Chagos and the Dark Soul of the British Labour Party 634

Even if you think you know all about the Chagos story – an entire population forcibly removed from their island homeland at British gunpoint to make way for a US Air Force nuclear base, the people dumped destitute over a thousand miles away, their domestic animals gassed by the British army, their homes fired and demolished – then I beg you still to read this.

This analysis shows there could be no more startling illustration of the operation of the brutal and ruthless British Establishment in an undisguisedly Imperialist cause, involving actions which all reasonable people can see are simply evil. It points out that many of the key immoralities were perpetrated by Labour governments, and that the notion that either Westminster democracy or the British “justice” system provides any protection against the most ruthless authoritarianism by the British state, is utterly baseless.

Finally of course, there is the point that this is not only a historic injustice, but the injustice continues to the current day and continues to be actively promoted by the British state, to the extent that it is willing to take massive damage to its international standing and reputation in order to continue this heartless policy. This analysis is squarely based on the recent Opinion of the International Court of Justice.

Others have done an excellent job of chronicling the human stories and the heartache of the Islanders deported into penury far away across the sea. I will take that human aspect as read, although this account of one of the major forced transportations is worth reading to set the tone. The islanders were shipped out in inhuman conditions to deportation, starved for six days and covered in faeces and urine. This was not the 19th century, this was 1972.

The MV Nordvaer was already loaded with Chagossians, horses, and coconuts when it arrived at Peros Banhos. Approximately one hundred people were ultimately forced onto the ship. Ms. Mein, her husband, and their eight children shared a small, cramped cabin on the ship. The cabin was extremely hot; they could not open the portholes because the water level rose above them under the great weight of the overloaded boat. Many of the other passengers were not as fortunate as Ms. Mein and shared the cargo compartment with horses, tortoises, and coconuts. Ms. Mein remembers that the cargo hold was covered with urine and horse manure. The horses were loaded below deck while many human passengers were forced to endure the elements above deck for the entirety of the six-day journey in rough seas. The voyage was extremely harsh and many passengers became very sick. The rough conditions forced the captain to jettison a large number of coconuts in order to prevent the overloaded boat from sinking. Meanwhile, the horses were fed, but no food was provided for the Chagossians.

Rather than the human story of the victims, I intend to concentrate here, based squarely on the ICJ judgement, on the human story of the perpetrators. In doing so I hope to show that this is not just a historic injustice, but a number of prominent and still active pillars of the British Establishment, like Jack Straw, David Miliband, Jeremy Hunt and many senior British judges, are utterly depraved and devoid of the basic feelings of humanity.

There is also a vitally important lesson to be learnt about the position of the British Crown and the utter myth that continuing British Imperialism is in any sense based on altruism towards its remaining colonies.

Before reading the ICJ Opinion, I had not fully realised the blatant and vicious manner in which the Westminster government had blackmailed the Mauritian government into ceding the Chagos Islands as a condition of Independence. That blackmail was carried out by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The court documentation makes plain that the United States was ordering the British Government on how to conduct the entire process, and that Harold Wilson deliberately “frightened” Mauritius into conceding the Chagos Islands. This is an excerpt from the ICJ Opinion:

104. On 20 September 1965, during a meeting on defence matters chaired by the United Kingdom Secretary of State, the Premier of Mauritius again stated that “the Mauritius Government was not interested in the excision of the islands and would stand out for a 99-year lease”. As an alternative, the Premier of Mauritius proposed that the United Kingdom first concede independence to Mauritius and thereafter allow the Mauritian Government to negotiate with the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States on the question of Diego Garcia. During those discussions, the Secretary of State indicated that a lease would not be acceptable to the United States and that the Chagos Archipelago would have to be made available on the basis of its detachment.
105. On 22 September 1965, a Note was prepared by Sir Oliver Wright, Private Secretary to the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Sir Harold Wilson. It read: “Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam is coming to see you at 10:00 tomorrow morning. The object is to frighten him with hope: hope that he might get independence; Fright lest he might not unless he is sensible about the detachment of the Chagos Archipelago. I attach a brief prepared by the Colonial Office, with which the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office are on the whole content. The key sentence in the brief is the last sentence of it on page three.”
106. The key last sentence referred to above read: “The Prime Minister may therefore wish to make some oblique reference to the fact that H.M.G. have the legal right to detach Chagos by Order in Council, without Mauritius consent but this would be a grave step.” (Emphasis in the original.)
107. On 23 September 1965 two events took place. The first event was a meeting in the morning of 23 September 1965 between Prime Minister Wilson and Premier Ramgoolam. Sir Oliver Wright’s Report on the meeting indicated that Prime Minister Wilson told Premier Ramgoolam that “in theory there were a number of possibilities. The Premier and his colleagues could return to Mauritius either with Independence or without it. On the Defence point, Diego Garcia could either be detached by order in Council or with the agreement of the Premier and his colleagues….”

I have to confess this has caused me personally radically to revise my opinion of Harold Wilson. The ICJ at paras 94-97 make plain that the agreement to lease Diego Garcia to the USA as a military base precedes and motivates the rough handling of the Mauritian government.

Against this compelling argument, Britain nevertheless continued to argue before the court that the Chagos Islands had been entirely voluntarily ceded by Mauritius. The ICJ disposed of this fairly comprehensively:

172. …In the Court’s view, it is not possible to talk of an international agreement, when one of the parties to it, Mauritius, which is said to have ceded the territory to the United Kingdom, was under the authority of the latter. The Court is of the view that heightened scrutiny should be given to the issue of consent in a situation where a part of a non-self-governing territory is separated to create a new colony. Having reviewed the circumstances in which the Council of Ministers of the colony of Mauritius agreed in principle to the detachment of the Chagos Archipelago on the basis of the Lancaster House agreement, the Court considers that this detachment was not based on the free and genuine expression of the will of the people concerned.

