The tiny British territory of Diego Garcia is being used for a US military build up. David Cameron is silent on the issue.
Britain has, to say the least, a chequered history with the tiny island of Diego Garcia. Located in the near-centre of the Indian Ocean, the island was taken over by Britain in 1965 as part of a deal which saw them purchase the entire Chagos Archipelago from the then self-governing colony of Mauritius for £3 million.
Soon afterwards, as part of the establishment of the ‘British Indian Ocean Territory’ the entire native population began to be forcibly displaced, with the eventual goal being that, as the Colonial Office reported to the UN, “there will be no indigenous population except seagulls.” By 1973, the entire native population had been transferred to Mauritius – a country where they didn’t speak the language, and unemployment was already at 20 per cent. Diego Garcia was established as a bonafide UK-US military outpost.
The native population’s legal battle for their right to return to Diego Garcia rumbles on* but right now the island forms the backdrop of a different dispute – that between the UN, and more specifically the US, and Iran. Despite the fact that military and intelligence reports to Congress in April 2010 reveal that Iran’s military stance is “defensive, designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities,” that it has “a limited capability to project force beyond its borders,” and that its “willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons” forms part of a “deterrent strategy”, rather than anything aggressive, US military commanders repeatedly assert that Iran is the “single-most important” threat to the security of Israel and the United States. To that end, along with a fresh round of UN sanctions against Iran, Obama has overseen a rapid proliferation of military resources on the British-owned island of Diego Garcia.
According to a US Navy cargo manifest obtained by the Sunday Herald, Obama has recently dispatched “195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs,” specifically aimed at destroying hardened underground structures. Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, states:
“They [the US] are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran… US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours.”
Which begs the question – why is David Cameron allowing this strategy to be pursued on British soil? As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the intensifying implicit threat of military action against Iran is in direct violation of the UN Charter, which specifically bans the “threat of force… against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Furthermore, the US insistence on preserving nuclear weapons facilities on Diego Garcia is an open infringement of the nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty established by the African Union last year.
US personnel on Diego Garcia may outnumber British personnel by nearly 500 to 1, but the island remains a British territory governed by British law – hence, a victim of ‘extraordinary rendition’ whose flight landed on the island was able to sue in a UK court. And yet neither Cameron, nor any prominent voices in the mainstream media have made any comment on these open violations of international law, or on the fact they would seem to directly threaten the likelihood of successful peace talks with the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
One can only hope that Cameron understands the gravity of what he is allowing to occur on the little island of Diego Garcia, and that we are not headed for a repeat of 2003 – when, on 20th March, 48 hours before B-52s and B-1s deployed to the island carried out the initial aerial bombardment of Baghdad using the very same “bunker buster” bombs recently dispatched to the island by Obama, Tony Blair told his party, “I hope, even now, Iraq can be disarmed peacefully.”
* According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, “deportation or forcible transfer of population” constitutes a crime against humanity.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.