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Open Letter to David Vine re Petition Colluding with Military Occupation of Diego Garcia


LALIT was invited recently by David Vine, author of a fine book on Chagos and another outstanding book on all US military bases, to sign a petition about Chagos, including Diego Garcia. When LALIT members read the petition [See at the end of the letter], however, we were horrified by the degree of collusion, in its drafting, with the US-UK military occupation. 

 So, we have written an Open Letter to David Vine. We have given him 24 hours in which to forward our letter to other signatories before we upload it now, thus placing it in the public domain.

 Here is the letter, followed by David Vine’s email, which includes the petition. You will notice that prominent people have signed the petition. However, in LALIT, we believe that people militating against military occupation and colonialism should have thought twice prior to signing it. Petitions have consequences. We are convinced that signatories have not thought through who they are asking to do what, given the new situation in 2019.  They are asking the President Trump and Boris Johnson to continue acting as though they own the place (Chagos including Diego Garcia) when they have formerly been ruled “unlawful” occupiers. First the UN’s top Court, the ICJ, on 25 February 2019 ruled occupation illegal and called for swift decolonization and return of Chagos to Mauritius. Second, the UN General Assembly followed up with a vote (116-6) on 22 May 2019 to kick the UK out. It as though, by petitioning Trump and Johnson this way, signatories betray the fact that they have not fully understood the meaning of the ICJ findings and of the UNGA vote. Or maybe that they have not read the key documents?

 This is why we have taken the initiative of denouncing the content of the petition in the Open Letter below. We meanwhile call on the signatories urgently to go read the ICJ judgment ( on the ICJ site, and the UNGA resolution ( ) on the UN site. And to think about what the judgment and the resolution mean. This say we can open up an informed debate on the issue. Our site is also full of articles about Chagos, including Diego Garcia.

 Dear David,

 In LALIT, we are shocked – to put it mildly – at the degree of complicity of this petition you asked us to sign up to (below) – complicity with the UK-USA military base that perpetuates a military occupation of Diego Garcia and Chagos, land under the responsibility of all Mauritians, including Chagossians. 

 Before the ICJ judgment and the UN General Assembly vote of 116-6 (the 6 includes the UK and the USA and Israel), such a political stance was already pretty morally suspect, and we had openly criticized you for it then. 

 Now, once there is the judgment and once there is the UN vote, your political stance is outrageously complicit. We are dismayed that people call themselves “experts” at all, but be that as it may; we are alarmed that people, while calling themselves “experts” and “analysts”, can’t manage to grasp just what an outrage to reason their petition, in fact, is. The political line in the petition may be thinly disguised as some sort-of paternalistic “do-gooding” towards Chagossians, but that is just not good enough, we are afraid, David. The highest court in the international sphere has told the UK to get out by 22 November last. The UN General Assembly has said all states must help to get the UK out by this date. Even the British Labour Party, including its centrist Parliamentary wing, has vowed to get out, if they are elected. Why don’t you just petition along the same lines? Why not? At the very least, you could just shut up on the issue of the base altogether? 

 Instead you, and other “experts”, petition the US head of state, Donald Trump, in what is the only direct demand of the petition, as follows: 

 “We call on the US government to publicly state that it does not oppose Chagossians returning to their islands and to assist Chagossians in returning home.“ 

 Returning when? Under what conditions? What are you saying? A demand for return while Chagos is still BIOT? The notorious rump colony “British Indian Ocean Territory”? Which no longer has legal existence? If ever it did? This political line could be what, say, President Donald Trump comes up with as a counter-proposal to the UN position, but it should not be your proposal, David. Can’t you see that? Our aim must be to continue changing the balance of forces against the already isolated UK-USA on this issue so that they end military occupation. 

 And, for what reason does this petition include the whole tortuous argumentation to bolster its only demand? We refer to the following part of the petition:

 “We note the Chagos Refugees Group is not asking to close the base. They simply want the right to return home to live in peaceful (sic – and sick, the base is notorious as trampoline for bombarding civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan) coexistence with the base, where some want to work. The Mauritian government has said it will allow the US/UK base to continue to operate. Civilians live next to US bases worldwide; military experts agree resettlement would pose no security risk.”

