Britain force depop Diego Garcia archipelago for US Secret Torture Murder

grarpamp grarpamp at
Fri Mar 8 15:58:59 PST 2019

John Pilger 25 Feb 2019

There are times when one tragedy tells us how a whole system works
behind its democratic facade and helps us understand how much of the
world is run for the benefit of the powerful and how governments often
justify their actions with lies.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the British government of Harold
Wilson expelled the population of the Chagos Islands, a British colony
in the Indian Ocean, to make way for an American military base on
Diego Garcia, the largest island. In high secrecy, the Americans
offered the British payment for the islands in the form of a discount
on the Polaris nuclear submarine system.

The truth of this conspiracy did not emerge for another 20 years when
secret official files were unearthed at the Public Record Office in
London by lawyers acting for the former inhabitants of the coral
archipelago. Historian Mark Curtis described the enforced depopulation
in Web of Deceit, his 2003 book about Britain's post-war foreign

The British media all but ignored it; the Washington Post called it a
"mass kidnapping".

I first heard of the plight of the Chagossians in 1982, during the
Falklands War. Britain had sent a fleet to the aid of 2,000 Falkland
Islanders at the other end of the world while another 2,000 British
citizens from islands in the Indian Ocean had been expelled by British
governments and hardly anyone knew.

The difference was that the Falkland Islanders were white and the
Chagossians were black and, crucially, the United States wanted the
Chagos Islands - especially Diego Garcia - as a major military base
from which to command the Indian Ocean.

The Chagos was a natural paradise. The 1,500 islanders were
self-sufficient with an abundance of natural produce, and there was no
extreme weather. There were thriving villages, a school, a hospital, a
church, a railway and an undisturbed way of life - until the secret
1961 Anglo-American survey of Diego Garcia led to the expulsion of the
entire population.
The Chagos Islands: Colonialism on trial at the ICJ
Oumar Ba,Kelly-Jo Bluen
by Oumar Ba,Kelly-Jo Bluen

The expulsions began in 1965. People were herded into the hold of a
rusting ship, the women and children forced to sleep on a cargo of
bird fertiliser. They were dumped in the Seychelles, where they were
held in prison cells, and then shipped onto Mauritius, where they were
taken to a derelict housing estate with no water or electricity.

Twenty-six families died there in brutal poverty, nine individuals
committed suicide, and girls were forced into prostitution to survive.

I interviewed many of them. One woman recalled how she and her husband
took their baby to Mauritius for medical treatment and were told they
could not return to their island. The shock was so great that her
husband suffered a stroke and died. Others described how the British
and Americans gassed their dogs - beloved pets to the islanders - as
an inducement to pack up and leave. Lizette Talate told me how her
children had "died of sadness". She herself has since died.

The depopulation of the archipelago was completed within 10 years and
Diego Garcia became home to one of the biggest US bases, with more
than 2,000 troops, two bomber runways, 30 warships, facilities for
nuclear-armed submarines and a satellite spy station. Iraq and
Afghanistan were bombed from the former paradise. Following 9/11,
people were "rendered" there and tortured.

After demonstrating on the streets of Mauritius in 1982, the exiles
were given the derisory compensation of less than 3,000 British pounds
each by the British government. When declassified British Foreign
Office files were discovered, the full sordid story was laid bare.

One file was titled Maintaining the Fiction and instructed British
officials to lie that the islanders were itinerant workers, not a
stable indigenous population. Secretly, revealed the files, British
officials recognised they were open to "charges of dishonesty" because
they were planning to "cook the books" - lie.

In 2000, the High Court in London ruled the expulsions illegal. In
response, the Labour government of Tony Blair invoked the Royal
Prerogative, an archaic power invested in the Queen's "Privy Council"
that allows the government to bypass parliament and the courts. In
this way, the government hoped, the islanders could be prevented from
ever returning home.

The High Court finally ruled that the Chagossians were entitled to
return. In 2008, the Foreign Office appealed to the Supreme Court.
Although based on no new evidence, the appeal was successful. I was in
the House of Lords - where the court then sat on the day of the
judgement. I have never seen such shame-faced judges in what was
clearly a political decision.

In 2010, the British government sought to reinforce this by
establishing a marine nature reserve around the Chagos Islands. The
ruse was exposed by WikiLeaks, which published a US embassy diplomatic
cable from 2009 that read, "Establishing a marine reserve might
indeed, as the FCO's [Colin] Roberts stated, be the most effective
long-term way to prevent any of the Chagos Islands' former inhabitants
or descendants from resettling."

Whether or not the ICC delivers justice that is long overdue, an
indefatigable campaign of islanders and their supporters shows no sign
of giving up.

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