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The depopulation of the Chagos Islands, 1965-73

By Mark Curtis – February 12, 2007

An edited extract from Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World

During the decolonisation process in the 1960s Britain created a new colony – the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). This included the Chagos island group which was detached from Mauritius, and other islands detached from the Seychelles. Mauritius had been granted independence by Britain in 1965 on the barely concealed condition that London be allowed to buy the Chagos island group from it – Britain gave Mauritius £3m. “The object of the exercise was to get some rocks which will remain ours”, the Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, its chief civil servant, said in a secret file of 1966. The Colonial Office similarly noted that the “prime object of BIOT exercise was that the islands… hived off into the new territory should be under the greatest possible degree of UK control [sic]”.

In December 1966 the Wilson government signed a military agreement with the US leasing the BIOT to it for military purposes for fifty years with the option of a further twenty years. Britain thus ignored UN Resolution 2066XX passed by the General Assembly in December 1965 which called on the UK “to take no action which would dismember the territory of Mauritius and to violate its territorial integrity”. Higher matters were at stake: Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos group, was well situated as a military base. Britain allowed the US to build up Diego Garcia as a nuclear base and as the launch pad for intervention in the Middle East, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq. Diego Garcia’s role “has become increasingly important over the last decade in supporting peace and stability in the region”, a Foreign Office spokesman managed to say with a straight face in 1997.

To militarise Diego Garcia, Britain removed the 1,500 indigenous inhabitants of the Chagos islands – “the compulsory and unlawful removal of a small and unique population, Citizens of the UK and Colonies, from islands that had formed their home, and also the home of the parents, grand-parents and very possibly earlier ancestors”, as the Chagossians’ defence lawyers put it. The islanders were to be “evacuated as and when defence interests require this”, against which there should be “no insurmountable obstacle”, the Foreign Office had noted.

The Chagossians were removed from Diego Garcia by 1971 and from the outlying islands of Salomen and Peros Banhos by 1973. The secret files show that the US wanted Diego Garcia to be cleared “to reduce to a minimum the possibilities of trouble between their forces and any ‘natives’”. This removal of the population “was made virtually a condition of the agreement when we negotiated it in 1965”, in the words of one British official. Foreign Office officials recognised that they were open to “charges of dishonesty” and needed to “minimise adverse reaction” to US plans to establish the base. In secret, they referred to plans to “cook the books” and “old fashioned” concerns about “whopping fibs”.

The Chagossians were described by a Foreign Office official in a secret file: “unfortunately along with birds go some few Tarzans or man Fridays whose origins are obscure”. Another official wrote, referring to a UN body on women’s issues: “There will be no indigenous population except seagulls who have not yet got a committee (the status of women committee does not cover the rights of birds)”. According to the Foreign Office, “these people have little aptitude for anything other than growing coconuts”. The Governor of the Seychelles noted that it was “important to remember what type of people” the islanders are: “extremely unsophisticated, illiterate, untrainable and unsuitable for any work other than the simplest labour tasks of a copra plantation”.

Contrary to the racist indifference of British planners, the Chagossians had constructed a well-functioning society on the islands by the mid-1960s. They earned their living by fishing, and rearing their own vegetables and poultry. Copra industry had been developed. The society was matriarchal, with Illois women having the major say over the bringing up of the children. The main religion was Roman Catholic and by the first world war the Illois had developed a distinct culture and identity together with a specific variation of the Creole language. There was a small hospital and a school. Life on the Chagos islands was certainly hard, but also settled. By the 1960s the community was enjoying a period of prosperity with the copra industry thriving as never before. The islanders were also exporting guano, used for phosphate, and there was talk of developing the tourist industry.

Then British foreign policy intervened. One of the victims recalled: “We were assembled in front of the manager’s house and informed that we could no longer stay on the island because the Americans were coming for good. We didn’t want to go. We were born here. So were our fathers and forefathers who were buried in that land”.

Britain expelled the islanders to Mauritius without any workable resettlement scheme, gave them a tiny amount of compensation and later offered more on condition that the islanders renounced their rights ever to return home. Most were given little time to pack their possessions and some were allowed to take with them only a minimum of personal belongings packed into a small crate. They were also deceived into believing what awaited them. Olivier Bancoult said that the islanders “had been told they would have a house, a portion of land, animals and a sum of money, but when they arrived [in Mauritius] nothing had been done”. Britain also deliberately closed down the copra plantations to increase the pressure to leave. A Foreign Office note from 1972 states that “when BIOT formed, decided as a matter of policy not to put any new investment into plantations” [sic], but to let them run down. And the colonial authorities even cut off food imports to the Chagos islands; it appears that after 1968 food ships did not sail to the islands.

Not all the islanders were physically expelled. Some, after visiting Mauritius, were simply – and suddenly – told they were not allowed back, meaning they were stranded, turned into exiles overnight. Many of the islanders later testified to having been tricked into leaving Diego Garcia by being offered a free trip.

Most of the islanders ended up living in the slums of the Mauritian capital, Port Louis, in gross poverty; many were housed in shacks, most of them lacked enough food, and some died of starvation and disease. Many committed suicide. A report commissioned by the Mauritian government in the early 1980s found that only 65 of the 94 Illois householders were owners of land and houses; and 40 per cent of adults had no job. Today, most Chagossians continue to live in poverty, with unemployment especially high.

