Okay, so let’s see what we’ve got so far. Labour MP Tom Harris, citing his party’s new chief spokesman Seumas Milne‘s relativization of the coldblooded jihadist murder of Lee Rigby and celebration of Iraqi terrorists as freedom fighters, described him “contemptuous of traditional working class attitudes to Queen and country.” Michael Moynihan of the Daily Beast commented: “Wherever there’s an aggrieved terrorist or an undemocratic regime engaged in an existential struggle with the West, you can rely on Seumas Milne…to offer a full-throated, if slightly incoherent, defense.” Alex Massie, in the Spectator, noted that Milne’s oeuvre includes “defences of, or explanations and occasional justifications for, inter alia, Joe Stalin, Slobodan Milosevic, Iraqi Baathists attacking British troops, and much else besides.”
There’s more. Even Oliver Bullough, a firm Labourite and Corbyn supporter, considers Milne a bridge too far. A specialist in the former USSR, Bullough knows the region well. “And yet, when I read what Milne writes about it, I slip into a parallel universe.” Bullough cited Ukraine, where last year the people overthrew a Putin puppet, Viktor Yanukovich, whose palace garage was piled with treasures: “icons, carved ivory, Picasso ceramics, ancient books….He’d had nowhere to put them.” Bullough described the revolution as “pure people power: the street reclaiming democracy from a thuggish kleptocrat.” Whereupon the bully next door, Putin, moved in and annexed Crimea.
A good liberal, suggested Bullough, should have no trouble telling the good guys in this story from the bad ones.
And yet Milne’s response, he noted, was to serve up a full-throated defense of Vlad the Impaler. Describing Ukraine’s crisis as “a product of the disastrous Versailles-style break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s,” Milne slammd the Western alliance for pushing NATO “up to Russia’s borders.” Given such a provocation, argued Milne, who could blame Russia for acting “to stop the more strategically sensitive and neuralgic Ukraine falling decisively into the western camp”? Who, he demanded, could fail to see Putin’s Crimea annexation and his support for rebels in the eastern Ukraine as anything other than “defensive”?
Responding to this nonsense, Bullough pointed out Milne’s (characteristically) fast-and-loose approach to the facts: (a) the USSR’s dissolution, Milne to the contrary, wasn’t the result of outside coercion or some Versailles-like treaty; (b) since NATO founding member Norway borders on Russia, so has NATO since its inception; and (c) on what planet is invading a powerless, unthreatening neighbor “defensive”?
But Bullough wasn’t focused on these factual errors so much as on the things that, he said, really matter here – namely, the lives and hopes of people in Eastern Europe, which don’t appear to concern Milne at all. Those Eastern Europeans joined NATO of their own free will, in order to defend their freedom; to Milne, those people’s freedom – and their fervent interest in preserving it – are apparently invisible.
Why did a group of psychopaths attack a magazine and a supermarket in Paris? “Without the war waged by western powers, including France, to bring to heel and reoccupy the Arab and Muslim world, last week’s attacks clearly couldn’t have taken place.”
Why did Anders Breivik slaughter 77 people? “What is most striking is how closely he mirrors the ideas and fixations of transatlantic conservatives.”
Why did two maniacs in London decapitate an off-duty soldier? “They are the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others.”
Appalling. We’ll wrap this up tomorrow.