23 May 2007

Who The Hell Is Diego Garcia?

Actually, it's not a who but a what. Diego Garcia is one of the most far-flung island groups on the planet. And it's recent history epitomises every bloody horror we have witnessed in the past decade.

Here's a bit of canned commentary from John Pilger in 2004:
There are times when one tragedy, one crime tells us how a whole system works behind its democratic facade and helps us to understand how much of the world is run for the benefit of the powerful and how governments lie. To understand the catastrophe of Iraq, and all the other Iraqs along imperial history's trail of blood and tears, one need look no further than Diego Garcia.

The story of Diego Garcia is shocking, almost incredible. A British colony lying midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean, the island is one of 64 unique coral islands that form the Chagos Archipelago, a phenomenon of natural beauty, and once of peace. Newsreaders refer to it in passing: "American B-52 and Stealth bombers last night took off from the uninhabited British island of Diego Garcia to bomb Iraq (or Afghanistan)." It is the word "uninhabited" that turns the key on the horror of what was done there. In the 1970s, the Ministry of Defense in London produced this epic lie: "There is nothing in our files about a population and an evacuation."
But there was indeed a population. Over 2,000 Chagos islanders were forcibly removed by the British government so that the USA could build one of the biggest American bases in the world. Pilger documents the lies that were used to sell the ethnic cleansing of an entire population.

Now a judge has ordered the Blair government to let Diego Garcia families return home. After half a century of top-secret military development, who knows what is left of their idyllic little island paradise? One thing I am sure they will find: torture rooms where totally unknown US detainees are still being butchered and killed today.

No wonder the UK Foreign Office, which has already lost three major court cases on this matter, is still considering a last, desperate appeal to the House Of Lords.