US has used tsunami to boost aims in stricken area
(in The Irish Times)
Although some important information is overlooked:
As John Pilger has tirelessly commented "Newsreaders refer to it in passing: "American B-52 and Stealth bombers last night took off from the uninhabited British island of Diego Garcia to bomb Iraq (or Afghanistan)"" and even within an insightful piece such as that by Rahul Bedi in todays Irish Times Diego Garcia's history is overlooked.
"The US, she added, was also looking for an alternative to Diego Garcia, whose lease was soon running out.
Although historically and legally belonging to Mauritius, Diego Garcia was formally constituted as part of the newly created BIOT in 1965 and came under the administrative control of the British government of the Seychelles. A year later Britain signed a bilateral agreement with the US making Diego Garcia available to it on lease for defence purposes till 2016."
What could easily be mentioned here is that "Diego Garcia once had a small native population, the inhabitants, known as the Ilois, or the Chagossians, were forced to relocate (1967–1973) so that the island could be turned into a military base....Uprooted and robbed of their livelihood, the Ilois now live in poverty in Mauritius's urban slums, more than 1,000 miles from their homeland."*
As US forces continue to use Diego Garcia as a base "for anti-terrorist operations" it serves only to push Bush's quaint speeches about "defending freedom" and "the sacrifices for the liberty of strangers" into the realm of delusion.
As "Article 7 of the statute of the international criminal court describes the "deportation or forcible transfer of population ... by expulsion or other coercive acts" as a crime against humanity." One has to wonder, if a war waged in part, from an island which is inhabitated by means of a "crime against humanity," can that war ever be justified?
To refer to Diego Garcia in passing, without comment, is as much a lie as the British Government's statement in 1970s "There is nothing in our files about a population and an evacuation."*
The US has availed of the aftermath of the tsunami to bolster its Indian Ocean strategic presence, writes Rahul Bedi in New Delhi.
The US has subtly turned tragedy into imperial strategy in the politics of relief that followed the destructive tsunami which struck 11 Indian Ocean states in December, by bolstering military alliances in a region where its presence was minimal.
In the flurry of rushing international help to the devastated region, Washington quietly furthered its national security strategy of increasing its military bases in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with the aim of dominating the international stage and, more importantly, of containing potential rival China.
The former US secretary of state, Colin Powell, blatantly declared that US relief to the tsunami- affected region would assist the war against terror and instil "American values" in the region.
Consequently, in the name of relief, the US revived the Utapao military base in Thailand it had used during the Vietnam War. Task Force 536 is to be moved there to establish a "forward positioning" site for the US Air Force and cargo.
During subsequent tsunami relief operations, the US reactivated its military co-operation agreements with Thailand and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines. Alongside, US Navy vessels, in keeping with previous treaties, availed of facilities in Singapore.
The US marines and the navy also arrived to bolster relief measures in Sri Lanka, despite the tsunami-hit island's initial reluctance to permit them entry.
Washington has long wanted a naval presence in Trincomalee, eastern Sri Lanka, or alternately in Galle, further south, to shorten the supply chain from its major regional military base in distant Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) leased to the US in 1966 for 50 years.
Alongside, the US was continuing with its survey of the Malacca Straits, through which nearly 90 per cent of Japan's oil supplies pass and over which China exercises considerable influence.
"Clearly these new bases will strengthen Washington's military logistical support in the region," Prof Anuradha Chenoy of Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru university said. The US, she added, was also looking for an alternative to Diego Garcia, whose lease was soon running out.
Although historically and legally belonging to Mauritius, Diego Garcia was formally constituted as part of the newly created BIOT in 1965 and came under the administrative control of the British government of the Seychelles. A year later Britain signed a bilateral agreement with the US making Diego Garcia available to it on lease for defence purposes till 2016.
With the independence of Seychelles in 1976, however, the BIOT became a self-administering territory under the East African Desk of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
In return for the island's lease, the US contributed half the set-up costs of the BIOT, through an offset arrangement that included Britain buying the US-made Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile.
Although both British and American flags fly over the island, Britain's military presence on Diego Garcia, one of 52 islands in the Chagos Archipelago, is limited to a detachment of marines for security purposes alone.
Diego Garcia's geostrategic location in the Indian Ocean and its full range of naval, military and communications facilities provide it with a critical role in support of the US Navy's forward presence in the North Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Its importance to American defence policy began with the Yemen crisis of 1979, increasing with the Iranian crisis of 1979-1981. It played a critical role in Washington executing the more recent wars in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Diego Garcia is also used for anti-terrorist operations, but it is remote and Washington is desperate for an alternative.
But in its endeavours to establish a lasting presence in the IOR, the US has been unsuccessful in building lasting strategic or diplomatic relations with Malaysia or Indonesia.
Malaysia has been highly critical of Washington's adventurism in Iraq and its imperial aims disguised under the goal of waging war against terrorism.
Indonesia, on the other hand, has been criticised by the US Congress for its human rights record in Aceh, where the struggle for independence has been ruthlessly stamped upon by the military. But a loose "working arrangement" has been worked out between Jakarta and Washington keeping in mind the unprecedented destruction the tsunami wreaked in Aceh and the accompanying human misery.
The tsunami was not the only tragedy that Washington has used to further its strategic interests.
Soon after September 11th, US military presence was palpable not only in Kabul, Islamabad and strategically located central Asian republics like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Krgyzstan - vital to US oil conglomerates, anxious to begin laying pipelines to the Arabian sea - but in varying degrees in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and to a lesser extent in Myanmar (Burma).
And, while seizing the opportunity to obtain its long-term energy and security interests, the US changed all rules of engagement.
In its military alliances, especially in the central Asian republics, it has either played down or ignored human rights considerations among its new-found allies and in some cases even rewarded them.
Desperate for an alternative to the turbulent Arab states for its petroleum needs, the US has emerged as the leading foreign investor in central Asia's energy sector, openly declaring that it wants to promote political and economic stability in the area. Loosely translated, it wants peace to ensure profit.
© The Irish Times