Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Readings in hegemony

story of Diego Garcia. I must say that after reading this, the connections between the words 'United States' and 'veiled colonialism' are stronger... 

It is a story of an old empire passing the torch to the new, Britain handing over one of its furthest-flung territories to the United States and expelling the native inhabitants to make way for the construction of a military base that has since become central to US control of the Indian Ocean and domination of the Persian Gulf. It is the tale of how a remote island idyll was simply emptied of its people, allowing for the creation of a place so secret that no journalist has been allowed to visit, a key staging post in George W. Bush's war on terror, both the launch pad for the B-1s, B-2 "stealth" bombers, and B-52s that pounded Afghanistan and Iraq and a crucial node in the CIA's rendition system, a "black site" through which at least two high-value suspected terrorists were spirited, far from the prying eyes of international law.   ...He argues that there are at least sixteen such cases, where "often in isolated locations, often on islands, and often affecting indigenous populations, the US military has displaced local peoples" to make way for bases or similar activity. They range from the Bikini Atoll, picked for a nuclear test, to Koho'olawe, Hawaii, taken after Pearl Harbor; from Guam, of which the US military controls around one third, to the Philippines, where "Clark Air Base and other US bases were built on land previously reserved for the indigenous Aetas people." The Navy pushed aside Aleutian islanders in Alaska, Puerto Ricans from the small island of Vieques, and Inughuit people from Danish Greenland—to say nothing of the 250,000 people displaced by the US base in Okinawa, fully half of the island's population.
Louis Onesime, originally from Diego Garcia, and who has lead an uncertain life in exile following the removal of islanders from the Chagos Archipelago by the British in 1971, sits in the house he shares with 26 other family members in Port Louis, Mauritius, 17 January 2005. Photo and text from here.

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