It's perfectly defensible to oppose any kind of military intervention (or assitance) in Libya's civil war and wonder at how such an intervention might skew the odds of that increasingly bloody conflict or sink the perception of the United States and Great Britain by Arab peoples to even lower depths than they are at present. But a sensitive reader will wish to parse the following observation:
‘The embattled US-backed Yemeni president Ali Abdallah Saleh claimed on Tuesday that the region-wide protest movement was “managed by Tel Aviv and under the supervision of Washington”. That is easily dismissed as a hallucinogenic fantasy now. It would seem less so if the US and Britain were arming the Libyan opposition. The Arab revolution will be made by Arabs, or it won’t be a revolution at all.’
So writes Seumas Milne in today's print edition of The Guardian, prompting the obvious head-scratcher: How would interpreting an actual Anglo-American intervention as some kind of underhanded Israeli plot not be just as easily dismissed as a hallucinogenic fantasy?
To even ask that question is not to know Seumas Milne, a man who, despite the silly-old-bear connotations of his surname, is one reason why The Guardian's journalistic credibility today vacillates between that of The New York Times and that of The National Enquirer.
Milne, you see, was formerly the "Business Manager" of Straight Left, a magazine published by the least repentant faction of the British Communist Party that were also known as the "tankies" because of their full-throated support of the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. (Some invasions are better than others, evidently: Milne today rails against the "occupation" of Afghanistan by multinational forces fighting the Taliban.)
Broadly, he represents that curious hybrid ideology that sides instinctively with the Rest over the West. More pronounced in Britain than it is in the States (at least thus far), this orientation tends to runs from Stalin to Saladin, depending on the mood and audience, and is most clownishly embodied by the former British MP George Galloway. (It was at a London restaurant that Milne, Galloway and Andrew Murray contrived to founded the RESPECT Party which sought to fuse Socialist Workers Party ideologues with Islamists, a marriage that culiminated in a hilariously bitter divorce.) Milne has done his fair share of totalitarian stooging, too. He's defended the Sunni "resistance" in Iraq (read: mosque bombers and head-loppers) as well as the economic and educational "successes" of Soviet and Hungarian communism when he was comment editor of The Guardian (he's now associate editor).
Most recently, Milne was one of two Guardian wranglers of the so-called "Palestine Papers," a tranche of leaked emails and meeting minutes from ten years of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Presented as a bombshell by The Guardian (did you know that the Right of Return isn't seen as inevitable by senior Palestinian officials and that some settlements will likely stay in the Israeli demesne in exchange for land swaps elsewhere?), the Palestine Papers were downplayed by more serious and responsible left-wing journalists such as Donald Macinytre of The Independent who didn't find much newsworthy value to them. Yet The Guardian's editorial agenda, as set by Milne, was clear enough: these papers were to be used as an hysterical brief for bolstering Hamas at the expense of the comparatively moderate Palestinian Authority. This is why, on day two of its coverage, The Guardian ran an op-ed by Osama Hamdan, a Hamas spokesperson (also a vocal fan of exploding buses in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem), who called for "practical measures" in light of the papers' disclosures. What kind of practical measures, he didn't elaborate and no Guardian editor bothered to inquire of him. That task was given over to English academic Ted Honderich whose letter to the editor the newspaper also saw fit to publish even though it read, "Palestinians have a moral right to their terrorism within historic Palestine against neo-Zionism."
No wonder that Milne was invited to speak at a conference on the Palestine Papers organized by the Middle East Monitor (MEMO). This adorable little web project is maintained by a well-known Hamas sympathizer Dr. Daud Abdullah, who in 2009 signed the so-called the Istanbul Declaration which stated that the "Islamic Nation" had a duty to attack all foreign warships -- including, presumably, British ones -- that tried to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza. MEMO has also happily published Dr. Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas spokesperson in Britain and yet another advocate of suicide bombing. Their conference was chaired by Lord Andrew Phillips, who said:
‘Everything that I’m hearing from platform speakers makes me think that the world we are now moving into has been turned upside down and that the Jews aren’t lacking in intelligence, they may be deeply prejudiced, many of them, but they are going to be saying the same sort of things you on the panel are.’
In the event, Milne didn't speak at the MEMO conference, citing illness. However, he did turn up as a member of the audience where, if he disagreed with any of what his wouldbe fellow panellists said, he didn't object to it publicly by asking any tough questions or by bothering to critically report on the conference in the pages of The Guardian.
It's becoming increasingly difficult these days to determine where the al-Qassam Brigade's unifying theory of world affairs ends and the Guardian's editorial line begins. This may be attributable a variety of causes including the cash-hemorraghing nature of journalism, changing British demographics, and the "radical winds" blowing in the Middle East that turn into smelly little zephyrs by the time they reach Europe. But not least among the causes is an easily fixed problem with personnel.