A number of the individual judges’ Opinions put his rather more bluntly, of which Judge Robinson gives perhaps the best account in a supporting Opinion which is well worth reading:

93. … The intent was to use power to frighten the Premier into submission. It is wholly unreasonable to seek to explain the conduct of the United Kingdom on the basis that it was involved in a negotiation and was simply employing ordinary negotiation strategies. After all, this was a relationship between the Premier of a colony and its administering Power. Years later, speaking about the so-called consent to the detachment of the Chagos Archipelago Sir Seewoosagur is reported to have told the Mauritian Parliament, “we had no choice”42It is also reported that Sir Seewoosagur told a news organization, the Christian Science Monitor that: “There was a nook around my neck. I could not say no. I had to say yes, otherwise the [noose] could have tightened.” It is little wonder then that, in 1982, the Mauritian Legislative Assembly’s Select Committee on the Excision of the Archipelago concluded that the attitude of the United Kingdom in that meeting could “not fall outside the most elementary definition of blackmailing”.

The International Court of Justice equally dismissed the British argument that the islanders had signed releases renouncing any claims or right to resettle, in return for small sums of “compensation” received from the British government. Plainly having been forcibly removed and left destitute, they were in a desperate situation and in no position to assert or to defend their rights.

At paragraphs 121-3 the ICJ judgement recounts the brief period where the British government behaved in a legal and conscionable manner towards the islanders. In 2000 a Chagos resident, Louis Olivier Bancoult, won a judgement in the High Court in London that the islanders had the right to return, as the colonial authority had an obligation to govern in their interest. Robin Cook was then Foreign Secretary and declared that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would not be appealing against the judgement.

Robin Cook went further. He accepted before the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva that the UK had acted unlawfully in its treatment of the Chagos Islanders. And he repealed the Order in Council that de facto banned all occupation of the islands other than by the US military. Cook commissioned work on a plan to facilitate the return of the islanders.

It seemed finally the British Government was going to act in a reasonably humanitarian fashion towards the islanders. But then disaster happened. The George W Bush administration was infuriated at the idea of a return of population to their most secret base area, and complained bitterly to Blair. This was one of the factors, added to Cook’s opposition to arms sales to dictatorships and insistence on criticising human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia, that caused Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell to remove Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary.

Robin Cook was replaced by the infinitely biddable Jack Straw. There was never any chance that Straw – who received large donations to his office and campaign funds from British Aerospace – would stand against the interests of the arms industry or of the USA, particularly in favour of a few dispossessed islanders who would never be a source of personal donations.

Straw immediately threw Cook’s policy into reverse. Resettling the islanders was now declared “too expensive” an option. The repealed Order in Council was replaced by a new one banning all immigration to, or even landing on, the islands on security grounds. This “coincided” with the use of Diego Garcia, the Chagos island on which the US base is situate, as a black site for torture and extraordinary rendition.

Straw was therefore implicated not just in extending the agony of the deported island community, but doing so in order to ensure the secrecy of torture operations. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the depths of Straw’s evil. This was New Labour in action.

The estimable Mr Bancoult did not give up. He took the British Government again to the High Court to test the legality of the new Order in Council barring the islanders, which was cast on “National security” grounds. On 11 May 2006, Bancoult won again in the High Court, and the judgement was splendidly expressed by Lord Hooper in a statement of decency and common sense with which you would hope it was impossible to disagree:

“The power to legislate for the “peace order and good government” of a territory has never been used to exile a whole population. The suggestion that a minister can, through the means of an Order in Council, exile a whole population from a British Overseas Territory and claim that he is doing this for the “peace, order and good government” of the Territory is, to us, repugnant.” (Para 142)

The judgement did not address the sovereignty of the islands.

Unlike Robin Cook, Jack Straw did appeal against the judgement, and the FCO’s appeal was resoundingly and unanimously rebuffed by the Court of Appeal. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office then appealed again to the House of Lords, and to general astonishment the Law Lords found in favour of the British government and against the islanders, by a 3-2 judgement.

The general astonishment was compounded by the fact that a panel of only 5 Law Lords had sat on the case, rather than the 7 you would normally expect for a case of this magnitude. It was very widely remarked among the legal fraternity that the 3 majority judges were the only Law Lords who might possibly have found for the government, and on any possible combination of 7 judges the government would have lost. That view was given weight by the fact that the minority of 2 who supported the islanders included the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham.

The decision to empanel only 5 judges, and the selection of the UK’s three most right wing Law Lords for the panel, was taken by the Lord Chancellor’s office. And the Lord Chancellor was now – Jack Straw. The timing is such that it is conceivable that the decision was taken under Straw’s predecessor, Lord Falconer, but as he was Blair’s great friend and ex-flatmate and also close to Straw, it makes no difference to the Establishment stitch-up.

If your blood is not now sufficiently boiling, consider this. The Law Lords found against the islanders on the grounds that no restraint can be placed on the authority of the British Crown over its colonies. The majority opinion was best expressed by Lord Hoffman. Lord Hoffman’s judgement is a stunning assertion of British Imperial power. He states in terms that the British Crown exercises its authority in the interests of the UK and not in the interest of the colony concerned:

49. Her Majesty in Council is therefore entitled to legislate for a colony in the interests of the United Kingdom. No doubt she is also required to take into account the interests of the colony (in the absence of any previous case of judicial review of prerogative colonial legislation, there is of course no authority on the point) but there seems to me no doubt that in the event of a conflict of interest, she is entitled, on the advice of Her United Kingdom ministers, to prefer the interests of the United Kingdom. I would therefore entirely reject the reasoning of the Divisional Court which held the Constitution Order invalid because it was not in the interests of the Chagossians.

