Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Island of SHAME!

I've commented about the book called "Island of Shame" by David Vine before. A little recap:

Back cover:

"The story of the U.S. base on Diego Garcia, and the cruel displacement of the island's people, has long been hidden from the American public. We owe a debt to David Vine for revealing it to the larger public." - Howard Zinn, author of  "A People's History of the United States."

"Until I read this book, why had I heard almost nothing about the Chagossians? Their forced relocation from Diego Garcia is a disgraceful violation of human rights that should be far better known. I hope that David Vine's painstakingly researched account is widely read, and that it makes its readers furious." _ Anne Fadiman, author of "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down."

Well I have finished reading Vines book and yes I am FURIOUSLY MAD, and yes it is a DISGRACEFUL violation of human rights!!

I'll bet most of you do NOT know that the U.S.A. has about 1,000 - yes ONE THOUSAND - military bases, most of them OUTSIDE the soil of the U.S.A.  There are 4 in Australia; 4 in Singapore; 130 in Japan; 287 in Germany; 6 in Columbia; 3 in Peru; 2 in Canada; 57 in Britain; 11 in Iceland; 89 in Italy; 7 in Greece; 16 in Kuwait; 19 in Turkey; 1 in New Zealand; 106 in South Korea; 6 in Israel; 20 scattered across the African Continent; and on it goes. As Davine Vine points out the USA is indeed an EMPIRE! Not as we usually think of the word "empire" like the more familiar "British Empire" or "Roman Empire" of past/recent history. But Vine is correct that the USA with its 1,000 or so military bases around the world is a world EMPIRE! It has since the Second World War determined to be a world Empire, if not THE world empire. In planning to be such an empire it has conducted itself behind closed doors that ..... well in the specific case of the island of Diego Garcia ..... makes you furious and leaves you nothing but a sick feeling in your stomach. Oh and to boot the British were part of the whole disgraceful episode.

David Vine wonders what we as individuals will or can do. Well I certainly can devote some space on this Meltdown Blog to expose the sordid disgrace of the two brother-peoples who forcefully ejected people from an island that the USA wanted as part of its worldwide desire to Empire itself around the world with military bases.

I'll bring you some of the last pages of David Vine's book and I hope you will desire to want to buy this book, to read it, to educate yourself as to what goes on, on the inside of the "war machine" of the mighty United States of America. Sad to say it is often not a pretty story.