British officials were completely aware of the poverty and hardships likely to be faced by those they had removed from their homeland. When some of the last of the Chagossians were removed in 1973 and arrived in Mauritius, the High Commission noted that the Chagossians at first refused to disembark, having “nowhere to go, no money, no employment”. Britain offered a miniscule £650,000 in compensation, which only arrived in 1978, too late to offset the hardship of the islanders. The Foreign Office stated in a secret file that “we must be satisfied that we could not discharge our obligation… more cheaply”. As the Chagossians’ defence lawyers argue, “the UK government knew at the time that the sum given [in compensation] would in no way be adequate for resettlement.”

Ever since their removal, the islanders have campaigned for proper compensation and for the right to return. In 1975, for example, the islanders presented a petition to the British High Commission in Mauritius. It said: “We, the inhabitants of the Chagos islands – Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos and Salomen – have been uprooted from these islands because the Mauritius government sold the islands to the British government to build a base. Our ancestors were slaves on those islands but we know that we are the heirs of those islands. Although we were poor we were not dying of hunger. We were living free… Here in Mauritius… we, being mini-slaves, don’t get anybody to help us. We are at a loss not knowing what to do.”

The response of the British was to tell the islanders to address their petition to the Mauritian government. The British High Commission in Mauritius responded to a petition in 1974 saying that “High Commission cannot intervene between yourselves as Mauritians and government of Mauritius, who assumed responsibility for your resettlement”. This, as the British government well knew, was a complete lie, as many of the Chagossians could claim nationality “of the UK and the colonies” (see below). In 1981, a group of Illois women went on hunger strike for 21 days and several hundred women demonstrated in vain in front of the British High Commission in Mauritius.

The Whitehall conspiracy

The British response was: after removing the islanders from their home, to remove them from history, in the manner of Winston Smith. In 1972 the US Defence Department could tell Congress that “the islands are virtually uninhabited and the erection of the base would thus cause no indigenous political problems”. In December 1974 a joint UK-US memorandum in question-and-answer form asked “Is there any native population on the islands?”; its reply was “no”. A British Ministry of Defence spokesman denied this was a deliberate misrepresentation of the situation by saying “there is nothing in our files about inhabitants or about an evacuation”, thus confirming that the Chagossians were official Unpeople.

Formerly secret planning documents revealed in the court case show the lengths to which Labour and Conservative governments have gone to conceal the truth. Whitehall officials’ strategy is revealed to have been “to present to the outside world a scenario in which there were no permanent inhabitants on the archipelago”. This was essential “because to recognise that there are permanent inhabitants will imply that there is a population whose democratic rights will have to be safeguarded”. One official noted that British strategy towards the Chagossians should be to “grant as few rights with as little formality as possible”. In particular, Britain wanted to avoid fulfilling its obligations to the islanders under the UN charter.

From 1965, memoranda issued by the Foreign Office and then Commonwealth Relations Office to British embassies around the world mentioned the need to avoid all reference to any “permanent inhabitants”. Various memos noted that: “best wicket… to bat on… that these people are Mauritians and Seychellois [sic]”; “best to avoid all references to permanent inhabitants”; and need to “present a reasonable argument based on the proposition that the inhabitants… are merely a floating population”. The Foreign Office legal adviser noted in 1968 that “we are able to make up the rules as we go along and treat inhabitants of BIOT as not ‘belonging’ to it in any sense”.

Then Labour Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart wrote to prime Minister Harold Wilson in a secret note in 1969 that “we could continue to refer to the inhabitants generally as essentially migrant contract labourers and their families”. It would be helpful “if we can present any move as a change of employment for contract workers… rather than as a population resettlement”. The purpose of the Foreign Secretary’s memo was to secure Wilson’s approval to clear the whole of the Chagos islands of their inhabitants. This, the prime minister did, five days later on 26 April. By the time of this formal decision, however, the removal had already effectively started – Britain had in 1968 started refusing to return Chagossians who were visiting Mauritius or the Seychelles.

A Foreign Office memo of 1970 outlined the Whitehall conspiracy: “We would not wish it to become general knowledge that some of the inhabitants have lived on Diego Garcia for at least two generations and could, therefore, be regarded as ‘belongers’. We shall therefore advise ministers in handling supplementary questions about whether Diego Garcia is inhabited to say there is only a small number of contract labourers from the Seychelles and Mauritius engaged in work on the copra plantations on the island. That is being economical with the truth.”

It continued: “Should a member [of the House of Commons] ask about what should happen to these contract labourers in the event of a base being set up on the island, we hope that, for the present, this can be brushed aside as a hypothetical question at least until any decision to go ahead with the Diego Garcia facility becomes public”.

Detailed guidance notes were issued to Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence press officers telling them to mislead the media if asked.

The reality that was being concealed was clearly understood. A secret document signed by Michael Stewart in 1968, said: “By any stretch of the English language, there was an indigenous population, and the Foreign Office knew it”. A Foreign Office minute from 1965 recognises policy as “to certify [the Chagossians], more or less fraudulently, as belonging somewhere else”. Another Whitehall document was entitled: “Maintaining the Fiction”. The Foreign Office legal adviser wrote in January 1970 that it was important “to maintain the fiction that the inhabitants of Chagos are not a permanent or semi-permanent population”.

Yet all subsequent ministers peddled this lie in public, hitting on the formula to designate the Chagossians merely as “former plantation workers”, while knowing this was palpably untrue. For example, Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons in 1990 that: “Those concerned worked on the former copra plantations in the Chagos archipelago. After the plantations closed between 1971 and 1973 they and their families were resettled in Mauritius and given considerable financial assistance. Their future now lies in Mauritius”.