It is quite incredible to read that quote, and then to remember that the British government has just argued before the International Court of Justice that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction because the question is nothing to do with decolonisation but rather a bilateral dispute. Thankfully, the ICJ found this quite incredible too.

You may think that by the time it fixed this House of Lords judgement the British government had exhausted the wells of depravity on this particular issue. But no, David Miliband felt that he had to outdo his predecessors by being not only totally immoral, but awfully clever with it too. Under Miliband, the FCO dreamed up the idea of pretending that the exclusion of all inhabitants from around the USA leased nuclear weapon and torture site, was for environmental purposes.

The propagation of the Chagos Marine Reserve in 2010 banned all fishing within 200 nautical miles of the islands and, as the islanders are primarily a fishing community, was specifically designed to prevent the islanders from being able to return, while at the same time garnering strong applause from a number of famous, and very gullible, environmentalists.

As I blogged about this back in 2010:

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.

In retrospect I am quite proud of that turn of phrase. David Miliband was dressing up genocide as environmentalism. I stand by that.

While the ruse was obvious to anyone half awake, it does not need speculation to know the British government’s motives because, thanks to Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables, we know that British FCO and MOD officials together specifically briefed US diplomats that the purpose was to make the return of the islanders impossible.

7. (C/NF) Roberts acknowledged that “we need to find a way to get through the various Chagossian lobbies.” He admitted that HMG is “under pressure” from the Chagossians and their advocates to permit resettlement of the “outer islands” of the BIOT. He noted, without providing details, that “there are proposals (for a marine park) that could provide the Chagossians warden jobs” within the BIOT. However, Roberts stated that, according to the HGM,s current thinking on a reserve, there would be “no human footprints” or “Man Fridays” on the BIOT’s uninhabited islands. He asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents. Responding to Polcouns’ observation that the advocates of Chagossian resettlement continue to vigorously press their case, Roberts opined that the UK’s “environmental lobby is far more powerful than the Chagossians’ advocates.” (Note: One group of Chagossian litigants is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the decision of Britain’s highest court to deny “resettlement rights” to the islands’ former inhabitants. See below at paragraph 13 and reftel. End Note.)

Incredible to say, that is still not the end of the ignominy of the British Establishment. As the irrepressible Chagossians continued their legal challenges, now to the “Marine reserve”, the UK’s new Supreme Court shamelessly refused to accept the US diplomatic cable in evidence, on the grounds it was a privileged communication under the Vienna Convention. This was a ridiculous decision which would only have been valid if there were evidence that the communication were obtained by another State, rather than leaked to the public by a national of the state that produced it. For a court to choose to ignore a salient fact is an abhorrent thing, but it allowed the British Establishment yet another “victory”. It was short lived, however.

Mauritius challenged the UK to arbitration before a panel constituted under Article 287 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a Convention I am happy to say I was directly involved in bringing into force, by negotiating and helping draft the Protocol. Mauritius argued that the UK could not ban fishing rights which it enjoyed both traditionally, and specifically as part of the agreement to cede the Chagos Islands. The UK brought four separate challenges to the jurisdiction of the panel, and lost every one, and then lost the main judgement. It is pleasant to note that acting for the Chagos Islands was Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the FCO Legal Adviser who had resigned her position, telling Jack Straw that the attack on Iraq constituted an illegal war of aggression.

Which brings us up to the present Opinion by the International Court of Justice after the government of Mauritius finally took resolute action to assert sovereignty over the islands. Astonishingly, having repudiated the decision of the Arbitration Panel on the Law of the Sea, very much a British-inspired creation, Jeremy Hunt has now decided to strike at the very heart of international law itself by repudiating the International Court of Justice itself, something for which there is no precedent at all in British history. I discuss the radical implications of this here with Alex Salmond.

This is apposite as throughout the 21st Century developments listed here in this continued horror story, the Chagossians’ cause was championed in the House of Commons by two pariah MPs outside the consensus of the British Establishment. The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands was Jeremy Corbyn MP. His Deputy was Alex Salmond MP.

Chagos really is a touchstone issue, a key litmus test of whether people are in or out of the British Establishment. The attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, the manufactured witch-hunt on anti-semitism, all are designed to return the Labour Party to a leadership which will continue the illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands; the acid test of reliable pro-USA neo-conservative policy. The SNP, at least under Salmmond, was an open challenge to British imperialism and hopefully will remain so.

Chagos is a fundamental test of decency in British public life. If you know where a politician – or judge – stands on Chagos, most other questions are answered.

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634 thoughts on “Chagos and the Dark Soul of the British Labour Party

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      • Yr Hen Gof

        That’s true.
        Few people remember that Wilson and George Thomas, who was then Secretary of State for Wales, colluded with the Charity Commission to steal (it was later revealed to have been a crime) the Aberfan Disaster Fund to pay for the clearance of the very tips that had caused the tragedy.
        In his autobiography Thomas all but boasted of the fact it was his idea.
        Blair repaid the sum but without interest, the Welsh Assembly topped it up but made no admission that the extra money was the missing interest.
        Further, following the tragedy but before and during the inquiry, families of the dead were spied on by the secret intelligence services, they were followed, their phones tapped and often their mail intercepted.

  • Republicofscotland

    Not only is Britain prepared to the dirty work with regards to the Chagos Islands for the US. But Britain is now prepared to take the flack from the ICJ to protect US interests.

    I’ve read some harrowing accounts about the plight of the Chagossian people. One woman’s unborn child died due to the stress of the forced removal from the islands. Forced to leave by menacing British troops with virtually just the clothes on their backs.

  • Ron

    Thanks, Craig. This is what we need you for. Few new insights but pulling together the narrative very clearly. Whose flesh doesn’t creep at even reading Jack Straw’s name? Talk about a wrong’un.