     In May 1973, the last boatload of haggard and hungry
Chagossians deported from Chagos refused to disembark in
Mauritius. The group of about 125 demanded that they be returned
to Chagos or else receive compensation and housing in this
"foreign country" where they had "no housing, no money, no work."
For five days, the people resisted all entreaties to get off the
boat, living and sleeping on a deck designed for less than half
their number and in the ship's dark hold, in what a local
newspaper called "deplorable conditions."
     After days of negotiations, the Mauritian Government finally
convinced the group to disembark. The government paid adults Rs5,
children Rs3, and gave nineteen families what turned out to be
dilapidated apartments, amid pigs, cows, and other farm animals,
in the slums of Port Louis. Twelve other families found their own
housing, crowding into the shacks of relatives and friends.
"In '72, I was deported," described Aurelie Lisette Talate, one
of the last to go. "I left Diego-Diego was closed," in 1971.
After that she was sent to Peros Banhos before her final
deportation. "In '72, I left Peros. I went via Seychelles."
"I came to Mauritius with six children and my mother," Aurelie
said. "I arrived in Mauritius in November. November '72 we got
our house near the Bois Marchand cemetery, but the house didn't
have a door, didn't have running water, didn't have electricity"
     A stick-thin woman in her sixties, Aurelie eats little,
smokes a lot, and speaks with a power that earned her the
nickname ti piman-little chili pepper: In Mauritius the littlest
chilies are the hottest and the fiercest.
     "The way we were treated wasn't the kind of treatment that
people need to be able to live. And then my children and I began
to suffer. All my children started getting sick."
     Within two months of arriving in Mauritius, two of Aurelie's
children had died. The second was buried in an unmarked grave
because she lacked the money to pay for a burial. "We didn't have
any more money. The government buried him, and to this day, I
don't know where he's buried."    
     In the first years in exile, most of the islanders' anger
was directed at the Mauritian Government and Prime Minister
Ramgoolam, who were understood to have "sold" Chagos and the
Chagossians to Britain in exchange for Mauritian independence.
Mauritians "committed more than a crime," Aurelie said. They
"deracinated us. Sold Diego so that Mauritius could get its
independence. We lived there. We lost our houses," and suddenly
in Mauritius "we had none. We were living like animals. Land? We
had none.... Work? We had none. Our children weren't going to
school.... I say to everyone, I say to them, 'Yes, the English
deceived me.'"
     A tradition of resistance among Chagossians started in 1968
when some of the first islanders prevented from returning to
their homes protested to the Mauritian Government, demanding that
they be returned to Chagos. From the beginning of what they came
to call lalit chagossien-the Chagossian struggle-women have been
at the forefront of the movement, protesting in the streets,
rallying supporters, going on hunger strikes, confronting the
police and getting arrested.
     The 1975 petition delivered to the British and U.S.
governments cited failed promises of compensation made by British
agents in Chagos. "Here in Mauritius, everything has to be bought
and everything is expensive. We don't have money and we don't
have work." Owing to "sorrow, poverty, and lack of food and
care," they said, "we have at least 40 persons who have died" in
exile. The Chagossians asked the British Government to "urge" the
Mauritian Government to provide land, housing, and jobs or return
them to their islands. "Although we were poor" in Chagos, they
wrote, "we were not dying of hunger. We were living free."
     The petition and numerous other pleas to the governments of
Britain, the United States, Mauritius, and the Seychelles went
unheeded. The U.S. Government declared it had "no legal
responsibility" for the islanders; the following year, a British
official sent to investigate found the islanders "living in
deplorable conditions." Both governments did nothing.
     In 1978, after years of protests and pressure, the
Government of Mauritius finally paid compensation to some of the
islanders from the 650,000 pounds it had received from the
British Government in 1972. When the money proved "hopelessly
inadequate," Aurelie and several other Chagossian women went on
what would be the first of five hunger strikes over four
years to protest their conditions. The protesters demanded proper
housing: "Give us a house; if not, return us to our country,
Diego," proclaimed one of their flyers.
     The hunger strike lasted 21 days in an office of the
Mauritian Militant Party (MMM), a leftist opposition party whose
leaders had assisted the struggle since the first arrivals in
1968. Later that year, four Chagossians were jailed for resisting
the police when Mauritian authorities tore down their shacks.
Both protests yielded few concrete results but added to mounting
political momentum for the islanders.
     In 1979, with MMM assistance, several Chagossians engaged a
British lawyer, Bernard Sheridan, to negotiate with the British
Government about providing additional compensation. Sheridan was
already suing the United Kingdom on behalf of Michel Vincatassin,
a Chagossian who charged that he had been forcibly removed from
his and his ancestors' homeland.
     British officials reportedly offered 1.25 million pounds in
additional compensation to the group on the condition that
Vincatassin drop his case and Chagossians sign deeds "in full and
final settlement," waiving future suits and "all our claims and
rights (if any) of whatsoever nature to return to the British
Indian Ocean Territory."
     Sheridan came to Mauritius offering the money in exchange
for the renunciation deeds. Initially many impoverished
Chagossians signed them more precisely, given near universal
adult illiteracy, most provided their thumbprints on deeds
written in English. When Chagossian and MMM leaders heard the
terms of the deal, they halted the process and sent Sheridan back
to London. A support group wrote to Sheridan to explain that
those who had "signed" the forms had done so without "alternative
legal advice," and "as a mere formality" to obtain desperately
needed money, rather than out of agreement with its conditions.
No compensation was disbursed.