Foreign Office minister William Waldegrade said in 1989 that he recently met “a delegation of former plantation workers from the Chagos Islands”, before falsely asserting that they “are increasingly integrated into the Mauritian community”. Aid minister Baroness Chalker also told the House that “the former plantation workers (Illois) are now largely integrated into Mauritian and Seychellese society”.

New Labour continued the lie into the twenty-first century, continuing to peddle the official line in the court case that the islanders were “contract labourers”. As I write this, the Foreign Office website contains a country profile of the British Indian Ocean Territory that states there are “no indigenous inhabitants”.

Another issue that the British government went to great lengths to conceal was the fact that many of the Chagossians were “citizens of the UK and the colonies”. Britain preferred to designate them Mauritians so they could be dumped there and left to the Mauritian authorities to deal with. The Foreign Secretary warned in 1968 of the “possibility… [that] some of them might one day claim a right to remain in the BIOT by virtue of their citizenship of the UK and the Colonies”. A Ministry of Defence note in the same year states that it was “of cardinal importance that no American official… should inadvertently divulge” that the islanders have dual nationality.

Britain’s High Commission in Mauritius noted in January 1971, before a meeting with the Mauritian prime minister, that: “Naturally, I shall not suggest to him that some of these have also UK nationality …always possible that they may spot this point, in which case, presumably, we shall have to come clean [sic]”. In 1971 the Foreign Office was saying that it was “not at present HMG’s policy to advise ‘contract workers’ of their dual citizenship” nor to inform the Mauritian government, referring to “this policy of concealment”.

Ministers also lied in public about the British role in the removal of the Chagossians. For example, Foreign Office minister Richard Luce wrote to an MP in 1981, in response to a letter from one of his constituents, that the islanders had been “given the choice of either returning [to Mauritius or the Seychelles] or going to plantations on other islands in BIOT” [sic]. According to this revised history, the “majority chose to return to Mauritius and their employers… made the arrangements for them to be transferred”.

Ministers in the 1960s also lied about the terms under which Britain offered the Diego Garcia base to the US. The US paid Britain £5 million for the island, an amount deducted from the price Britain paid the US for buying the Polaris nuclear weapons. The US asked for this deal to be kept secret and Prime Minister Harold Wilson complied, lying in public. A Foreign Office memo to the US of 1967 said that “ultimately, under extreme pressure, we should have to deny the existence of a US contribution in any form, and to advise ministers to do so in [parliament] if necessary”.

A Foreign Office memo of 1980 recommended to then Foreign Secretary that “no journalists should be allowed to visit Diego Garcia” and that visits by MPs be kept to a minimum to keep out those “who deliberately stir up unwelcome questions”. The defence lawyers for the Chagossians, who unearthed the secret files, note that: “Concealment is a theme which runs through the official documents, concealment of the existence of a permanent population, of BIOT itself, concealment of the status of the Chagossians, concealment of the full extent of the responsibility of the United Kingdom government…, concealment of the fact that many of the Chagossians were Citizens of the UK and Colonies… This concealment was compounded by a continuing refusal to accept that those who were removed from the islands in 1971-3 had not exercised a voluntary decision to leave the islands”.

Indeed, the lawyers argue, “for practical purposes, it may well be that the deceit of the world at large, in particular the United Nations, was the critical part” of the government’s policy.

February 10, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 3 Comments

Evicted Chagos islanders denied right to return to British owned US-leased military colony

RT | November 16, 2016

The Chagos islanders evicted from their own Indian Ocean homeland to make way for a military colony have been disappointed again, as the Foreign Office has confirmed that they will not be allowed to return home.

Hundreds of Chagossians have been waiting for the latest decision for the two years since the last High Court hearing, while the overall campaign to reclaim their home has been ongoing for four decades.

In a statement on Wednesday, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Baroness Anelay appeared to quash any hope of a return for the islanders, while admitting that the treatment of the Chagossians during their removal “was wrong” and claiming the Foreign Office felt “deep regret” about it.

Among the methods British and US authorities used to drive the Chagossians off their island was killing their pets en masse with exhaust fumes and threatening to shoot, bomb or starve the natives themselves.

Still, Anelay said the decision against resettlement had been taken on “grounds of feasibility, defence and security interests, and cost to the British taxpayer.”

She did pledge “to support improvements to the livelihoods of Chagossians in the communities where they now live, however.

“I can today announce that we have agreed to fund a package of approximately £40 million [$50 million] over the next ten years to achieve this goal,” she said.

Among the key objections cited in Baroness Anelay’s statement was the difficulty of resettling the Chagossian population on low-lying islands, though the decision appears to fly in the face of the presence of thousands of UK and US service personnel on the island of Diego Garcia, who apparently live there with no problem.

Low down in the statement, the issue of US relations made an appearance.

“The Government has also considered the interaction of any potential community with the US Naval Support Facility – a vital part of our defence relationship,” it was argued.

The islanders, who are British citizens, were removed from their homes during the 1960s and 1970s. One of the islands called Diego Garcia, which was later leased to the US military by the British government, has become a key strategic base in the region.

Diego Garcia has repeatedly made headlines over allegations that the US’ extraordinary rendition – state-sanctioned kidnap and torture – flights were routed through the airbase.

