FOREIGN Secretary Miliband yesterday admitted in the House of Commons that previous government denials that the island of Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Islands group, had been used by the US for extraordinary rendition flights were false.
One of these denials was made by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on March 2007 to the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), ‘that he was satisfied that the US had at no time since 9/11 rendered an individual through the UK or our Overseas Territories.’
Of these admissions Miliband said yesterday: ‘I am very sorry indeed to have to report to the House the need to correct these and other statements on the subject, on the basis of new information passed to officials on 15 February 2008 by the US government.
‘Contrary to earlier explicit assurances that Diego Garcia had not been used for rendition flights, recent US investigations have now revealed on two occasions, both in 2002, when this had in fact occurred. . . .’
He added: ‘the US government has assured us that no US detainees have ever been held on Diego Garcia. US investigations show no record of any other rendition through Diego Garcia or any other Overseas Territory or through the UK itself since then.’
However, as we know the US ruling class authorities and their investigations cannot be believed, no more than can those of their British opposite numbers.
The prospect is that the lid is about to be blown off of the whole Diego Garcia scandal of how a ‘British territory’ was handed over to the US, after its people were ethnically cleansed and driven from their homes by the British government, which described them as ‘Tarzans’ and primitives.
We now know that the US government pays no rent for the use of the islands from which it has bombed Iraq, and Somalia and from which it hopes to be able to attack Iran.
For years there was talk that the Chagos Islands had been leased to the US until 2016.
However, evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has shown that there is no lease, and that the Chagos Islands, including Diego Garcia were handed over to the US through an exchange of notes, none of which bind the US to quit Diego Garcia after 2016, when it turns out that the availability of the islands to the US military will just be reviewed.
It is also known from information supplied by US military personnel that there is a prison ship off the coast of Diego Garcia and there is a prison on the island where the US is holding ‘terrorist suspects’ under interrogation.
In Britain it is high time that the trade union movement and the anti-war movement took up the struggle of the Chagos islanders as their own. These movements must demand that the British government concedes the right to return of the Chagos islanders to Diego Garcia and the other islands, and also gives notice to the United States to quit the islands, taking its massive base with it.
The British government is doing the opposite.
It is appealing to the House of Lords against the verdict of the Court of Appeal that the Chagos Islanders must be allowed to return to the outer islands of the group, at least.
This is surely a delaying manoeuvre to give the US and British governments time to work out their plan for keeping the massive base on Diego Garcia, from which any imperialist assault on Iran will begin.
The British government is also refusing to pay any real amounts of compensation to the Chagossians who were ethnically cleansed from their homes by both Labour and Tory governments.
The government is saying that £2,500 compensation was given to each islander, although most islanders say that they have never received a penny.
That the British government should think that the sum of £2,500 is adequate compensation for up to 40 years of eviction, exile and suffering is a barometer of the very low price that it puts on non-European lives.
The Chagos islanders in the UK are holding a public meeting and rally on March 15th to demand that an end be put to the US base and that they must return to their homes. It is a must attend meeting for all trade unionists and socialists.