Where Left and Right converge: Seumas Milne and Peter Hitchens on Ukraine and Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 1, 2014

Seumas Milne and Peter Hitchens: Two sides of the same coin.

Seumas Milne and Peter Hitchens: Two sides of the same coin.

It’s not exactly news that the Western far-Left and ultra-Right have more in common with each other than either has with the mainstream, but a case has now emerged twice of Seumas Milne—once described as “so Stalinist … he had snow on his boots“—and Peter Hitchens offering an apologia for the West’s enemies in such strikingly similar terms that it seemed worthy of attention.

Russia and Ukraine

In the Guardian today Milne has written up a comprehensive apologia for Vladimir Putin, explaining that the European Union and NATO are the aggressors in Ukraine. Putin took “a leaf out of the US street-protest playbook,” Milne writes, a reference to the conspiracy theory that the colour revolutions were really U.S. intelligence operations. The “role” of the Fascistic forces—whom Milne previously identified as the leaders of the protests against Viktor Yanukovych, displaying a recent-acquired sensitivity for Jewish human rights—are now said to be the mainstay of the new government but have been “airbrushed” by Western reporters. Milne maintains that the exposure of Russia’s agents in Ukraine is “false“. “The reality is that, after two decades of eastward Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west’s attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit and defence structure, via an explicitly anti-Moscow EU association agreement,” Milne writes. “Putin’s absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive“. Moreover, the crowds and paramilitaries orchestrated by the Kremlin in east Ukraine “ha[ve] strong social and democratic demands“. (Have to love that: so democratic they’ve stormed the parliament and independent television stations and murdered dissenting politicians. All in preparation for a free election, by Milne’s account.)

Now turn to Hitchens’ output on the Ukraine crisis. Hitchens has repeatedly written of a “post-modern putsch” by a “violent mob” that he rather oleaginously suggests was orchestrated by Western intelligence services (“it is interesting that so many people were able to stay on the square for so long, and were kept warm and fed throughout“). Intel services or not, “Russia’s actions were a *response* to aggression,” writes Hitchens, in this case the “EU’s postmodern, electronic cyber-aggression, which covertly used mobs to try to wrest Ukraine into its sphere of influence.” Hitchens has written often of the Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) and Svoboda (Freedom) parties and militias. Such forces were only ones who saw clearly the anti-Russian animus of the Maidan uprising; everyone else was “being used“.  On another occasion Hitchens actually wrote that the only acceptable outcome was for “the ‘Maidan’ occupation in Kiev to disperse, and for the Pravy Sektor squads to be disbanded, as a quid pro quo for the dispersal of the pro-Russians in Donetsk and elsewhere.” In short, Russia was quite legitimate in dismantling the Ukrainian State unless the government dismantled itself. There is also the broad hint that the only men under arms the Kiev government has are these Fascists. As mentioned above, Hitchens maintains that Russia’s military move into Ukraine is defensive against an aggressive E.U. attempt—encompassing a coup d’état—to detach the country from Moscow’s sphere-of-influence. In a long and detailed post, Hitchens gave the kind of apologia Putin’s Foreign Ministry must wish it could come up with. Yeltsin was worse than Putin; the “EU/NATO destruction” of Jugoslavija was responsible for the bloodshed in the Balkans, not Slobodan Milosevic’s mad (Russian-backed) scheme to pulverise and expel non-Orthodox inhabitants of Bosnia and Croatia; and the E.U.’s “bureaucratic, economic and legal invasion of Ukraine” is what provoked poor Vladimir Putin to meet them with “symmetrical” responses—the only difference being that while Brussels used 21st century means Moscow drew from a 19th century script.

It should be noted that the irony here is entirely at Milne’s—and those Leftists’ who support him—expense. Hitchens reactionary position is entirely consistent: Russia’s model of Christian conservatism and nationalism is much more to the taste of the ultra-Right that has now joined with the far-Left in its anti-Westernism, and especially anti-Americanism, seeing Washington as the leader of a secular, socially liberal revolutionary and globalist movement. That the Left feels drawn to making excuses for a regime that uses the blood-spattered Russian Orthodox Church as an official prop and has anti-homosexual demagogy and incitement as centre-pieces of its anti-Westernism only underlines the fact that for such people any anti-American will do. (When Milne makes excuses for the autocrats in Caracas he is on much more familiar territory. Hugo Chavez’s socialist authoritarianism is—was—very similar to that most long-standing Utopia: the Castro dictatorship in Cuba that doesn’t even pretend to hold elections a la Venezuela.)


The other case where Milne and Hitchens converged, almost exactly, came on August 27 last year, when it looked as if we were on the eve of military strikes to punish the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad for gassing 1,400 people to death in a morning—something, incidentally, Hitchens maintains Assad did not do.

