October 13, 2009 | The Great Hall at Cooper Union | NYC
With Matthew Alexander, Jonathan Ames, K. Anthony Appiah, Paul Auster, Ishmael Beah, David Cole, Don DeLillo, Eve Ensler, Nell Freudenberger, Jenny Holzer, A.M. Homes, Jameel Jaffer, Susanna Moore, Jack Rice, George Saunders, Amrit Singh, and Art Spiegelman
Before the September 11 attacks, the United States condemned torture, protested secret tribunals, decried disappearances, and challenged secret and arbitrary detentions. This event presents evidence that details the sadistic treatment of detainees in the Bush administration's "War on Terror."
Writers and artists take the stage with lawyers, a former military interrogator, and a former CIA agent to read from texts that have brought these abuses to light. Interspersed between readings, never-before-seen video interviews with former Guantánamo detainees put a human face on the torture program. Artist Jenny Holzer's imagery incorporating U.S. government documetns provides a backdrop to the readings.
Collectively, these documents and testimonials make undeniably clear that prisoners were tortured, abused, and in some cases even killed in U.S. custody, and that those at the very highest levels of our government authorized, encouraged, or tolerated the mistreatment. The Obama administration has taken important steps toward ending the abuses, but the world is watching to see what comes next.
We can't sweep the abuses of the last eight years under the rug. Accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative. To restore the rule of law, we must condemn these violations of our Constitution, domestic and international law, and seek to hold accountable those who authorized the abuse and torture of prisoners in America's name.
The United States has some reckoning to do, and we invite you to start with the evidence.
PEN Members and friends read the award-winning work from PENs Prison Writing Program at Breakout: Voices from Inside, an installment of WNYCs signature series The NEXT New York Conversation. Donations and much-needed funds raised at the event enable the program to continue its most important mission into the future—helping incarcerated men and women to see themselves in a new way: as writers.
On the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, PEN honored the more than 40 writers and journalists imprisoned in China. Acclaimed authors came together to lend voice to the silence that threatens the lives and work of these writers. Presented below are audio recordings and photos from the event, as well as extended pieces from writers persecuted, banned, and imprisoned in China.
With: Edward Albee, Russell Banks, Chen Pokong, Chime Dolma, Philip Gourevitch, Jessica Hagedorn, Jianglin Li, Hari Kunzru, Rick Moody, Martha Southgate, and Francine Prose