanne Nossel succinctly explained what she means by smart power in an interview on the Council of Foreign Affairs web site:

I talked about smart power in terms of a couple of different dimensions.

One is combining both hard power, military force, coercion with what has been called soft power; diplomacy, the appeal of American culture, its people, economic ties, and viewing those two elements not as alternatives in an either/or sense but rather as complimentary and elements of US power that need to be brought to bear in concert.

A second key piece is knowing which of these elements to bring to bear at what time and being creative and innovative in terms of combining different sources of US power to influence the situation. So kind of wisely choosing between a wide array of different tools.

And the third piece I talked about was the idea that the use of American power needs to be sustainable and renewable. We need to deploy our power in ways that make us stronger, not weaker.

Just to reiterate, the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA believes that the USA needs to use military force and diplomacy, in concert, in order to make American power stronger.

Lets look at some other aspects of Nossel’s published writings so that we have an even clearer idea of where she is taking the organisation.

Defense of Israel

On her work at the UN Human Rights Council, Nossel has said:

IDF soldier holds a Palestinian child as her mother is arrested and driven off for protesting against the theft of the village well by illegal settlers on the West Bank.

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.

Just to be clear, the Head of Amnesty International USA pledges to defend Israel and the settlers against complaints at the Human Rights Council regarding Palestinian human rights, the ongoing occupation and theft of Palestinian land. Hillel in the above quote is Hillel Neuer of UN Watch whom Nossel describes as a “colleague” and who played a role in setting up the Libyan intervention as well as defending zionist interests at the UN.

Preemptive war against Iran

Suzanne Nossel has been seeking to justify a pre-emptive war against Iran since at least January 2006:

So if, in a debate in Spring of 2006 let’s say, the UNSC opts against quarantining Iranian oil, if Tehran’s nuclear program is proceeding apace, peaceful means should be considered exhausted even if the SC members claim willingness to revisit the question of broader sanctions at a later time.

American Exceptionalism

For Suzanne Nossel, Americans and Israelis count, Iraqis and Arabs are not worthy of mention. This is what she wrote in the Washington Monthly in 2006 comparing the Israeli attack on Lebanon and the American attack on Iraq:

“Whereas 157 Israelis were killed in a month-long operation, the Iraq war has lasted three and a half years and resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths at a cost of hundreds of billions.”

Iraq War

In 2003 Nossel fully supported the invasion of Iraq albeit she wanted a delay to allow the US to get more international support in the UN.

As Head of Amnesty International

Given that Suzanne Nossel is an advocate for war, particularly against Israel’s enemies, and a firm believer in NATO and US power, what has this meant for Amnesty in the last few months?

Well not surprisingly Nossel has used her platform as Executive Director to focus on the State Department’s current main concerns which are Syria and Iran as well as China and Russia, who through their membership of the UN Security Council and insistence on the principles of national sovereignty and non-aggression towards other member states constitute obstacles to US foreign policy.

Pro-NATO campaigns

Amnesty Billboard. “NATO: Keep the Progress Going”

She has also sought to mobilise Amnesty members behind NATO objectives in Afghanistan by presenting the NATO mission there as one of liberating women.

During the recent NATO Summit in Chicago she invited Madeleine Albright to speak on women’s rights at the Amnesty Shadow Summit held in the four-diamond luxury Swissotel in Chicago.

Madeleine Albright is an excellent representative of liberal intervention in the tradition of Nossel’s presidential heroes: a kind of interventionism for which the believers, in the name of “human rights, democracy and freedom” are prepared to deceive their own people, commit human rights abuses, devastate nations and commit murder up to and including infanticide. Albright was asked by Lesley Stahl about U.S. sanctions against Iraq:

We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:

I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

–60 Minutes (5/12/96)

State Department and Amnesty International roles confused

Nossel seems to completely fail to understand that her role as Amnesty International Executive Director means she should be seen as independent of the US State Department. A good example of this is in her May 2012 Council on Foreign Relations article on the various machinations at the UN Human Rights Council to get US foreign policy objectives met.

Most likely Nossel actually sees little distinction between her two roles, just as she sees no conflict between her current role and having been a member of the executive staff whilst her President and Secretary of State bosses were carrying out war crimes such as drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan and shielding torturers and their enablers in the Bush administration from prosecution.

The future for Amnesty International

Given the above, it is clear that the appointment of Suzanne Nossel represents the capture of Amnesty International USA by those whose primary interest is the extension of American power by all means, including military. The lady has instituted a purge of the organisation and it remains to be seen if AI members fight back to retake their organisation, if a new organisation will rise up to take the place of AI USA or if the activities of genuine human rights activists will be dissipated throughout a number of smaller organisations closer to the original ideals of Amnesty.

What is sure is that with Suzanne Nossel in place, this once noble institution has lost its credibility as an independent organisation and instead become a propaganda vehicle for the State Department and for NATO military intervention in strategic areas around the globe.


Human Rights Investigations (HRI) believes genuine human rights organisations should refuse to be used by powerful and wealthy governments to justify waging war or imposing sanctions which harm civilians and children.

At HRI we reject U.S.-NATO governments’ national interest agendas and reliance on military force. The world’s greatest problems, and in particular the massive inequalities in wealth and power between the rich and poor, are only exacerbated by war and can only be solved by smart, ethical action based on solidarity with the poor, powerless and oppressed.


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