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Diego Garcia Military Base: The Plot Thickens


As the year 2014 draws closer, the USA will be getting up to all sorts of imperialist tricks. The year 2016 is the year the USA’s lease from the UK for the island of Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Archipelago that the British stole as an illegal condition for Mauritian Independence in 1965 and named the British Indian Ocean Territory. But the USA, as receiver of the stolen goods has to have already negotiated a new lease before the end of 2014, according to the terms of the original lease.

As the frenzy created around signing the petition to Obama abates, everyone gradually realizes how many people had no idea why it was Obama they were petitioning to settle Chagossians on the “Outer Islands” that are not under USA’s lease, nor what exactly they were demanding of him. In the frenzied feeding on the petition, people who should know better seem to have forgotten that the Diego Garcia and Chagos dossier is land full of traps set by the USA and UK over the decades. The exact nature of the tricks, and thus the traps being set, is now becoming clearer.

The old right-wing line of the PMSD of blaming old man Ramgoolam for “selling Diego” is, for example, raising its head again, as if by pure chance. Jean Claude de L’Estrac, who Navin Ramgoolam has recently named to be in charge of the Indian Ocean Commission has prepared the ground for this line. He has tried to make the issue once again become “How Ramgoolam Sold Diego Garcia” – even though anyone over the age of 13 knows that a leader of a country still colonized has neither the authority nor the power to “sell” its territory. It is almost a tautology. Queen Elizabeth was Head of State of Mauritius and its Lesser Dependencies as the colony was pompously called and she was also Head of State of the UK, so what kind of a “sale” is this where the buyer and the seller are one and the same legal person? In any case, it is in flagrant violation of the UN Charter. It is against UN Resolutions, too. And the stupidity of thinking that a colonial power and an imperialist power can call for “auto-determination” so as to get away with their “land-grab” is ridiculous. That is certainly not what Lenin meant by auto-determination.

Mauritius “secret strategy” published
One of the things becoming clearer is the Mauritian State’s position. We did not understand at first why the Mauritian Government, from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the MBC TV was throwing its weight so massively behind, even helping to create the frenzy, behind a petition launched by SPEAK, an American NGO with a Mauritian branch set up by the GRC lawyer, Mr. Robin Mardaymootoo, and by a US NGO, UNROW Litigants Clinik, set up by the GRC US lawyer, Mr. Tigar. It seemed odd. Then the day after the petition’s “time up”, the Mauritian Government published its secret strategy. The Mauritian Government is thus reassuring the USA that Mauritius is not at all critical of the US military base on Diego Garcia, so long as Mauritius gets sovereignty. Implied is the rent money, of course. For us in LALIT, this is exactly the kind of opportunist barter that we opose. The base must be opposed. It must be opposed on principled grounds. The base is the cause of all the crimes. But, instead of recognizing this, what does the Mauritian Government say, through its Ambassador to the UN, Milan Meetarbhan? On 6 April, he offers the USA and the UK what he thinks they need, while staking Mauritius’ claim to lease money.

“Washington has no interest in having protracted challenges lodged against the legality of the territory on which it maintains a vital military facility. By accepting Mauritian sovereignty over the Chagos, the UK will not prejudice its position with respect to other colonial territories, as the Chagos is a standalone case. This will also be without prejudice to the "defense purposes" for which Britain claims that it holds on to the islands. Mauritius wants to talk about the future and doesn't wish to look back. Hopefully, the U.S. will do the right thing and help to bring this matter to a close before 2014.”

“Mothballing” the Diego Garcia military base?
We had not realized until recently just how strong the lobby in the USA administration is to “look eastwards” and cuddle up to Australia. It even wants to “replace” and “mothball” the base on Diego Garcia. This is because this warring faction within the Washington Administration sees the “containment of China” as more important than the “stabilizing” of the Middle East, which required the Diego base to be re-inforced..

“UNITED STATES military aircraft, including drones undertaking surveillance operations over the South China Sea, could be based on Australia's Cocos and Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean.
“ As part of enhanced US-Australian military co-operation announced in November by Julia Gillard and the US President, Barack Obama, the islands would replace the US’s present Indian Ocean base of Diego Garcia, which the US leases from the British and is due to be mothballed in 2016”. - Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Mars, 2012.

