Diego Garcia remains one of the worst atrocities of all time British foreign policy – and it continues under New Labour. In 1971 Britain commenced the forced removal of the population of the Chagos Archipelago to make way for a huge US airbase. This base has been used for bombing Iraq and Afghanistan, and as a torture centre under extraordinary rendition.
The Chagossians were rounded up by military force, transported over 2000 miles and dumped without support on a variety of faraway islands. Many subsequently died. The term “genocide” has not commonly been applied to Brtain’s treatment of the Chagossians. Genocide is an overused word. But if what Britain did – and is still doing – to the Chagossians is not genocide, then the word has no meaning.
It has taken many years for an effective lobby to grow up for the small, dwindling and shattered group of survivors of this atrocity. But progress has been made, interestingly with a lot of effective support from horrified ex-FCO and Royal Naval personnel. Progress has been made through the UK courts – but has been resisted tooth and nail, on behalf of their US masters, by Jack Straw and David Miliband.
Miliband has now produced what is one of the most cynical acts in the history of British foreign policy. Dressed up as an environmentalist move, and with support from a number of purblind environmentalists, the waters around the Chagos Archipelago have been declared the world’s largest marine reserve – in which all fishing is banned. The islanders, of course, are fishermen.
The sheer cynicism of this effort by Miliband to dress up genocide as environmentalism is simply breathtaking. If we were really cooncerned about the environment of Diego Garcia we would not have built a massive airbase and harbour on a fragile coral atoll and filled it with nuclear weapons.