  • Clark

    “the Chagossians’ cause was championed in the House of Commons by two pariah MPs outside the consensus of the British Establishment. The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands was Jeremy Corbyn MP. His Deputy was Alex Salmond MP”

    In England, I’m supporting Jeremy Corbyn.

  • Anon1

    By the mid 1960s, the total population was about 900, 80% of whom were not “Chagossian”, but migrant workers from the Seychelles. Most “Chagossians” had already left. None of them ever owned land in the Chagos.

    • J

      I’m sure you have a point to make. In lieu of that, why don’t you remind us that there isn’t a single injustice you wouldn’t passionately endorse.

    • pete

      Re population statement
      The source of your information?
      Otherwise I will have to disregard your assertion.

    • gwp3

      ” Most “Chagossians” had already left. None of them ever owned land in the Chagos.”
      Why was that?

    • Stuart

      Seriously? (Anon1) Where do you get that from? And anyway why is it a numbers game…. I’ll quote Jean luc Picard from Star Trek Insurrection…
      DOUGHERTY: Jean-Luc, we are only moving six hundred people.
      PICARD: How many people does it take, Admiral, before it becomes wrong? A thousand? Fifty thousand? A million? How many people does it take, Admiral?
      DOUGHERTY: I’m ordering you to the Goren system. I’m also ordering the release of the Son’a officers. File whatever protest you wish to, Captain. …By the time you do, this will all be done.

    • pete

      Re “By the mid 1960’s…”
      You said that before, still no source. Why quote an arbitrary date in the mid 1960’s?
      If you hope to make a case why not tell us what it is based on, where this info comes from?

  • Sharp Ears

    Brilliant Craig, and John Pilger too for his documentary.

    As citizens of a so called democracy, we can only feel deep shame at what was done to the people of the Chagos Islands in our name.

    I hope copies of this work are being sent to Blair, Campbell, Straw, Hunt and Miiband D. Shame on them and their cohorts.

    • Jimmeh

      I am still very curious about the involvement of Geoffrey Cox QC, who was once Standing Counsel to the government of Mauritius. As the present Attorney General, he must have been involved in the repudiation of the decisions of the ICJ – he is the UK government’s chief legal advisor. Is it possible that he had a conflict of interest? Can you represent first A, then B, when A and B are adversaries, without a conflict arising?

  • MJ

    I once saw an interview with the long-retired Denis Healey in which he was asked about the Chagos Islands and the Labour government in the 60s. “I refuse to talk about that” he said. One way to deal with it I suppose.

      • Ian Stevenson

        If I remember correctly ( I was only 19 at the time ) Johnson was trying to support the pound. That policy was to serve the City and devaluing would impact of British military deployment ‘east of Suez’, which the US wanted to continue. The people of a remote island, sadly, didn’t count for much compared to that.

        • fwl

          I don’t know enough about this to be able to really understand how the Wilson Gov came to make such a bad and reprehensible decision, but I am open to the possibility that just as the Mauritious politicians may have found themselves in a weak position so might have the UK government. That might sound like I am suggesting some sort of justification. I am not. What I would like to understand is the context. Everyone knows it can’t be justified hence the on-message overly compliant media paying so little attention to this matter.

    • Xavi

      At least he kept Britain out of the US crucifiction of Vietnam and SE Asia. Cannot imagine many of his successors or today’s politicians doing likewise.

  • Brendan

    The population of the Chagos were certainly victims of ethnic cleansing and forced deportation. But their cause is not supported by incorrectly describing that as genocide. That word has been used so broadly in recent years that it has lost its meaning.

    • craig Post author

      I do not use words loosely Brendan. I think that what was done to the Chagos Islanders was so extreme as to fall under the definition of genocide in the Rome Statute:

      Article 6 of the Rome Statute provides that “genocide” means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

      b) and c) appear plainly to apply.

      • Brendan

        Thank you for saying where that definition comes from. I still say that that it is so broad that it encompasses so many crimes which would not be considered genocide by any ordinary person.

        • craig Post author


          I sympathise with you, in that the international law definition is much broader than the natural use of English language, which is not a good thing,

          • michael norton

            Would Israel stealing The Golan, thereby ensuring that the overwhelming mass of the population fled, be considered a genocide.
            This morning there is talk that Mexico wishes Spain to say sorry for the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Mexico, 500 years ago.
            So for 1/10 of that time, 50 years, Israel has been keeping Syrians out of their lands, now endorsed by POTUS.

          • lysias

            Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians certainly qualifies as genocide under the international law definition.

        • J

          Why do you think those definitions were defined at all? So that you might one day dissaprove as a self described ordinary person or because the authors felt they were sufficient, from their knowledge of modus operandi to point toward intent? Do most genocidalists leave themselves open to later prosecution by obfuscating their methods or not? You can bet your house they do. If one wants to pave the way to prosecution of such intent, how might one do it? Consider Hitlers apochryphal statement regrading the Armenians. As historians have pointed out, many witnesses to Turkish crimes did not lead to any great concern or a prosecution, so much as a great forgetting.

          Legally speaking, absent a document clearly setting out genocide as a goal, can you tell us how one might set about seeking to prosecute genocide without regard to the many smaller crimes of which genocide is composed?

          • Geoffrey

            I think it was the American delegation in the Nuremburg war crimes trials that insisted on “Genocide” being a crime, there was much argument and disagreement around it’s introduction. I may be missremembering Phillipe Sands book ” East west street”.
            Both the inventor of the laws of “Genocide” and “Crimes against humanity” came from Lviv in what is now Ukraine. I can’t remember their names.