The Lobby in Favour of Stabilizing Diego Garcia
We did not realize that there is a second lobby in the US Administration that wants to stabilize things for the Diego Garcia base to be expanded, so as to concentrate on the Middle East. Recently John Price, ex-Us-Ambassador to Mauritius, while calling for people to sign the Obama petition, initiated by SPEAK and UNROW, which he published on his site:

“I believe that Diego Garcia needs an outer safety ring to keep the military core area sanitized from any access by unauthorized personnel. … In addition the military base imports (sic) contract workers, hence hiring the Chagossians would be a humanitarian gesture, as well as an economic benefit for them. There is no question as to the importance of Diego Garcia for our national security interests, especially in today’s struggle with Iran which threatens its neighbors and beyond. … So for the foreseable future, the United States cannot consider giving up this strategic military base in the Indian Ocean. However the Chagossians’ plight will need to be addressed at some point in the near future; to find a permanent solution for the destitute Chagossian Diaspora.” - 29 Mars 2012

This must be the first time in history that working to keep a military base operational is a “humanitarian gesture”. John Price in his USA, is Alice in Wonderland.

NATO raises the alarm about Diego Garcia
The NATO chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in a meeting in London that NATO held jointly with big business at Lloyds, raised the alarm about further investing in Diego as early as 1 October, 2009:
“Rising sea levels will have a clear effect on the ability of our armed forces to do their jobs. Look at Diego Garcia. It is an important logistical hub, including for this country; it is also only a few feet above sea level at its highest point.”

New legal case, this time against BIOT, for the crime of “rendering”
On 10 April, the BBC’s site informed us that the UK has yet further legal challenges because of Diego Garcia. Not just the Mauritian State v. UK in the UNCLOS (Law of the Sea) mechanism, not just the Chagossians in the EU Human Rights Court and also on the Marine Park, but now a new case from a totally different quarter:

“Abdel Hakim Belhaj to sue Diego Garcia commission: A former terror suspect who claims he was tortured after being rendered to Libya in 2004 is suing the UK commission in charge of Diego Garcia.” - BBC, 10 April 2012 Last updated at 16:17 GMT

This Mr. Belhaj is none other than a Libyan military chief, now of course hand in glove with NATO, himself. Clearly at the time when Tony Blair became best friends with Gadaafi, he handed this Islamist militant over to Kadaafi. He and his wife were kidnapped by the USA and UK in Bangkok, then rendered to Kadaafi, via a stop in Diego Garcia. Mr. Belhaj’s 4-month pregnant wife was rendered and tortured, too, in this truly shocking case. The USA and UK’s barbarity seems to know no bounds. It is worth a visit to The Guardian and the BBC sites. Now Mr. Belhaf is suing British Indian Ocean Territories’ Commissioner.

So, in LALIT, we believe the time has come for us to ask questions of people and of States on the Diego and Chagos issue, so as to call into question their integrity. Questions like:
- Do you oppose the US military base on Diego Garcia? Do you admit that the military base, being a legal black hole, has been used for war crimes? That these war crimes range from bombing civilians to illegal “rendering” of illegally arrested prisoners? From an illegal war on Iraq to an arbitrary one against Afghanistan? If you answer yes, then it means you have some integrity. Whereas, if you are in favour of this kind of war machinery, if you refuse to see that the base is the cause of all the crimes on Diego Garcia and Chagos, if you fail to see that the Chagossians were made to suffer their cruel displacement in order to make way for this illegal base, if you refuse to accept that Mauritius was dismembered to make way for the base, then we should judge your integrity on the basis of this position.
- Do you oppose the dismemberment of territory as a condition to Independence? If yes, you have some integrity. If, however, you are in favour of this kind of dismemberment, it means that you are, to use the metaphor of statuatory rape, blaming a consenting victim (the Mauritian State), who was underage, thus effectively provoding the perpetrator, in this case the colonizer, with a way out.
- Are you in favour of Chagossians having the full right of return, their heads held high, and as Mauritians, to all the Islands of Chagos? If yes, your position is sound. If you start conceding Diego Garcia to the US, and if you start claiming only the “Outer Islands”, you are on the slippery slope to having no principled position at all.
- Are you in favour of full reparations for all Chagossians for the trauma and harm they suffered by being forcibly removed? If yes, you are recognizing their suffering as a result of their displacement, a displacement premeditated to make way for the military base.
- If you persist with the extrem right wing argument that “Old Man Ramgoolam sold Diego”, this means that you are shifting the blame from the actor who premeditated all the crimes: the USA and UK. They are the thieves. They are the receivers of stolen goods. They are the war criminals. They are the ones responsible for the forcible removals. To blame someone who was not head of a State, someone who is already dead, is a way of effectively covering up for the USA and UK. Old Man Ramgoolam “sold out”, in the sense of treachery, but there is no way that he could have sold the islands. It’s pure fantasy to say he did. He could not have even had he wishes to. As everyone knows, the “deal” that the UK and USA imposed was with three political parties, Labour, the IFB and the PMSD and a representative of the private sector, Mr. Paturau. How on earth could any thinking person think this merry band could “sell” part of a country negotiating its Independence?