AntiWar Radio host Scott Horton interviews David Vine, author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, the most illuminating book I’ve read all year and the 2004 documentary by John Pilger, Stealing a Nation.
25 July 09 | AntiWar Radio
David Vine, author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, discusses the post-WWII origin of the Diego Garcia military base, how the native Chagossian population – descended from slaves and indentured servants from French colonial times – was forcibly relocated 1200 miles away to Mauritius, the numerous other incidents of displaced native populations in U.S. history and how Diego Garcia is becoming a hub for the U.S. empire’s global tentacles. (28:20):
David Vine is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). His work focuses on issues including forced displacement, U.S. foreign and military policy, military bases, and human rights. Since 2001, he has been conducting research about the U.S. military base on the Indian Ocean island Diego Garcia and the expulsion of its indigenous people during development of the base. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mother Jones online, Foreign Policy in Focus, Chronicle of Higher Education, International Migration, and Human Rights Brief, among others.
by Jonathan Freedland
28 May 09 | The New York Review of Books
In the very lowest reaches of organized English soccer, in the bottom division of the amateur Crawley and District Football League, there is a team whose name sets it apart from its rivals. They are identified with their home villages in Sussex in southeast England: Ifield, Maidenbower, Worth. But this team has a name replete with an altogether different history. It is Chagos Island.
The soccer club is one of the few visible signs of a community of former subjects of the British Empire who now live in what they rarely thought of as “the mother country”—clustered, to be precise, in the unlovely exurbs around Gatwick airport. They, or their forebears, lived once in the Chagos archipelago, a string of more than sixty white-sanded, palm-fringed coral islands that are tiny dots on a map of the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and Indonesia. Many of these Chagossians trace their roots back to the archipelago’s largest and best-known island: Diego Garcia.
To explain how they come to be living in Crawley, many of them working menial janitorial jobs in and around the airport, is to tell one of the more shocking tales of modern-day imperialism. It is a story of an old empire passing the torch to the new, Britain handing over one of its furthest-flung territories to the United States and expelling the native inhabitants to make way for the construction of a military base that has since become central to U.S. control of the Indian Ocean and domination of the Persian Gulf. It is the tale of how a remote island idyll was simply emptied of its people, allowing for the creation of a place so secret that no journalist has been allowed to visit, a key staging post in George W. Bush’s war on terror, both the launch pad for the B-1s, B-2 “stealth” bombers, and B-52s that pounded Afghanistan and Iraq and a crucial node in the C.I.A.’s rendition system, a “black site” through which at least two high-value suspected terrorists were spirited, far from the prying eyes of international law.
This is the story laid bare in Island of Shame, a meticulously researched, coldly furious book that details precisely how London and Washington colluded in a scheme of population removal more redolent of the eighteenth or nineteenth century than the closing decades of the twentieth. It reconstructs, memo by memo, how the deed was plotted, how it was done, and how it was denied through lies told to both politicians and public. Above all, it serves as a case study for the way contemporary empire operates, exploding the myth that the United States differs from its British, Spanish, and Roman predecessors by eschewing both the brute conquest of land and the dispossession of those unfortunate enough to get in the way.
by John Pilger – 2004 (55:57):
“An extraordinary film about the plight of people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean — secretly and brutally expelled from their homeland by British governments in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to make way for an American military base. The base, on the main island of Diego Garcia, was a launch pad for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Stealing a Nation has won both the Royal Television Society’s top award as Britain’s best documentary in 2004-5, and a ‘Chris Award’ at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival. A brochure of the film is available [.pdf]. On April 8, 2008, the Chagos Islanders launched a national campaign for Resettlement of their islands.” For more information and updates on the plight of the Chagossians, visit the website of the U.K. Chagos Support Association.”