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Chagos islanders forcibly evicted by UK told they STILL can’t go home

RT | June 30, 2016

Chagos islanders forcibly removed from their homes by the British government to make way for a US military base have been told they are still barred from returning in a UK Supreme Court ruling.

Britain’s highest court said the islanders could not go back to their homeland because life on the archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean is too precarious, despite the fact over 4,000 US and UK military personnel live on the island Diego Garcia.

Since their forced eviction in the 1960s and 1970s, the islanders have campaigned for the right to return to their homes, supported by politicians such as Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Supreme Court ruling is the latest in a protracted legal battle against the UK government.

In 2000, the High Court ruled the Chagos islanders could return to all islands except Diego Garcia, the site of a large US military base. This was overturned in 2008 by a 3/2 majority.

Thursday’s ruling by the same majority is the latest setback in the islanders’ struggle for justice, however they have not been deterred by the decision.

“It is impossible to accept that other people can live and work on our birthplace while we are not able to,” said Chagos Refugee Group leader Louis Olivier Bancoult.

“We will not give up. Chagossians will be on Chagos very soon.

“It’s time for the UK government to put an end to all our suffering. We have not lost all the battle. It’s not the end of the road. Our case is a just case. We are asking for our dignity as people and fundamental rights as human beings.”

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Questions the Media Haven’t Been Asking about Flight MH370

By Doug E. Steil | Aletho News | March 19, 2014

By now, many people following the reports of Flight MH370, the missing Malaysian aircraft, are becoming very suspicious of a cover-up, almost as if though there is no genuine interest in locating the plane, yet going through the superficial motions of at least attempting to do so. Though some officially released information should be considered reliable because elaborate recovery efforts by numerous countries depend on it, for instance the two arcs showing possible 40° locations of the last “ping” with a satellite in geostationary orbit (which would exclude the possibility of the plane having been diverted, say, to the Diego Garcia military base or a variety of other places that have been mentioned), what seems more interesting is the information nobody mentions and the media appear too afraid to ask. For example:

* Why haven’t the corresponding data for previous possible “ping” locations been publicly released, thus constraining the area of the aircraft’s possible location, hence allowing more focus on prioritized search areas?

* Who were those lucky people who had booked that particular flight but did not board (according to initial reports some of them even checked in their luggage) and why has there been no public information about them?

More than seven years ago, in 2006, a publication by the name of Homeland Security News Wire, whose editor in chief studied at Tel Aviv University, ran a brief story about Boeing’s Uninterruptible Auto Pilot System. In the wake of the still missing Boeing 777 aircraft, another publication ran a story, which stated in part:

Perhaps the most unsettling information in regards to the missing Boeing 777 comes from retired 35 year Delta pilot, Field McConnell, who states that since 1995, Boeing Uninterruptible Auto Pilots have been equipped in Boeing planes. This information was apparently not released until March of 2007, following a subsequent lawsuit by McConnell. The modification was reported to the FAA, NTSB and ALPA (airline pilots association). According to McConnell’s documents, Boeing is said to have stated that by end of 2009 all Boeing planes would be fitted with the BUAP – making them impossible to manually hijack within the plane but susceptible to remote control by the military, according the flight veteran.

At least one organization, Voice of Russia, bothered to interview the retired pilot, mentioned above, on this particular topic, but it is obviously not deemed to be sufficiently relevant for general public consumption, as though it were yet another taboo subject, just too “hot” to address.

Aside from such issues as an unauthorized intruder with malicious intent being able to hack the airplane’s avionics and communications system with external piloting commands that override those of the pilots inside the cockpit, the alleged ubiquity of such an autopilot system raises other questions that ought to be addressed; here are just eight:

* Is it only a nation’s military that is authorized to activate the system in an emergency situation?

* Would multiple military organizations be involved in the case of an actual on-board hijacking, say, over Europe?

* Could the military of Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and perhaps even Indonesia and India have been in the loop about the situation involving Flight MH370?

* Would those authorized to intervene be able to actively supersede the malicious commands of an unauthorized commandeering attempt?

* Wouldn’t it make more sense for the airline operating the aircraft to be primarily responsible, through a 24-hour command center on stand-by, with the military of the countries the aircraft is flying over or near at any particular moment?

* Who would be in charge, say, of an aircraft from a European airline flying over international waters far away, on the other side of the world?

* Could the central command in the case of such rare emergencies that require 24-hour stand-by have been contractually delegated to a private security company to deal with, simply for the sake of expediency or cost, just as the security operations at many airports have been delegated to Israeli-run companies?

* Does the software for these remote autopilot systems get customized or at least regularly updated to fix or at least patch up known or possible security leaks?

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 9 Comments

How the Pentagon Removes Entire Peoples

By David Swanson | Dissident Voice | June 5th, 2013

If we think at all about our government’s military depopulating territory that it desires, we usually think of the long-ago replacement of native Americans with new settlements during the continental expansion of the United States westward.

Here in Virginia some of us are vaguely aware that back during the Great Depression poor people were evicted from their homes and their land where national parks were desired.  But we distract and comfort ourselves with the notion that such matters are deep in the past.

Occasionally we notice that environmental disasters are displacing people, often poor people or marginalized people, from their homes.  But these incidents seem like collateral damage rather than intentional ethnic cleansing.

If we’re aware of the 1,000 or so U.S. military bases standing today in some 175 foreign countries, we must realize that the land they occupy could serve some other purpose in the lives of those countries’ peoples.  But surely those countries’ peoples are still there, still living — if perhaps slightly inconvenienced — in their countries.