          • Brendan

            J, genocide (as most people understand the term) is not easy to obfuscate – because it involves such a huge operation, including planning and coordination. I therefore do not see why it is necessary to use smaller crimes as a way to prove genocide.

            Anyway, it seems like a recipe for miscarriage of justice if a judge is allowed to infer from a small crime that a larger crime was committed. Offences like ‘Harming some people who belong to a group’ should not be seen as evidence of trying to exterminate a group.

          • lysias

            Raphael Lemkin was not born in Lviv/Lwow/Lemberg, althouh he studied at university there. He was a Polish Jew born in a village that is now kn Belarus.

          • certa certi

            ‘Raphael Lemkin’

            Lemkin used the example of British/Australian destruction of indigenous Tasmanians as his inspiration. The charge of genocide turns on proving intent. This has been almost impossible to do in the Australian context. The UN and its agencies eg UNHCR are very sensitive to the manner in which propagandists misuse the definition of genocide for a political hit. The UN has been accused of facilitating genocide by the Communist Gov of Vietnam of Montagnard ethnicities.

          • J

            Glad this generated a bit of discussion, even if my thinking isn’t so clearly expressed above. My apologies for that.

            If the intent here was to accede to American power in an advantageous way and in order to do so, displace an entire people with great cruelty and callousness while lying about them, but to then tell stories of honour and heroism at home, this is all a symptom of a wider malaise. As it turns out, a culture happily capable of such disregard is also capable of terminal damage to it’s own life support systems. I’m trying to see how all of these symptoms of our malaise can be diagnosed as the larger disease I believe it clearly is.

            While legal mechanisms are limited, to ignore them completely but then insist through the discourse that we act with regard for an international rules based order, this is not only unacceptable but probably not even survivable. And fixing the one thing might well be to fix the other.

        • Andrew Ingram

          On genocide and the use of the word. Destroying ancient cultures meets my criteria, Australia, South America, West Papua and Greenland spring to mind.

          • certa certi

            ‘West Papua’

            Ancient cultures are not being destroyed in W.Papua. That’s the Left’s racist anti Indonesian propaganda.

      • Wikikettle

        Rather a lot of adverts to join the Army on the radio…I suppose we will need them to do even more dirty work.
        I get so upset when I see these old Labour politicians and the never elected Campbell given unlimited air time.
        However History will judge them and calamity befalls us all, as it eventually will. We cant keep this ” I’m ok Jack “,
        fantasy lifestyle show running for long.

      • Blissex

        «committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group»

        But your article argues at length that there was no INTENT TO DESTROY the chagossians, only to appease the americans. That the chagossians were treated brutally was just a random case of the meanness and brutality of a distant bureaucracy for whom the chagossians were not a group to be destroyed, but just an inconvenient issue to deal with as cheaply as possible.

  • John Goss

    “Before reading the ICJ Opinion, I had not fully realised the blatant and vicious manner in which the Westminster government had blackmailed the Mauritian government into ceding the Chagos Islands as a condition of Independence. That blackmail was carried out by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson.”

    It would seem that Wilson himself was being blackmailed by MI5 and this docu-drama does not define how long it had been going on. It is highly watchable although I should point out there is ghosting as though it is meant to be watched through 3D goggles. James Bolam plays Wilson. It is some 90 minutes long so make time to watch it with, perhaps, your favourite nightcap.

    I am not excusing any Prime Minister for land theft, neither Wilson nor Netanyahu, and think your dogged pursuit of justice for the Chagossians is praiseworthy. Last night I tried to post the Alex Salmond video to a FB page but it is still pending approval.

  • Blissex

    «Robin Cook was replaced by the infinitely biddable Jack Straw. There was never any chance that Straw – who received large donations to his office and campaign funds from British Aerospace – would stand against the interests of the arms industry or of the USA»

    Our good author is underestimating severely J Straw and the viciousness of the USA neocon establishment, it turns out that not even J Straw was bending over enough for them; he was sacked brutally as Foreign Secretary too, and this is how William Rees-Mogg explained it later in “The Times”:

    When Jack Straw was replaced by Margaret Beckett as Foreign Secretary, it seemed an almost inexplicable event. Mr Straw had been very competent — experienced, serious, moderate and always well briefed. Margaret Beckett is embarrassingly inexperienced.
    I made inquiries in Washington and was told that Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, had taken exception to Mr Straw’s statement that it would be “nuts” to bomb Iran. The United States, it was said, had put pressure on Tony Blair to change his Foreign Secretary. Mr Straw had been fired at the request of the Bush Administration, particularly at the Pentagon. … The alternative explanation was more recently given by Irwin Stelzer in The Spectator; he has remarkably good Washington contacts and is probably right. His account is that Mr Straw was indeed dismissed because of American anxieties, but that Dr Rice herself had become worried, on her visit to Blackburn, by Mr Straw’s dependence on Muslim votes. About 20 per cent of the voters in Blackburn are Islamic; Mr Straw was dismissed only four weeks after Dr Rice’s visit to his constituency.
    It may be that both explanations are correct. The first complaint may have been made by Mr Rumsfeld because of Iran; Dr Rice may have withdrawn her support after seeing the Islamic pressures in Blackburn.
    At any rate, Irwin Stelzer’s account confirms that Mr Straw was fired because of American pressure.

    • Wikikettle

      Christian and Jewish pressures as well…Huge community of Jews in Iran……safely !

    • Chick McGregor

      I tend to agree. Jack Straw was IMV and relatively speaking, of course, one of the better Lab ministers, like Robin Cook in fact.

      For example, I remember him way back in the day, being very honest and not a little prescient on the then subliminal dangers of English Nationalism in response to devolution, c 2000. I looked it up and the actual quote was:

      “The English are potentially very aggressive, very violent.”

      • Herbie

        “The English are potentially very aggressive, very violent.”

