According to a number of prominent journalists, he did indeed, and used to brag about it at cocktail parties. “He wasn’t there to report,” one journo who knew Milne back in the bad old days of Soviet stooging and third worldist terrorism, told me recently, adding that Milne was “so Stalinist, we used to say he had snow on his boots.”
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, founded by George Habash in 1967, was a Leninist terrorist organisation which, in Habash’s words, “held the ‘Guevara view’ of the ‘revolutionary human being’. A new breed of man had to emerge, among the Arabs as everywhere else. This meant applying everything in human power to the realization of a cause.” In the first decades of its existence, the PFLP were responsible for airline hijackings, the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket, bus bombings in Europe, airport shootings, and a synagogue bombing in Paris.
All of this would have struck young Milne as revolutionarily vogue. As Michael Mosbacher wrote in a recent issue of Standpoint:
One might forgive Milne’s youthful Stalinism if he had moved on — but the evidence suggests the reverse. In 2002 Martin Amis published Koba the Dread, on why a generation of Western intellectuals contrived to whitewash Stalin’s crimes. Milne’s response: “Amis’s book is in reality only the latest contribution to the rewriting of history that began in the dying days of the Soviet Union and has intensified since its collapse…the number of victims of Stalin’s terror has been progressively inflated over recent years.” What so appals Milne is that anyone might speak of Stalin in the same terms as Hitler. While he acknowledges that Stalin made mistakes and indeed that 799,455 people were executed between 1921 and 1953, these must be judged against Uncle Joe’s many achievements. His crimes are nothing, argues Milne, compared to those of European colonialism: “If Lenin and Stalin are regarded as having killed those who died of hunger in the famines of the 1920s and 1930s, then Churchill is certainly responsible for the four million deaths in the avoidable Bengal famine of 1943.”
Milne was so proud of his 2002 review that he repeated the same arguments, indeed repeated whole chunks word for word, in another Guardian piece in 2006. This time those he accused of distorting history were Jung Chang and Jon Halliday for their critically-acclaimed biography of Mao, and the Council of Europe for condemning the crimes of Communist regimes: “For all its brutalities and failures, Communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality.”
Milne’s columns are fixated with blaming the US and its subalterns the UK and Israel for all the ills of the world. Within two days of 9/11 he managed to condemn the US for bringing the attacks upon itself: “It has become painfully clear that most Americans simply don’t get it…any glimmer of recognition of why people might have been driven to carry out such atrocities, sacrificing their own lives in the process…seems almost entirely absent.”
Milne is on record here applauding the Afghan and Iraqi “resistance” (read: Al Qaeda, Sadrists and other jihadist mass murderers) for bloodying the nose of the US and UK:
Most recently, Milne warned that a US-Israeli war on Iran has already begun. He clearly takes Iran’s side, believing that EU and UK-imposed sanctions on the country for its ongoing work to build a nuclear bomb “triggered” the recent sacking of the UK embassy in Teheran (funny, I thought it was the IRGC that triggered such an attack). Milne also disbelieves that the mullahs are in fact seeking WMD:
There is in fact no reliable evidence that Iran is engaged in a nuclear weapons programme. The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report once again failed to produce a smoking gun, despite the best efforts of its new director general, Yukiya Amano – described in a WikiLeaks cable as “solidly in the US court on every strategic decision”.
In fact, the IAEA document shows that the Iranian regime has acquired “nuclear weapons development information and documentation from a clandestine nuclear supply network”, “nuclear related and dual use equipment and materials by military related individuals and entities”, and worked “on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components”.
Milne seems to think that a smoking gun will be a mushroom cloud, although that, too, may be subject to question (“Sources tell The Guardian that Israel has developed an superindustrial smoke production device which, when activated can feign the effect of….”).
Perhaps someone at The Guardian will inquire about their colleague’s history. Though my guess is, even if Milne copped to firing Kalashnikovs with Habash’s men in the late-70s, The Guardian would spin this as morally equivalent to Jonathan Freedland’s volunteering on a kibbutz during roughly the same period.
One man’s terrorist is another man’s associate editor.
Alec adds: say what you like about Richard Seymour… except calling him Lenin; mass-murdering tyrant Vladimir Ilyich may have been, at least he accomplished something with his life… he did not boast about actually meeting Habash et al.
The Guardian says:
I am contacting you from the Guardian’s legal department in relation to the article that you published on 13 December entitled: ‘Did The Guardian’s Seumas Milne spend his gap year training at a PFLP camp in Beirut?‘
The allegation that Seumas attended a terrorist training camp is entirely false and defamatory.
We would request that you remove this article from your website and run a correction as a matter of urgency.
That is definitive. If Seumas Milne says that he did not attend a PFLP camp in Beirut, the journalists who say that he “used to brag about” having done so must be wrong.
It is also heartening to hear that Seumas Milne believes it to be “defamatory” to assist the PFLP. I hope that his opposition to this “terrorist” movement will find expression in his journalism, in future.