Diego Garcia

I’d like to take you around the world to a small island in the Chagos Archipelago of the Indian Ocean, a British colony by the name of Diego Garcia.

Diego Garcia

In the 1960s and 70s, the US and British governments collaborated to secretly expel the population of Diego Garcia in order to make way for an American military base.

First they made a policy decision to deprive the island of basic needs: salt, sugar, dairy products, oil, medicine. Then they rounded up and killed nearly one thousand of the pet dogs and warned the island of bombing, in order to encourage the native population to leave out of fear.

Those that left the Chagos Islands were not allowed to return home. Others that stayed were corralled onto boats, expelled, and dumped in the slums of the nearby island of Mauritius.

After living for years in intense poverty conditions, in 1982 the Chagos Islanders demonstrated in the streets of Mauritius. They managed to gain a small settlement of less than 3000 pounds per person, which would fail to cover their debts. In order to receive the sum, they were forced to thumb-print an English legal document that renounced their indigenous rights.

The British have falsely claimed that the islands were uninhabited when they first obtained them, that there was no indigenous population. Yet the British High Court has found this atrocity to be in defiance of the Magna Carta on three separate occasions and ruled the population to be returned to their homeland. But a royal decree during the Blair administration put those hopes to rest by ensuring the native peoples will never return home.

Today, the island of Diego Garcia (known as a British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) or Fantasy Island) is home to one of the United States’ largest military bases and part of the space surveillance network. It has been used as a launching pad for the bombing campaigns of Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda suspects are also rendered to “Camp Justice” on the island for “interrogation.” The Pentagon has referred to the island as “an indispensable platform for policing the world.

If you’d like to hear more about the experiences of the Chagossian people, you can watch this one-hour documentary.

Mid-week Roundup 11/28

Okay, I think I might start doing a semi-regular blog round-up. Some of the entries I’ve been making have been quite lengthy, so rather than boring you with text, I’ll occasionally make posts with a few links in them, commonly referred to as a ’round-up’. That way you can choose any stories that interest you and move past ones that don’t.

On that note, here are a few stories of interest:

  • And for anyone not scared of the future yet….a creepy video.

“War on Terror”

We have all heard of the ‘War on Terror,’ re-declared by President Bush following the 9/11 attacks. I say ‘re-declared’ because pretty much the same rhetoric was used by Ronald Reagan in 1981, before much of Central America was devastated by terror with US involvement.

Anyhow, the real problem with the re-declared ‘war on terror‘ is that it prescribes endless war against a faceless enemy. Terrorism is a tactic used by people in many countries, including the US; it is not possible to wage war on such a thing; there is not a specific set of people that can be targeted…they are everywhere and more are created every day.

Terrorism, as defined by US Code, is the calculated threat or use of violence with the aim of intimidating and provoking fear and damage in order to achieve political, religious, ideological and other goals, typically directed against civilian populations.

If we apply this definition honestly, we will find that most of the rest of the world already regards the United States as a leading terrorist state. In the last half century, the US has taken or backed military actions in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Bolivia, Peru, El Salvador, Haiti, Cuba, Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, East Timor…you get the picture.

In fact, the US is the only nation ever to be condemned by the World Court for the ‘unlawful use of force‘ (in Nicaragua v. United States, 1986). Washington ignored the order to pay reparations to Nicaragua, then vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions calling on all states to ‘observe international law‘. So the ‘war on terror‘ is an extreme double-standard; the terrorism we target is only the terrorism of our enemies, not of our allies, nor of ourselves.

The goal following the September 11 attacks was to make our country more secure in order to prevent a future terrorist atrocity on our soil. Contrary to achieving this objective, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have increased the threat of terrorism and made our country less safe. Anyone with an understanding of history will realize that an open war on the Arab world would be the answer to Bin Laden’s prayers.

Massive military retaliation in Afghanistan and Iraq (while depleting our resources) will tear civilian families apart, leaving thousands of desperate parents and children left with nowhere to turn but to the cause of the terrorists. With the rising appeal of a global jihadi Islam, recruitment for the Al Qaeda networks have increased, while Iraq itself has become a ‘terrorist haven’ for the first time.

What sort of vicious enemies and horrendous atrocities will our children have to endure due to the ‘blowback’ caused by our actions in the Middle East and elsewhere? These ‘terrorists’ do not hate the freedoms of America; they hate American foreign policy, which has aggravated the struggles of their people.

If we devote our resources to addressing the roots of their sentiments and begin to break down terror networks through coordinated intelligence, rather than blind military invasion, we can reduce the threats we face here at home and make the world more livable for future generations.

Blowback

The attacks of 9/11 were truly a vicious act, causing the deaths of about 3000 innocent civilians. Such an atrocity is condemned the world over and those responsible should most certainly be brought to justice. Following the attacks, many people (including the president) asked the question: “Why do they hate us?

Indeed, how could someone hate such a benevolent nation, promoters of peace and democracy the world over? Bush’s response to this question was that those involved are evil-doers that “hate our freedoms“. This sort of answer fails to address the root of the problem. While it may be comforting to pretend that our enemies ‘hate our freedoms’, it is not smart to ignore the history of the real world, which reveals more important lessons.

If someone were to ask me why the US was attacked on 9/11, the most concise answer I could give would be one word: blowback. You may be familiar with the term; it was coined by the CIA, meaning the unintended consequences of covert operations. Back in the early eighties, the CIA (along with Pakistani, Egyptian, French & British intelligence) was involved in recruiting, training, and arming extreme Islamic fundamentalists to fight a ‘holy war’ against the Russian invaders of Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden joined our call for resistance and accepted our military training and equipment, along with countless other mujahideen “freedom fighters” (as Reagan called them). After Afghanistan had been bombed to ruins and the Russians suffered a Vietnam-like defeat, the US turned their backs on the death and destruction they had helped to create.

With the country of Afghanistan left in a power vacuum, the Islamic militant groups struggled for power in civil war (using the arms we provided), eventually leading to the rise of the Taliban, whose extreme views caused the deterioration of Afghan rights and freedoms, especially for women.

Bin Laden continued to get angered by US policy abroad…its support for Israel’s military occupation, the bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, etc. The last straw for him was after the Gulf War, when we kept American military bases in Saudi Arabia to support its authoritarian regime. Saudi Arabia is bin Laden’s home country, but more importantly, it is the holy-land of Islam, in which bin Laden would not tolerate an ‘infidel’ presence (viewed as similar to the Soviet presence in Afghanistan).

Since then, bin Laden has declared jihad (holy-war) on the United States, the deadly consequences of which we all witnessed on September 11th. So we are badly mistaken if we think that we in the US are entirely blameless for what happened on 9/11. Believing it was a random act of aggression by people that ‘hate our freedoms’ is not only dishonest; it is a way of evading responsibility for the ‘blowback’ that US foreign policy has created.