Yet the fact is that the U.S. military has displaced and continues to displace for the construction of its bases the entire populations of villages and islands, in blatant violation of international law, basic human decency, and principles we like to tell each other we stand for.  The United States also continues to deny displaced populations the right to return to their homelands.

At issue here are not the bombings or burnings of entire villages, which of course the United States engages in during its wars and its non-wars.  Nor are we dealing here with the millions of refugees created by wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan or by drone wars like the one in Pakistan.  Rather, the following are cases of the intentional displacement of particular populations moved out of the way of base construction and left alive to struggle as refugees in exile.

In the Philippines, the United States built bases on land belonging to the indigenous Aetas people, who “ended up combing military trash to survive.”

During World War II the U.S. Navy seized the small Hawaiian island of Koho’alawe for a weapons testing range and ordered its inhabitants to leave.  The island has been devastated.

In 1942, the Navy displaced Aleutian Islanders.

President Harry Truman made up his mind that the 170 native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll had no right to their island.  He had them evicted in February and March of 1946, and dumped as refugees on other islands without means of support or a social structure in place.  In the coming years, the United States would remove 147 people from Enewetak Atoll and all the people on Lib Island.  U.S. atomic and hydrogen bomb testing rendered various depopulated and still-populated islands uninhabitable, leading to further displacements.  Up through the 1960s, the U.S. military displaced hundreds of people from Kwajalein Atoll.  A super-densely populated ghetto was created on Ebeye.

On Vieques, off Puerto Rico, the Navy displaced thousands of inhabitants between 1941 and 1947, announced plans to evict the remaining 8,000 in 1961, but was forced to back off and — in 2003 — to stop bombing the island.

On nearby Culebra, the Navy displaced thousands between 1948 and 1950 and attempted to remove those remaining up through the 1970s.

The Navy is right now looking at the island of Pagan as a possible replacement for Vieques, the population already having been removed by a volcanic eruption.  Of course, any possibility of return would be greatly diminished.

Beginning during World War II and continuing through the 1950s, the U.S. military displaced a quarter million Okinawans, or half the population, from their land, forcing people into refugee camps and shipping thousands of them off to Bolivia — where land and money were promised but not delivered.

In 1953, the United States made a deal with Denmark to remove 150 Inughuit people from Thule, Greenland, giving them four days to get out or face bulldozers.  They are being denied the right to return.

DIEGO GARCIA

The story of Diego Garcia is superbly told in David Vine’s book, Island of Shame.  Between 1968 and 1973, the United States and Great Britain exiled all 1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants from this island in the Indian Ocean.  On orders from, and with funding from, the United States, the British forced the people onto overcrowded ships and dumped them on docks in Mauritius and the Seychelles — foreign and distant and unwelcoming lands for this indigenous population that had been part of Diego Garcia for centuries.  U.S. documents described this as “sweeping” and “sanitizing” the island.

Those responsible for the displacement of the people of Diego Garcia knew that what they were doing was widely considered barbaric and illegal.  They devised ways of creating “logical cover” for the process.  They persuaded the ever-compliant Washington Post to bury the story.  The Queen of England and her Privy Council bypassed Parliament.  The Pentagon lied to Congress and hid its payments to the British from Congress.  The planners even lied to themselves.  Having originally envisioned a communications station, they concluded that advances in technology had rendered that unhelpful.  So, Navy schemers decided that a fueling station for ships might offer a “suitable justification” for building a base that was actually a purposeless end in itself.  But the Pentagon ended up telling a reluctant Congress that the base would be a communications station, because that was something Congress would approve.

Those plotting the eviction of the island’s people created the fiction that the inhabitants were migrant workers not actually native to Diego Garcia.  Sir Paul Gore-Booth, Permanent Under Secretary in the Foreign Office of the U.K., dismissed the island’s people as “some few Tarzans or Men Fridays whose origins are obscure.”  This stood in contrast to the respect and protection given to some other islands not chosen for bases because of the rare plants, birds, and animals resident there.

On January 24, 1971, remaining inhabitants of Diego Garcia were told they’d need to leave or be shot.  They were allowed to take a small box of possessions, but had to leave their homes, their gardens, their animals, their land, and their society.  Their dogs were rounded up and killed in a gas chamber as they watched, waiting  themselves to be loaded on ships for departure.  Arriving in Mauritius, they were housed in a prison.  Their fate has not much improved in the decades since.  David Vine describes them as very forgiving, wishing nothing but to be permitted to return.

Diego Garcia is purely a military base and in some ways more of a lawless zone than Guantanamo.  The United States has kept and may be keeping prisoners there, on the island or on ships in the harbor.  The Red Cross and journalists do not visit.  The United States has de facto control of Diego Garcia, while the U.K. has technical ownership.  The Pentagon is not interested in allowing the island’s people to return.

JEJU ISLAND

The South Korean government, at the behest of the U.S. Navy, is in the process of devastating a village, its coast, and 130 acres of farmland on Jeju Island with a massive military base.  This story is best told in Regis Tremblay’s new film The Ghosts of Jeju.  This is not a tragedy from the past to be remedied but a tragedy of this moment to be halted in its tracks.  You can help.  Tremblay’s film examines the history of decades of abuse of the people of Jeju, and the resistance movement that is currently inspiring other anti-base efforts around the globe.  The film begins somber and ends joyful.  I highly recommend creating an event around a screening of it.