        This is complete and utter nonsense.

        I mean, he’s talking here about ordinary English people, given the context, not their leaders.

        I say ordinary English people are amongst the most civilsed peoples on the planet.

        But, what he says is what elites are thinking.

        I wonder what policies they’ve implemented to deal with that perceived threat from the people of England.

        And anyway, who’s he working for if not the people of his country.

        • Phil Espin

          Herbie, he could have just as easily said the same about the Scots. The fact is that we have in our islands a mix of people who can be and have been the most piratical, thuggish, civilised and innovative population on the planet. Cause for both hope and despair and it makes me glad that in the mix are people like Craig who will speak truth to power regardless of the consequences. It’s our job as voters to try and keep the bastards in check while enabling innovations like being ahead of the curve of EU collapse.

          While we have a PM like Blair or May who believe our strategic interest is to be as far up the USA’s arse as possible who do you really think our ministers are working for? I think it likely Cameron/May were supporting Russiagate to get Clinton elected. Trump will sooner or later or could have already have May/Britain bent over the table with our knickers around our ankles. But only if we let him, like an abused wife i’m sure May thinks there are good reasons for staying in an abusive relationship. The irony is that Merkel, Macron et al are in the same position. The potency of the abuser is waning, time to move on…

          • Herbie

            “he could have just as easily said the same about the Scots.”

            Yes, of course, but they’re not the focus just now.

            No, it’s the violent and dangerous English who are the current target of elites.

            In the mid 19th century it was the violent, stupid, neanderthal Irish who were the focus. Darwin even mentions them.

            It’s no different to policy abroad.

            Whoever is next for attack, starts getting a bad press.

        • Xavi

          “I say ordinary English people are amongst the most civilsed peoples on the planet”

          I doubt the people of the costa del sol or cyprus would concur. That’s without opening the history books.

          • Herbie

            That’s Carnival. The lawless space. Tells us nothing about civilisation at home.

            What do the history books say about ordinary English people?

          • Xavi

            Herbie, there is zero evidence English people are more civilised than anybody else or endowed with any superior values and qualities. It’s just a childish notion used to indulge and comfort the public by the likes of the BBC and the Mail, the same as claiming our police, army or parliament are the world’s best. Chavinistic propaganda, no less crude and unevidenced than the type you hear in the United States.

          • Herbie

            “there is zero evidence English people are more civilised than anybody else or endowed with any superior values and qualities.”

            Didn’t say that.

            Simply said, “ordinary English people are amongst the most civilised peoples on the planet”

            In response to Jack Straw being reported as saying:

            “The English are potentially very aggressive, very violent.”

            I mean, I’d prefer to be confronted on a dark night by a group of ordinary English people than by a group of Jack Straws.

            But anyway, the English peoples have quite an impressive history.

            Sure, Ireland should have got that gig. We were much the better candidate.

            But Rome said no.

            There ya go.

            The rest is history.

          • Xavi

            Ah fair dos. Straw probably believes that because it’s how most people react when they see him.

      • Mary Pau!

        I don’t recall Jack Straw as a better Lab minister. Quite the opposite – a tool of Blair, the MoD, FCO mandarins etc

      • Jimmeh

        Liked Robin Cook? Really? Robin Cook would never have engaged in the blatant lawlessness of extraordinary rendition. Cook resigned over the plan to attack Iraq; Straw laid the plan. Comparing Cook and Straw does a serious injustice to Cook. Straw is a lying weasel, and a war criminal.

    • lysias

      At the time, the generals and admirals in the Pentagon wrre very much opposed to bombing Iran.

  • Blissex

    Our author’s arguments make a very big confusion between:

    #1 Whether Mauritius should own the Chagos Archipelago.

    #2 The rights of the chagosians not to be deported from the entire archipelago.

    The #1 cause is clearly undeserving to me: that the Chagos Archipelago was administered for a while from Mauritius was in itself a colonial aberration and has no relationship to the Chagos Archipelago or its inhabitants. In the colonial logic Chagos could have been administered from Aden or Ceylon equally easily. If anything the Chagos are somewhat nearer the Seyhelles and many deported Chagos residents were originally from the Seychelles; but then the Seychelles were also part of the Mauritius administrative area themselves. The Mauritius government may just be dreaming of the huge bribes it can extract from the USA DoD for leases on Diego Garcia, like the Kyrgiz government for Manasas.

    But point #2, the deportation of the residents of Chagos, is what really matters, and relating their deportation to Mauritius makes it just weaker: after all if Chagosians are really mauritians, that many of them were deported to Mauritius makes the deportation look less vicious.

    But even in the best light it remains horrible: I think that there was a (weak) case for the UK to retain the BIOT, and even a case for exercising eminent domain and put a military base on Diego Garcia. But eminent domain does not extend to clearing the whole area of its residents, including islands and atholls hundreds of kilometers from Diego Garcia, and the whole of Diego Garcia, even if it is quite far away from the rest of the archipelago.

  • Andrew Ingram

    Lord Hoffman must have had a reputation as being ” a safe pair of hands”, just as Lord Widgery had when it came to his being given the Bloody Sunday tribunal.

  • Ian

    Great piece, Craig. You are your best when the subject is one you can on which deploy your experience and knowledge. The detail is damning. Although I don’t think this is a Labour party issue, as per your headline. Any British government would have done exactly the same. Robin Cook was an exception to the rule of either. Our abject debasement in the submission to the American military is shaming and humiliating. Brexit will seal our American colonial status.

    • craig Post author


      Well, the Tories are expected to be bastards, they don’t pretend otherwise. Its the fact that Britain had a “left wing” party that also did this stuff which illuminates. It also of course underlines the difference between New Labour and Corbyn.