 Why did you not just exclude this bit of bowing-down-to-power from your petition altogether (i.e the sentences in red [italics] quoted above)? The drafting of the petition, and its aim, is difficult for us to understand, frankly. As it is, we do not accept the abject position of the Mauritian State on this point – though we understand it: the Mauritian State is looking to get some rent money – something we denounce. Why should we, the people of Mauritius including Chagossians, have blood on our hands, as the people who own Chagos, just because of a US military base unlawfully operating from there? Money cannot buy us. Why should you and your experts latch on to this abject line? We do not agree with the leadership of the Chagos Refugees Group either, on its present line of not objecting to the base (a line originally adopted only in the late 1990’s under the dodgy pressures of litigation) and even seeking work on the death-reaping machinery. This base, as you know, has been used for rendering (i.e. torture) and for waging an illegal war – both of which constitute war crimes perpetrated on our (including Chagossians) land. The reason Chagossians cannot return home is that the UK has leased one of the Islands to the USA for a base. So, the logical demand is for the base thus to be closed down. It is this demand that will mean Chagossians get the right to return, instead of the favour of “resettlement”. It will open the way to Chagossians returning heads held high.

 And you even, on the basis of your own fine research and brave book exposing the web of US bases, induce other people to sign up to this cowardly, cowering petition. You could, if you wanted cowards to be included in the petition, have just called for a date for base closure. Or, as we mentioned, you could just remain silent on base closure. Instead you go and give this military base and this illegal military occupation, through your signatures, some kind of veneer of moral respectability. In any case, as if to be even more humiliating for those who signed this abject petition, the US lease from the UK of Diego Garcia is only for the next 20 years from last year – not forever as you make out in the petition. 

 And what, may we ask, does this petition mean that the signatories think about the binding Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa? Please inform us whether you agree to the nuclear material that is there on the base in defiance of this Treaty. Remember this is the Treaty by which Nelson Mandela agreed to dismantle South Africa’s nuclear arms production at Pelindaba in exchange for no nuclear arms in Africa. As for the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which Mauritius is party to but the USA, the military occupier, is not,  must that, too, just be colluded with?  

 So, we cannot sign such a petition. 

 Please could you forward this letter to all signatories (1), so that they are at least aware that this letter will be in the public domain soon.

 Yours sincerely,

 Rajni Lallah and Lindsey Collen




Christine Ahn, Women Cross DMZ

Jeff Bachman, Lecturer in Human Rights, American University

Medea Benjamin, CoDirector, CODEPINK

Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project

Ali Beydoun, Human Rights Attorney, American University Washington College of Law

‚ÄčLeah Bolger, President, World BEYOND War and Commander, US Navy (Ret)

Sean Carey, Senior Research Fellow, University of Manchester

Noam Chomsky, Laureate Professor, University of Arizona/Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Neta C. Crawford, Professor/Chair of the Department Political Science, Boston University

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Professor Emerita, California State University

Richard Dunne, Barrister and Author, “A Dispossessed People: The Depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago 1965-1973”

James Counts Early, Director Cultural Heritage Policy Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Representative for Middle East Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Joseph Essertier, Associate Professor, Nagoya Institute of Technology

John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies

Norma Field, Emeritus Professor, University of Chicago

Bill Fletcher, Jr., executive Editor,

Dana Frank, Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz

Scott Freeman, Professorial Lecturer, American University

Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

Joseph Gerson, President, Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security

Vinesh Y. Hookoomsing, Professor and Former Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mauritius

Jean Jackson, Professor of Anthropology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Laura Jeffery, Professor, University of Edinburgh

Barbara Rose Johnston, Senior Fellow, Center for Political Ecology

Kyle Kajihiro, Board of Directors, Hawaii Peace and Justice/PhD Candidate, University of Hawaii, Manoa

Dylan Kerrigan, University of Leicester

Gwyn Kirk, Women for Genuine Security

Lawrence Korb, United States Assistant Secretary of Defense 1981-1985

Peter Kuznick, Professor of History, American University

Wlm L Leap, Professor Emeritus, American University

John Lindsay-Poland, Author, Plan Colombia: U.S. Ally Atrocities and Community Activism and Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the U.S. in Panama

C. Douglas Lummis, Visiting Professor, Okinawa Christian University Graduate School and Coordinator, Veterans For Peace-Ryukyus/Okinawa Chapter Kokusai

Catherine Lutz, Professor, Brown University/Author, Homefront: A Military City and the American Twentieth Century and War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Olivier Magis, Filmmaker, Another Paradise

Barbara Miller, Professor, George Washington University

George Derek Musgrove, Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Lisa Natividad, Professor, University of Guam

Celine-Marie Pascale, Professor, American University

Miriam Pemberton, Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies

Adrienne Pine, Associate Professor, American University

Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus, Brown University/Veteran, United States Army, Okinawa