Milne wrote that the U.N. inspectors are “struggling to investigate WMD claims while the US and its friends have already declared them ‘undeniable’,” and of the “wrong” WMD intelligence that led to the Iraq invasion. Hitchens wrote: “The rush to take action before those teams [in Syria] have reported is frighteningly reminiscent of the rush to attack Iraq, and the withdrawal of Hans Blix’s inspection teams from that country, which were of course on the point of discovering that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction.” (Actually those weapons systems were in stasis and could have been quickly reconstituted, but who’s counting now?) Milne wrote: “Once again they are planning to bypass the UN security council.” In making his case for blaming the rebels for East Ghouta, Hitchens wrote that the Assad regime wouldn’t gas the Syrian population—though it had done so at least fourteen previous times—because it would “remove the protection it has had up till now from the UN Security Council and the Russian-Chinese veto.” Milne wrote: “Once again, they are dressing up military action as humanitarian, while failing to win the support of their own people.” Hitchens wrote of the British Government “rush[ing] towards a war for which it knows it has no mandate“.

In ridiculing the idea that this is a humanitarian venture, Hitchens wrote of the “terrible mass killings by the Egyptian government,” and went on: “outrage cannot be selective and aimed at only one government … If it is selective, then it is false and has another purpose.” Milne—having low-balled the casualties from the Ghouta attack at 322, and high-ended the casualties from the crackdown in Egypt, quoting Robert Fisk—chose “this month’s massacres of anti-coup protesters in Egypt” as his counter-example against the idea of humanitarianism as a motivator, too.

Milne wrote of their being “no reliable evidence whatever has been produced to confirm even what chemical might have been used, let alone who delivered it.” He wrote of it being “hard to see a rational motivation” for the Syrian tyrant to do this given that his forces “have been gaining ground in recent months“. And concludes that the “rebel camp … clearly has an interest in that red line being crossed.” Hitchens wrote that “[t]here is no proof that [the Alawi rulers] are lying.” He wrote that since the “government has the upper hand in its civil war at present” it makes no sense for it to have done the one thing that will “open it to attack“. Indeed, it “makes far more sense” for the rebellion to have done this. Hitchens was a bit more direct in pressing this line: he wrote of wars “often begun on the basis of mistaken information, or indeed of lies,” sneeringly of British and American Governments “able to descry Syria’s [sic] guilt by some sort of magic process“. Milne hedged, writing that “even if it turns out that regime forces were responsible for Ghouta” a strike will not disarm the regime of its CWMD. Interestingly, one of the knock-about things Milne puts in his article to try to exculpate the Syrian tyrant is a factoid Hitchens had previously highlighted: that Ms. Carla Del Ponte—the classic instance of an incompetent promoted to get her out of the way—said in May there were “strong concrete suspicions” that the rebellion had used sarin.

Milne cretinously suggests that the West would force the rebellion into a “ceasefire and a negotiated political settlement” if it cared for civilian casualties, while Hitchens wrote: “If our concern is for the innocent, the launch of bombs and missiles is an odd way of showing it.” Tautology lurks here: how exactly is violence halted by peaceful measures. If Gandhi’s advice to the British on resisting Nazism had been followed the British population would have been severely reduced and dictatorship might prevail on these islands still.

Both Milne and Hitchens called for the British Parliament to vote against a resolution authorising military action, which it did on August 29, in one its most shameful moments. Both also made hysterical predictions of what would have happened if the United States had struck at the Bashar regime. Milne wrote: “The risk is that [Britain and America] will invite retaliation by Syria or its allies—including against Israel—draw the US in deeper and spread the conflict.” That has to be the first time Milne has worried about the safety of Israel. Hitchens wrote: “Violence generally results in retaliation, which in this case might take many unpredictable forms. Wars often begin with minor incidents … which then bleed without ceasing until they have spread a vast red stain on much of the surface of the Earth.”


That we are now nearer to World War Three—though still quite a way off, I here predict—because their advice was heeded and a petty tyrant and his Kremlin backers were spared seems to have occasioned no self-criticism. Indeed, as shown above, new and more shrill means of blaming the American-led West have been found.

2 thoughts on “Where Left and Right converge: Seumas Milne and Peter Hitchens on Ukraine and Syria

  1. Peter Hitchens

    I would advise all readers of this article to check what I have actually said with original sources, rather than accepting the author’s depiction of my positions.


    1. Kazemi

      Dear Mr. Hitchens — I think you are a disgrace to the legacy of your brother.

      There are indeed strong totalitarian parallels between the hard left and the hard right.

      And Assad did use Sarin gas, and the Ukrainians fought for a civil society and not because they were paid by the CIA.

      Syrian Intifada has gotten it correct.



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