     Before long Chagossians were back in the streets of
Mauritius, launching more hunger strikes and their largest
protests yet in 1980 and 1981. Along with Aurelie, Rita was part
of a group of women who guided the movement. Together they
repeatedly faced police intimidation, violence, and arrest, to
lead hundreds marching on the British High Commission, protesting
in front of government offices, and sleeping on the streets and
sidewalks of the Mauritian capital. In one notorious incident,
now recounted with embarrassed glee, a group of women faced off
against a line of male riot police officers in downtown Port
Louis. The police charged some the women, hitting them with
batons to get them to disperse and knocking them to the ground.
Suddenly and spontaneously, a woman reached up and grabbed a cop
by the testicles. "Grabbed his, grabbed his testicles, his balls!
Yes!" said Aurelie. "She grabbed the cop's balls! She grabbed his
balls and then he fell to his knees." Yelling in pain, he and
other riot police ran off in full retreat.
     "No one was afraid," Rita said of the women protesters. "We
weren't afraid. They were shooting tear gas at us, so we hit
back, threw rocks at them. We weren't afraid."
     Led by women like Rita and Aurelie, the islanders demanded
the right to return to Chagos as well as immediate compensation,
decent housing, and jobs." "We yelled, 'Give us back Diego! Give
us back Diego that you stole, Ramgoolam! That you sold,
Ramgoolam!'" Aurelie recounted. "We went and we yelled in the
streets: 'Ramgoolam sold Diego! Ramgoolam, give us back Diego!
Get a boat to take us to Diego!'"
     For the first time, a broad coalition of Mauritian political
groups and unions supported the people under the Kreol rallying
cry Rann Nu Diego--Give Us Back Diego. The slogan served to unite
the Chagossians' struggle with the demands of many Mauritians to
return Chagos to Mauritian sovereignty and close the base.
Ambiguity in the Kreol phrase, however, also obscured key
disagreements between the groups still visible today in what are
at times difficult alliances: Does rann nu mean "give us back" or
"return us to"? Does the us mean Chagossians or Mauritius and the
Mauritian people? And does giving back Diego mean evicting the
base or only a reversion of control over the island with the base
allowed to stay?
     During this moment of unity, though, the coalition soon won
results. Following violent clashes and the arrest of six
Chagossian women and two Mauritian supporters during another
eighteen-day hunger strike, Mauritian Prime Minister Seewoosagur
Ramgoolam left for London to meet British Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher. The two governments agreed to hold talks on
compensation with Chagossian representatives.
     After two rounds of negotiations, the British Government
agreed to provide 4 million pounds in compensation, with the
Mauritian Government contributing land it valued at 1 million. In
exchange, most signed or thumbprinted so-called "renunciation
forms" to protect the U.K. Government from further claims for
compensation and the right to return.
     Many Chagossians have later disputed the legality of these
forms and their knowledge of their contents, again written in
English without translation. Rita explained, "I didn't make my
thumbprint to renounce my right. I made my print to get money to
give my children food. They had no food."
     Rita continued insistently, "I never renounced my right....
You can show me my thumbprint, my thumbprint, my signing, there
was Rs8,000 for me in the bank, but I don't know how to read. I
don't know how to write.... I took it because my children were
dying of hunger. I was pulling food out of the trashcan to give
to them. I went to buy food so I could give them food," Rita
said. "If I didn't sign, I would have been pulling food from the
trashcan again to give to my children.... I did not renounce my


     In the wake of the compensation agreement, many felt that
their interests had not been well represented by some of their
Mauritian allies and spokespeople. Several, including prominent
Chagossian leaders and former hunger strikers Aurelie and
Charlesia Alexis, created the first solely Chagossian support
organization, the Chagos Refugees Group (CRG). With Rita's help,
they asked her last son born in Peros Banhos, eighteenyear-old
Louis Olivier Bancoult, to join the organization. The women felt
their illiteracy had allowed the community's manipulation in the
past, and Olivier was one of the few community members who had
gone to secondary school and was literate. "They needed a
Chagossian who had some education," he explained.
     The CRG, under the leadership of Aurelie, Charlesia, Rita,
and Olivier, pressed for the right to return and additional
compensation. They continued their work through the 1980s and
1990s but showed little progress. Gradually they lost support
among the exiles.
     Another organization, the Chagossian Social Committee (CSC),
eventually took charge of the people's political struggle, led by
CSC founders Fernand Mandarin and his Mauritian barrister Herve
     The group pursued out-of-court negotiations with the U.K.,
U.S., and Mauritian governments for compensation and the right to
return. While the CSC had little success in pursuing substantive
talks, the group gained recognition for Chagossians as an
indigenous people before the UN. A CSC leaflet showing Fernand
participating in a session at the UN Working Group on Indigenous
Populations proclaims, "To live on our land of origin: A sacred
right, wherever our origin may be!"

The fight still goes on today. The people who were FORCED off their homeland because the USA wanted the Island for a USA military base with no native people. Both the British and the USA are responsible for this disgraceful treatment of the native people from Diego Garcia......as one writer on the back cover says: "Island of Shame illuminates the interior workings of the American empire as it penetrated and shattered the lives of the people of the tiny island of Diego Gracia in the Indian Ocean.
David Vine turns his anthropological lenses not only on the victims, the people who were expelled to make room for a military base, but on the perpetrators as well, the American officials who
oversaw the tragedy." - Frances Fox Piven, coauthor of "Regulating the Poor."

You need to read this book! You need to have it in your home library! You need to have this part of history in your children's education. You need to realize OUR ISRAEL nations of JOSEPH have
done some mighty large sins in our time as world Empires (and we are still doing some mighty large sins) and we will NOT go UNpunished - we shall reap what we sow - the Lord will not hold back His justice of punishment forever. I have expounded for you all the prophets of the Bible on my Website, which will soon also be in regular book form and eBook.  Our day of judgment is coming. David Vine's book is just one example of WHY judgment must come upon us.

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