      • nevermind

        Thanks for this well researched and damning article on Britains new Labour recent past, it had to be said.
        But, if it underlines differences between new and today’s Labour party, should this not be reflected in the headline? How about saying that it was the dark soul of a neoncon new Labour movement?

        After infiltrating J.Straws election meeting in Blackburn and shaking his hand to introduce myself as a fictitious new businessman, I ask myself whether it is enough to frequently wash that hand or have it surgically removed reflecting the Islamic traditional punishment much supported by the majority of Blackburn’s Labour members.

      • Mary Pau!

        Yet another example of why Tony Blair and cronies should not be allowed to get a toehold in British Politics again. ron

        • Sharp Ears

          Blair has never lost his ‘toehold’. Haven’t you noticed that his opinion is always being sought (and provided) in the printed and the audio visual media, as is that of his spin doctor/henchman Campbell?

  • james

    thanks craig.. it’s fascinating and i have a sick stomach reading it, but read it, i did… kudos to you for shining a light on this…

    • james

      it is also shocking the extend the uk will go to serve the usa… is the uk a banana republic yet? it sure acts like one.. i am being too harsh on banana republics saying this.. the uk is way beneath them in this instance..

  • Antonym

    Thanks for giving another -elaborate – example of the fact that the British “justice” system is biased. Most ex-colonies revered it and now we know the ground truth why: it protects the Elite against the 97%. Tampered balances and blindfolds, effectively kept secret.

    The Sir Jimmy Saviles loved it as they never even got indicted, no they got knighted, but they knew they were covered by the good old boys network.

  • Antonym

    Good example too of how environmentalist emotions were misused for other purposes – again: a gullible, but loud lot.
    Too lazy to delve deeper by themselves, just running after MSM headlines.

  • Cesca

    Wow! The longest, hottest shower ever is useless for cleansing the filth and disgust in my mind, this brilliant article conjured up. Can see for sure why it took a while to get this article so right, top man Craig!

  • Wikikettle

    These small people are represented by the character played by Roy Kinnear, as head of the Jury and Thomas Mores executioner, in A man for all Seasons..As More says ” To what purpose, I am a dead man, you have your desire on me but the thoughts of my heart, that’s a long road you’ve opened, for first men will deny their hearts, presently they will have no hearts. God help the people who’s statesman walk your road “. Richard Rich represents the statesmen then as now. Charles Heston playing More asks the Attorney General ” why Richard it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world – but for Wales ! Needless to say Richard Rich goes on to become a Knight, Solicitor General, A Baron and Lord Chancellor of England.

  • Calumnet

    I don’t think I know all about the Chagos Islanders’ story, Craig Murray.

    These last two articles, which seem to me much the same in content, and both sport the same rather cringe-worthy video piece of yourself and Alex Salmond, do not engender any affection for the cause of the poor buggers.

    John Pilger addressed this issue far better some time ago, and avoided the mawkish hand-wringing and such personal vendettas against Jack Straw which are so evident in your last two posts.

    It seems to me you are that worst type of political commentater, who has always a weather-eye on what might increase his own standing.

    These two recent, and extremely long-winded posts, bring nothing new to the table other than your lisping. You should be ashamed of your brass neck for jumping on this bandwagon for little more than personal aggrandisement. Some of those islanders are not, so I hear, very impressed by your contribution, and see through the agenda you have.

      • Ralph

        Andrew, I was just thinking the same thing! For ‘him’ – it? – to stand by straw & what he did regarding Iraq shows that calumnet too is below contempt.

    • giyane


      Your tone reminds me of the tone of the landed gentry in some dramatic pieces on Radio 4 about the first World War. Why not come right out with it in the full persona of the ante-diluvian Imperial British aristocracy and tell Craig directly to know his place? And what is yours, I wonder?

      • pete

        Re Calumnet at 07.09
        I assume Calumnet it just a typo, and should have been Calumny, which is far more fitting as a description of that particular contribution to this debate.

    • wonky

      ” Some of those islanders are not, so I hear, very impressed by your contribution, and see through the agenda you have.”

      Source, or stop whining. Hearsay is no argument.

    • Carl

      He merely stated the facts about what Straw and “Green Dave” Miliband did in relation to the Chagos Islanders. In what way is that a vendetta?

  • Andrew Nichols

    1.Few things make me more angry these days than how our wretched corporate media wallowing in their hypocrisy fail to mention this atoll wrecking colonial travesty while giving vent to wall to wall outrage over the Chinese and the South China Sea.
    2. Now the vulgar Brits have repudiated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea wil they now STFU about the latter and withdraw their warships from the juvenile Freedom of Navigation willy waving of the Yanks (who also dont recognise the UNCLS and never have)

    • Sharp Ears

      The UK’s inconsistency vis-a-vis the Chagos Islands and China is also referred to in this oped from an Australian website.

      The strategic consequence of the Chagos Islands legal dispute
      26th March 2019

      ‘Importantly, the ruling comes at a time when the Royal British Navy has begun conducting freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea. These operations are designed to challenge the illegality of China’s assertive island building and excessive maritime claims. Yet, the UK’s ongoing defence of its illegal possession undermines its credibility as it simultaneously seeks to defend the “rules-based international system” in maritime domains.

      In a time of great power contestation, the lack of consistent application in the international rule of law by non-great powers, such as the UK, ultimately weakens the capacities of the UNCLOS-led legal regime to establish maritime order.’

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Given Jeremy Hunt’s contempt for the ICJ, it is quite reasonable that every human being outside the UK should consider the abrogation of right to legal due process for Jeremy Hunt outside the UK to be a matter of priority.

