Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The First Shots Of Imperialism

Largely unnoticed in the last two Gulf Wars was the fact that the US launched many of the airstrikes and landings in Iraq from our base at Diego Garcia.

Did you ever wonder what the hell the US was doing with an air base on a tiny island just between Africa and India? How we managed to get permission from the lizards and rodents?

We stole it.
Diego Garcia is America's largest military base in the world outside the US. There are more than 4,000 troops, two bomber runways, thirty warships and a satellite spy station. Before the Americans came, more than 2,000 people lived on the islands, many with roots back to the late 18th century. There were thriving villages, a school, a hospital, a church, a railway and an undisturbed way of life. The islands were, and still are, a British crown colony.
In 1965, the Chagos Islands, which include Diego Garcia, were detached from Mauritius to form part of the British Indian Ocean Territories (BIOT). In 1966, the crown bought the islands and coconut plantations, which had been under private ownership and which had not been profitable with the introduction of new oils and lubricants. In 1971, the plantations were closed because of the agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States to make Diego Garcia available to the U.S. as a military base. No payment was made as part of this arrangement, although it has been claimed that the United Kingdom received a US$14 million discount on the acquisition of Polaris missiles from the United States. This agreement also forbade any other economic activity on the island.

Until 1971, Diego Garcia had a native population, known as the Ilois (or Chagossians), which was composed of the descendants of East Indian workers and African slaves who had been brought to the island in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to work on the coconut and copra plantations. They lived in three settlements: East Point (the main settlement on the eastern rim of the atoll), Minni Minni (4.5 km north of East Point), and Pointe Marianne (on the western rim). The islanders were transferred off Diego Garcia to Seychelles and then Mauritius amid allegations of starvation and intimidation tactics by the U.S. and UK governments, including the alleged killing of island dogs by American soldiers. Ever since their expulsion, the Ilois have continually asserted their right to return to Diego Garcia. In April 2006, 102 Chagossians were allowed to visit Diego Garcia for a week, to tend to graves and visit their birthplaces.

Quite white of us, wouldn't you agree? Chagossians were paid a princely sum of $3,000 to forfeit their rights to any claims on the island for perpetuity. Also, keep in mind that the islands are not considered part of the African Nuclear Free Zone, so it's quite likely we have nukes stored there.

Repatriation: just another service provided courtesy of the right wing of America.