PALESTINE

We should not neglect to note here that the United States funds and arms and protects the Israeli government’s ongoing displacement of Palestinians and denial of the right to return.

The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” wrote William Faulkner.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The U.S. Base on Diego Garcia: An Overlooked Atrocity

By Sheldon Richman | FFF |June 4, 2013

The largest criminal organizations in the world are governments. The bigger they are, the more capable of perpetrating atrocities. Not only do they obtain great wealth through compulsion (taxation), they also have an ideological mystique that permits them uniquely to get away with murder, torture, and theft.

The U.S. government is no exception. This is demonstrated by, among many other things, the atomic bombings of noncombatants in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World II. But let’s examine a lesser-known case, one we might know nothing about were it not for David Vine, who teaches anthropology at the American University. Vine has written a book, Island of Shame, and a follow-up article at the Huffington Post about the savage treatment of the people of Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Americans may know Diego Garcia as a U.S. military base. It “helped launch the Afghan and Iraq wars and was part of the CIA’s secret ‘rendition’ program for captured terrorist suspects,” Vine writes.

What’s not widely known is that the island was once home to a couple of thousand people who were forcibly removed to make room for the U.S. military. The victims’ 40-year effort to return or to be compensated for their losses have been futile.

Great Britain claims the island. According to Vine, African slaves, indentured Indians, and their descendants had been living on the Chagos islands for about 200 years. “In 1965, after years of secret negotiations, Britain agreed to separate Chagos from colonial Mauritius (contravening UN decolonization rules) to create a new colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory. In a secret 1966 agreement, Britain gave U.S. officials base rights on Diego Garcia.”

But it did more than that. Britain “agreed to take those ‘administrative measures’ necessary to remove the nearly 2,000 Chagossians in exchange for $14 million in secret U.S. payments.”

The British kept their end of the bargain. In 1968, Britain began blocking the return of Chagossians who left to obtain medical treatment or to go on vacation, “marooning them often without family members and almost all their possessions,” Vine writes.

British officials soon began restricting food and medical supplies to Chagos. Anglo-American officials designed a public relations plan aimed at, as one British bureaucrat said, “maintaining the fiction” that Chagossians were migrant laborers rather than a people with roots in Chagos for five generations or more. Another British official called them “Tarzans” and “Man Fridays.”

Then, in 1971, the final order came down, reminiscent of a Russian czar expelling Jews from their village. “The U.S. Navy’s highest-ranking admiral, Elmo Zumwalt, issued … a three-word memo.… ‘Absolutely must go.’”

British agents, with the help of Navy Seabees, quickly rounded up the islanders’ pet dogs, gassing and burning them in sealed cargo sheds. They ordered … the remaining Chagossians onto overcrowded cargo ships. During the deportations, which took place in stages until May 1973, most Chagossians slept in the ship’s hold atop guano — bird crap. Prized horses stayed on deck. By the end of the five-day trip, vomit, urine, and excrement were everywhere. At least one woman miscarried.

Arriving in Mauritius and the Seychelles, Chagossians were literally left on the docks. They were homeless, jobless, and had little money, and they received no resettlement assistance.

Remember, this was happening, not in the 18th or 19th century, but in the late 20th century. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the last of the expulsions.

The personal toll has been great. The Chagossians remain poor, and many suffer from illnesses traced to their dispossession. “Scores more Chagossians have reported deaths from sadness and sagren,” or “profound sorrow,” according to Vine.

Five years ago the Chagossians had some ray of hope when three British courts declared the deportations illegal. But the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom overruled the lower courts. “Last year,” Vine adds, “the European Court of Human Rights dismissed the Chagossians’ final appeal on procedural grounds.…”

“A day after the European court ruling, the Obama administration rejected the demands of an online petition signed by some 30,000 asking the White House to ‘redress wrongs against the Chagossians.’”

The British were adequately looking after the matter, the administration said.

Here is government in all its glory.

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shame, Lies and Secrecy on Diego Garcia

The Limited Usefulness of Wikileaks

By Craig Murray | April 30, 2013

Diego Garcia and the Chagos Islands remains a deep shame to the United Kingdom. In the 1960′s we forcibly deported an entire population a thousand miles, very much against their will, to make way for a United States air base. This is not an ancient evil; it continues to seep its poison into current actions, and the remnants of the deported population still linger in Mauritius, dreaming of home.

The Chagos outlines the stark hyprocrisy of UK policy on the Falklands. There we state the will of the islanders is paramount. In the Chagos, we state the will of the islanders is meaningless. Of course, the Falklanders are white-skinned, the Chagossians brown-skinned. That is the limit of the FCO’s attachment to self-determination as a principle. It is not for “Man Fridays”.

“Man Fridays”, according to the US Embassy Cable describing the briefing on Diego Garcia given them by FCO official Colin Roberts, is how Roberts referred to the inhabitants:

Roberts stated that, according to the HGM,s current thinking on a reserve, there would be “no human footprints” or “Man Fridays” on the BIOT’s uninhabited islands.

In the Diego Garcians’ latest attempt to get their home back, Roberts under cross-examination denied emphatically that he had used the term “Man Fridays”. It is difficult to see why the US diplomats who recorded his meeting with them used the term and put it in quotation marks, if Roberts did not use it. Roberts appears, on the face of it, to be potentially a perjurer in court. It was at this point the judges brilliantly resolved this issue by declaring the US Embassy cable ineligible in court on two grounds; firstly, its possession was a contravention of the UK’s official secrets act, as Roberts’ disclosure of the UK government’s duplicity was an official secret; secondly for it to be noticed by a court would contravene the Vienna Convention on the confidentiality of diplomatic communications.