    Mr Hunt might like to cogitate on why he should have the right to complain were he to be illegally detained in e.g. Pakistan, extraordinarilly rendered to some detention camp in a remote valley of NW Pakistan, judiciously tortured there and then paraded triumphantly with weals all over his body in a display to HMG of what can happen to Ministers of the Crown if grievances are pursued privately and unilaterally rather than through officially recognised channels of legal due process.

    I must say that I have reached a stage of contempt for UK officials such that were this to happen, my sole comment would be ‘Serves the miserable wanker right!’

    I do not consider that Jeremy Hunt represents me or my values in any way whatsoever, any more than Andrew Parker of MI5 does, Tony Blair does nor Olly Robbins does.

    Mr Hunt has submitted to US lawlessness and it is precisely that lawlessness that made me conclude years ago that the Special Relationship was- and is a sham and makes me want the UK to break with the US and NATO.

    It amazes me that neutral Switzerland is admired but a neutral UK would apparently be reviled.

    How can a neutral UK be implausible when Qatar can escape the Saudi-Israel-US Unholy Trinity to team up with Turkey and Iran?

  • Clive P

    Craig, an excellent piece. As we know the British establishment is ruthless in achieving it aims and has been in hock to the US for decades. Wilson was, of course, deeply linked to the US after doing a deal to get US support for the pound in return for staying east of Suez.

    The key though is the attitude to the inhabitants of Diego Garcia. It was obviously racist as the papers from the 1960s demonstrate. They were dark-skinned ‘primitives’ whose rights were of no importance and were disposable if they clashed with what the UK regarded as its strategic interests. What has always struck me is the difference between the treatment of the Chagos Islands and the Falklands. The latter lived in a rundown dump that was effectively a large company town but they were white and of British ‘stock’. Therefore they could be a given a veto over British policy to indulge their prejudice against Argentinians. Both Labour and Tory governments tried a sensible leaseback proposal but no government had the nerve to treat them as disposable against the UK’s wider interests.

    • Scott

      Thanks Clive, for your comment about papers from the 1960s. That provides some context.

      I wonder what level of criticism Wilson’s decision received at the time, if any.

  • Scott

    A question to Craig and others.

    Was there any dissent against Harold Wilson at the time (either from within his party or from the opposition)? How controversial was his decision at the time? Is there any historical context that goes some way to explain his decision?

    Kind regards,

    • Clive p

      None. The issue was dealt wth by the defence and foreign affairs grouping not the Cabinet. It was a minor issue. They could see no reason not to help the Americans and get a few bonus points for being a good ally when they needed the US for intelligence info, Polaris and to prop up the pound. The US gave them a sweetener by not charging for a share of the R and D on the Polaris missiles and control unit. Against all these considerations the Chagos Islanders didn’t count.

      • Tony

        In his memoirs, Healey says about how he was told that the Polaris submarines, then under construction, could easily be changed to hunter-killer submarines.

        He goes on to say that Wilson forbade him from divulging this information to the Cabinet.

        “I did not demur” he admits.

        As a result, the Cabinet approved the project and it went ahead.

        Very sad because many would have opposed Polaris and certainly not just the left.

  • N_

    I was looking at Letwin’s background. He seems to be a complete foamy-mouthed far-right wing maniac who has farted his way through various offices enjoying close connections with powerful figures since he was in his 20s, playing a role in developing such policies as the poll tax when he wasn’t calling for asylum seekers to be locked up for interrogation on prison ships.

    I’m guessing…but…a friend of the crown prince?

    • Stephen Ambartzakis

      There is a conspiracy theory that the Malaysian flight which disappeared inadvertently entered Diego Garcia airspace and was shot down by the Americans, who then cleaned up the wreckage. Possible?

      • Alyson

        It is a bit more detailed. It has been established that the island was on the arc of the last ping. It must have been a very international distraction to put so much publicity into searching the South Atlantic. It was rumoured that the other patent holders of a remote hijacking system were on the plane. The pilot circled before setting off, passing over his home before leaving never to return. His computer showed he had deleted practice for landing on a small island. The plane, or one similar, was observed in the area reducing altitude, and it was reported in local online news sources. No one will be allowed near enough to check.

  • glenn_nl

    The Yanks actually have the cheek to call the islands “The Footprint of Freedom”, where they have stationed “Camp Justice”. They refer to the islands as being previously uninhabited :

    The above includes testimony from Mimose Bancoult Furcy, who travelled to London for their case in 2008. Partial extract:

    Eventually, Mimose’s family found something of a home in a tiny, single-room tin shack in a Mauritian slum, far removed from the island’s tourist beaches and luxury hotels. The family had one bed and no other furniture. Mimose and her older siblings slept on the ground, she recalls. There were insects and rats, and the air smelled of cow dung. When it rained, water covered the floor. Often, she and her brothers went to sleep with nothing to eat. Sometimes they ate stale bread their mother found in the trash.

    The hardships seemed to take their toll on people’s health. Within months, Mimose’s father, Julien, suffered a stroke, his body growing rigid and increasingly paralyzed. Before their first year of exile was over, Rita spent several weeks in a psychiatric hospital and was treated with electroconvulsive therapy, or electroshock.

    Eight years after the stroke, Julien died. Mimose says he died of sagren. The Kreol word translates as “profound sorrow,” but for Chagossians it has come to connote all the sadness, impoverishment, and misery of living in exile. “If the islands hadn’t been sold,” Mimose told me, “my father wouldn’t be dead already. He would still be living.” Her father had always worked in Chagos, she added, but in Mauritius “he didn’t have work. He suffered from sagren because before he’d always cooked for us, providing us with food,” she said. “When the day came that my father didn’t have food to give us, he felt this sagren. I saw my father suffering from sagren. I saw him crying.”

    Perhaps these were among the Chagossians who Calumnet knows to be “very unimpressed” with this article, and see through the author’s “agenda”?

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