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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2010

AMBASSADOR WITH BAGGAGE

The Conservative-led British government is considering naming an atheist and halfhearted socialist who has justified terrorism as its next ambassador to the United States, according to a London newspaper with close ties to left-wing political circles.

David Miliband, the former foreign secretary who lost a bid to lead the Labor Party to his brother, Ed, could replace Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald, who is expected to retire next year after a career as a British diplomat, the Guardian newspaper reported Monday.

A spokesman forPrime Minister David Cameron, who heads a coalition government with the Liberal Democratic Party, denied the report, calling such speculation "complete nonsense."

Appointing a leftist like Mr. Miliband to represent a Conservative-led government in Washington might sound like a bizarre idea, but the Guardian notes a certain logic to the development. As foreign secretary under the previous Labor government, Mr. Miliband developed a close working relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and could fit in well with a U.S. administration run by a liberal president, the newspaper said.

"It has been pointed out inside the Cabinet that Miliband has forged strong personal relations with [Mrs. Clinton] and would be a voice trusted by the Obama administration," the Guardian said, referring to sources among Mr. Cameron's policy advisers.

Citing former Labor government sources, the Guardian added that Mr. Miliband is "wary" of accepting a diplomatic position because he might be little more "than a message-carrier from the British government to the U.S."

Mr. Miliband, 45, is the son of Polish Jewish immigrants but has described himself as an atheist. His father was the late Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband, but he has expressed lukewarm support for socialism.

At a candidates' forum in the Labor Party leadership race in June, Mr. Miliband said, "It says on the Labor party card that we are a democratic socialist party, and I am happy to subscribe to that." His brother, Ed Miliband, proudly described himself as a socialist at the same forum. Ed Miliband won the leadership election with 50.65 percent of the vote to his brother's 49.35 percent.

David Miliband's most controversial comments were his justification for terrorism by the armed wing of the African National Congress in its fight against apartheid in South Africa. Umkhonto we Sizwe, or "Spear of the Nation," frequently killed civilians in its bombing campaign in the 1980s.

In an August 2009 interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation's Radio Four, Mr. Miliband was asked if terrorism is ever justified.

"Yes, there are circumstances in which it is justifiable, and, yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective," he said.

POLITICAL PRISONER

Congressional human rights advocates denounced Russia for convicting a prominent government critic of embezzlement and money laundering, calling the Mikhail Khodorkovsky a "political prisoner."

"Mr. Khodorkovsky remains a victim of a judicial system that has failed to put the rule of law before political whims," said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

His co-chairman, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, added that the conviction "means that Khodorkovsky will continue to be a political prisoner of the Kremlin, and his case further taints Russia's human rights record."

Khodorkovsky was already serving an eight-year sentence on a tax-fraud conviction when a judge in Moscow handed down the new sentence on Monday. Khodorkovsky, former head of the Russian oil firm, Yukos, ran into legal trouble after politically opposing then-President Vladimir Putin, who is now prime minister.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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