Rob Rosenthal, Interim Provost, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Professor Emeritus, Wesleyan University

Victoria Sanford, Professor, Lehman College/Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Stephanie Savell, Co-Director, Costs of War Project

Cathy Lisa Schneider, Professor, American University

Susan Shepler, Associate Professor, American University

Angela Stuesse, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Delbert L. Spurlock. Jr., Former General Counsel and Assistant Secretary of the US Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs

David Swanson, executive Director, World BEYOND War

Susan J. Terrio, Professor Emerita, Georgetown University

John Tierney, executive Director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and former Democratic Member of Congress from Massachusetts

Jane Tigar, Human Rights Attorney

Michael E. Tigar, Emeritus Professor of Law, Duke Law School and Washington College of Law

David Vine, Professor, American University/Author, Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia

Colonel Ann Wright, US Army Reserves (Retired)/Veterans for Peace




From: David Vine [address] Sent: 20 November 2019 17:01To: David Vine; [address] Subject: URGENT: Please Sign Experts' Letter Supporting the Exiled Chagossians 


Dear Friends, 


Please consider signing the letter below in support of the Chagossians, the people exiled during the creation of the UK/US military base on Diego Garcia. And please share this with any academics or other experts in refugee, military, or international affairs who might want to sign. 

To sign, please email soon as possible with the following in the subject line: your name, title, and affiliation (and the title of any Chagossian-related or other especially relevant book, article, or other work). 

Thank you very much for your help in supporting the Chagossians at this critical moment in their struggle,



Experts’ Letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Donald J. Trump 

Supporting the Exiled Chagossian People  


22 November 2019

Dear Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Donald J. Trump, 

We are a group of scholars, military and international relations analysts, and other experts who are writing in support of the exiled Chagossian people. As you know, the Chagossians have been struggling for more than 50 years to win the right to return to their homeland in the Indian Ocean’s Chagos Archipelago since the UK and US governments expelled the people between 1968­ and 1973 during construction of the US/UK military base on the Chagossians’ island Diego Garcia. 

 We support the Chagos Refugees Group’s call to “condemn the illegal occupation of [the] Chagos Archipelago by the British government” following the United Nations General Assembly Resolution adopted 22 May 2019 by a 116–6 vote. 

 We support Chagossians today protesting the end of the six-month deadline by which the UN ordered the United Kingdom 1) to “withdraw its colonial administration” from the Chagos Archipelago, 2) to acknowledge that the Chagos Archipelago “forms an integral part” of the former UK colony Mauritius; and 3) “to cooperate with Mauritius in facilitating the resettlement” of Chagossians.

 We support the Chagos Refugees Group’s call for the UK government to show “respect for [the] United Nations” and for the International Court of Justice judgement of 25 February 2019 that called UK rule in the Chagos Archipelago “unlawful” and ordered the UK to “end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.”

 We emphasize that the US government shares responsibility for the Chagossians’ expulsion into impoverished exile: The US government paid the UK government $14 million for basing rights and the removal of all Chagossians from Diego Garcia and the rest of the Chagos islands. We call on the US government to publicly state that it does not oppose Chagossians returning to their islands and to assist Chagossians in returning home.

 We note the Chagos Refugees Group is not asking to close the base. They simply want the right to return home to live in peaceful coexistence with the base, where some want to work. The Mauritian government has said it will allow the US/UK base to continue to operate. Civilians live next to US bases worldwide; military experts agree resettlement would pose no security risk. 

 We support the Chagos Refugees Group in saying the UK and US governments cannot continue “to banish [Chagossians’] fundamental right” to live in their homeland. You have the power to rectify this historic injustice. You have the power to show the world that the UK and US uphold basic human rights. We agree with Chagossians “that justice needs to be done” and that “it’s time to put an end to [their] suffering.” 




 Background not in the letter: On Friday, Chagossians will be protesting the UK government's flagrant disregard for a recent UN resolution and a recent International Court of Justice ruling that called on the UK to “withdraw its colonial administration” from the Chagossians' homeland and to assist Chagossians wishing to return home. Please sign this letter to offer our support for their struggle. Note: Some would surely prefer this letter call for the closure of the Diego Garcia base. The Chagos Refugees Group and most Chagossians are not calling for base closure because it would make their main goal of winning the right to return much, much more difficult legally and politically.

David Vine ProfessorDepartment of AnthropologyAmerican University 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NWWashington, DC 20016 USA

www [.] DavidVine [.] net

www [.] BaseNation [.] us

www [.] LetUsReturnUSA [.] org