This not only wiped out the problem of the apparent perjury by Colin Roberts; it collapsed the Chagos Islanders’ case that the US Embassy Cable clearly shows that the declaration of a Chagos Islands marine conservation area was merely a ruse to make it impossible for the inhabitants – who are artisan fishermen – to return:

He asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents. Responding to Polcouns’ observation that the advocates of Chagossian resettlement continue to vigorously press their case, Roberts opined that the UK’s “environmental lobby is far more powerful than the Chagossians’ advocates.”

Of course, I knew at the time what the evil David Miliband was doing, and I blogged about it in May 2010:

Miliband has now produced what is one of the most cynical acts in the history of British foreign policy. Dressed up as an environmentalist move, and with support from a number of purblind environmentalists, the waters around the Chagos Archipelago have been declared the world’s largest marine reserve – in which all fishing is banned. The islanders, of course, are fishermen.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36139130/ns/world_news-world_environment/

The sheer cynicism of this effort by Miliband to dress up genocide as environmentalism is simply breathtaking. If we were really cooncerned about the environment of Diego Garcia we would not have built a massive airbase and harbour on a fragile coral atoll and filled it with nuclear weapons.

The subsequent wikileaks release of the cable recording the US Embassy briefing by Colin Roberts – which shows just what an odious, immoral creep Colin Roberts is – confirms the truth at what I am saying. I am still very angry at the environmental organisations which allowed themselves to be used in this way; they were blinkered and stupid. There is nothing more dangerous than a good man with a monomania.

The Guardian rightly execrated the ludicrous court decision to pretend the wikileaked US cable did not exist. It rather undermines the famous legal maxim that “facts are stubborn things”. A truer maxim would be “Facts are things which vicious, authoritarian judges can make disappear when it benefits the government for them to do so”.

The implication that facts, no matter how true, can be ignored in court if the government did not wish those facts to emerge, is a major blow to the very possibility of whistleblowing. A judicial system where the court only considers government approved fact, is a cornerstone of fascism. What happened in that court was very serious indeed. Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Mitting are a disgrace to their profession, the compliant tools of a policy that should disgust all moral men.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cocos Islands could be new base for the US killing machine

By Peter Boyle | Green Left | March 31, 2012

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands is a tiny group of coral atolls in the Indian Ocean 2800 kilometres north-west of Perth and 900 kilometres from Java. It has a population of about 600.

These islands were nominally a British territory between 1858 and 1955, when they were transferred by a British act of parliament to Australia. Yet for the next 17 years, the Australian government allowed the islands to operate as a private fiefdom of the Clunies-Ross family — just as the British had for 100 years before then.

The islands were uninhabited until 1826, when Alexander Hare, a former minor British colonial official, set up an establishment with about 50 slaves, mainly of Malay background, and a personal “harem” he had collected from many colonial outposts.

Hare was displaced a year later by his former business partner, John Clunies-Ross, a Scottish ship captain whose descendants enriched themselves on the labour of the Malay plantation workforce, who they paid with tokens that could be spent on only the company store.

The Malay islanders had no access to formal education, but the Clunies-Ross children were sent to private schools in Britain. The head of the Clunies-Ross family was the island’s lawmaker, judge and administrator. Anyone who did not accept his rule was banished.

So it is no surprise that, when the Cocos Islanders were finally given the choice between independence, free association and integration with Australia in 1984, they overwhelmingly voted in secret ballot for integration. Only members of the Clunies-Ross family and a couple of loyal servants were in favour of “independence”.

But the Australian government did not offer the islanders their liberation from semi-feudalism just out of respect for freedom.

Kenneth Chan, the Australian administrator on the Cocos Islands from 1983-85 admitted in a largely unnoticed academic paper he wrote in 1987 that the islands’ strategic location was the main motivation to acquire and integrate this Indian Ocean territory.

The islands were used as a military base by the British in World Wars I and II. Now, the US military wants the islands as a base for drones and other spy planes. Pentagon officials hope Australia will make up for a possible closure or downgrading of its main Indian Ocean island military base in Diego Garcia, which the US leased from Britain in 1966.

The US built its giant base on Diego Garcia in the 1970s after the 2000 Chagos Islanders were forcibly removed through trickery and starvation, a colonial crime exposed to the world relatively recently.

The US has used Diego Garcia as a base for nuclear weapons, marines, warships, bombers and spy planes. It has used it as a transit station for political prisoners sent for “rendition” to other countries so they can be tortured, though this is officially denied. Diego Garcia is a strategic hub of the US killing machine.

But the US lease runs out in 2016 and the Pentagon wants to relocate at least some of the military functions of the base to various Australian bases in Western Australia, Darwin and the Cocos Islands.

The Gillard Labor government and the Liberal-National opposition wholeheartedly support this process and have already agreed to station thousands of US marines in Darwin.

April 21, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bibi: First We’ll Take Tehran, Then We’ll Take Istanbul

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | March 28, 2012

Yesterday, brought ominous news regarding yet another aggressive Israeli projection of its military power in the Mideast.  Since 1967, with but a few exceptions (Osirak being one), Israel has mainly satisfied itself by retaining dominance over its frontline neighbors and not attempting to meddle in affairs of more far-flung states.  But with Bibi Netanyahu’s new policy of projecting Israeli power far outside Israel’s immediate sphere and threatening Iran with attack, we have an Israel ready and willing to step far outside its former comfort zone.

