David Vine, author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, writes about the continuing saga of the Chagossians at the Huffington Post. Deported to pave the way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, the Chagossians still endure poverty and homesickness or sagren. To learn more about the history and current activities of Diego Garcia, read this sample from from Vine’s book.
This month marks the fortieth anniversary of the final deportations, when the last boatload of Chagossians arrived 1,200 miles from their homes, on the western Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles. In those same forty years, the base on British-controlled Diego Garcia helped launch the Afghan and Iraq wars and was part of the CIA’s secret “rendition” program for captured terrorist suspects.
The history of the base, which the U.S. military calls the “Footprint of Freedom,” dates to the 1950s and 1960s. By then, Chagossians had been living in the previously uninhabited Chagos islands for almost 200 years, since their ancestors arrived as enslaved Africans and indentured Indians. 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 and agreed to take those “administrative measures” necessary to remove the nearly 2,000 Chagossians in exchange for $14 million in secret U.S. payments.
Beginning in 1968, any Chagossians who left Chagos for medical treatment or regular vacations in Mauritius were barred from returning home, marooning them often without family members and almost all their possessions. 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.”
In 1971, the U.S. Navy’s highest-ranking admiral, Elmo Zumwalt, issued the final deportation order in a three-word memo ringing of Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz:
“Absolutely must go.”
Read more at the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-vine/forty-years-of-heartbreak_b_3344190.html