To show that Bibi’s aggressive, interventionist approach isn’t a fluke, UPI reports that Israel is negotiating with Greek Cyprus for placement of an Israeli air base on the island, ostensibly to protect the new Israeli-Cypriot joint gas exploration project:

Israel is already preparing to launch a major security operation to protect the offshore fields and the attendant facilities in its waters.

This will involve missile-armed patrol vessels, round-the-clock aerial surveillance by unmanned drones and other naval detachments, primarily to defend the energy zones against attack by Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed force in neighboring Lebanon.

This field is in dispute with Lebanon, which also claims title.  Turkey too disputes the area on behalf of Turkish Cyprus.  This certainly is one reason for the Israeli move.

But an even more important one in the long-term, is Israel confronting Turkey with its power.  It’s a rather naked move.  A flagrant invasion of Turkey’s sphere of influence, which can only bring a Turkish response.  The response will likely come within an area under Israel’s sphere of influence.  Oh say, like Gaza.  Someone with a cool head ought to start looking at this developing rivalry and see where it could lead (or end).

There is only one way to resolve territorial disputes of the nature of the one concerning the Cypriot gas field, negotiation.  Israel, however, doesn’t believe it negotiation.  It believes in naked projections of military strength.  An Israeli base on Cyprus would be a forward projection of Israeli power in the same way that the U.S. base in Diego Garcia is our forward projection of power into the Mideast (currently threatening Iran, but previously used to bolster invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan).

It’s bad enough with the U.S. making a pretense of being the cop of the world and getting itself mired in places it should never be.  But do we want Israel, with its history of wars and endless bloodshed, tangling not just with Palestinians or Arab militant groups like Hezbollah, but with full-fledged regional powers like Turkey?  Let’s not forget that country’s age-old rivalry with Greece which has also led to centuries of historic conflict.  Now Israel is playing footsie with the Greeks and becoming best friends with the current economic basket case of Europe.  Greece is only too happy to oblige and take advantage of the power Israel has to offer.

Do we really want Israel playing with fire in this way?  I fear this can only end badly.

Another related matter that concerns me is the economic bonanza that this new-found oil portends for Israel, one of the most economically striated nations in the world.  The new gas and oil deals promise to make the Israeli elite even richer.  It will bring untold billions to Israeli politicians and generals who will flock to consult for the new enterprises (as has Meir Dagan).  One place this wealth will not go, is into the pockets of those who need it most inside Israel: the poor, the disenfranchised, etc.  The Haredi and Israeli Palestinian poor will stay poor.  There will be few, if any programs to share the wealth or provide benefits to those in need.  After all, this is Bibi Netanyahu, a disciple of Milton Friedman, an economic Hobbesian.  It’s dog-eat-dog in the Likud world.  Just as long as Bibi and his party cronies are taken care of, little else matters.

In truth, this would likely happen whoever was in power.  The only thing that would change is the names and faces of those benefitting.  Labor and Kadima would be no better as anyone who knows about Ehud Barak’s wealth-producing consulting jobs while he was out of power, is aware.  So for any who believe in the dreams of liberal Zionism and the Declaration of Independence, that Israel is a nation meant to realize a vision of brotherhood, tolerance and human dignity, the coming oil boom will frustrate you.  But undoubtedly, if you’re a liberal Zionist, you’ll, as Tim Hardin wrote, “still look to find a reason to believe.”

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bombing Iran: A Real Headache for Israel

By Steve Rendall – FAIR – 02/21/2012

Bombing Iran could be a real strain for Israel, reports Elisabeth Bumiller in the New York Times (“Iran Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets,” 2/19/12).  No one’s sure they can pull it off, what with the logistics involved:

Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran’s air defenses, attack multiple underground sites simultaneously–and use at least 100 planes.

Everyone apparently agrees on the task in front of Israel, as Bumiller puts it: “Given that Israel would want to strike Iran’s four major nuclear sites….”  Killing Iranians and spreading radioactive material over their countryside isn’t an issue for the Times, where Iran seems to exist only as an obstacle to Israeli strategic interests.

But, Bumiller reports, the job could exceed Israel’s offensive capabilities, raising the question of whether the U.S. might be “sucked into finishing the job.” A job she’s not altogether unexcited about:

Should the United States get involved–or decide to strike on its own–military analysts said that the Pentagon had the ability to launch big strikes with bombers, stealth aircraft and cruise missiles, followed up by drones that could carry out damage assessments to help direct further strikes. Unlike Israel, the United States has plenty of refueling capability. Bombers could fly from Al Udeid air base in Qatar, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean or bases in Britain and the United States.

Perhaps the most telling line in Bumiller’s cold, skewed accounting of the potential risks of an attack on Iran is in her peculiar notion of what would constitute a state of war:

Iran could also strike back with missiles that could hit Israel, opening a new war in the Middle East, though some Israeli officials have argued that the consequences would be worse if Iran were to gain a nuclear weapon.

War would ensue the instant Iran responded to being bombed? This is not only bizarre wording, it ignores the low-intensity war that has been waged against Iran over the past few years, including explosions at nuclear facilities, the assassination of its scientists and the arming of insurgent groups in Iran’s border areas.

February 21, 2012 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 7 Comments