Two Island Tales, The Use and Abuse of Power
By Brian McAfee
August 1, 2007
The idyllic lives of two island based populations were inexorably changed and came close to annihilation just to accommodate U.S. supposed protection of democracy. Both Bikini Atoll in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean's Diego Garcia island were populated by thriving, self sufficient, fishing based population until coming under the radar screen of British and U.S. hegemonic interests. The disregard and callus indifference towards the effected populations show the true nature of U.S. "values."
Both Bikini and Diego Garcia resurfaced as issues earlier this year when survivors of the hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific and Chagos islanders (Diego Garcia) won court cases recognizing the injustices forced upon them by the U.S. in the case of Bikinians and by the British in the case of the Chagos islanders. The Bikinians were awarded $1 billion in damages for the impact and effect of U.S. nuclear and hydrogen tests. They will likely never see a cent of it as the bank reserve designated for awarding payment is said to have no funds to accommodate the ruling. The obvious irony here is that the funding to continue the Iraq war is seemingly boundless and unending but to rectify an earlier injustice is economically unfeasible. From 1946 through 1958 the U.S. had carried out 23 atomic and hydrogen bomb tests with the 1954 Bravo test the most significant one. The Bikinians were first moved to Rongeric, where they nearly starved to death, then they were shipped to Kwajalein and finally to tiny Kili where now their population is more then fifteen times bigger than the original 167 that were forcibly removed in 1946. The health effect of being down wind and contamination of the food supply of the resettled Bikini Islanders continue to be a factor in the health and food supply of Pacific islands of the Marshall Island Region.
The Chagos islanders won a hollow victory that they would be allowed to return to their islands, with the exception of Diego Garcia, the largest and main island in the archipelago, and the primary home of the exiled islanders. The U.S. which has a naval and air base on the island remains unwilling to give back the stolen island. In the case of Diego Garcia, Britain and the U.S. both were culprits in the theft of the island. While the U.S. media has, for the most part, not covered the issue of Diego Garcia two journalists have made a point of keeping it alive as an issue. Both William Blum and John Pilger have kept the story and issue alive over the years. Diego Garcia is an example of an ongoing injustice with elements of imperialism, racism and ongoing abuse of power in the name of "democracy." Blum in his recent book "Rogue State" described what happened in the Chagos Islands, "A few thousand inhabitants of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean were summarily uprooted by Great Britain and shipped against their will to Mauritius and the Seychelles, each more than a thousand miles away. No one helped them resettle or paid for the homes they lost. They simply were forced to become squatters in foreign lands. The reason for this was to make room for a U.S. military base on the biggest of the Chagos Islands, Diego Garcis." John Piler's new book "Freedom Nest Time" goes in to more details of what happened with the Chagos Islands and Diego Garcia with updated details.
In both cases the apparent writing of wrongs were deceptive. In the case of the Bikinian legal victory of $1 billion the funds, according to the U.S., no longer exists to pay them despite the current ruling, how convenient. In the case of Diego Garcia the main goal in the native pursuit of justice, the Island of Diego Garcia itself, remains off limits to its rightful owners, the Chagossian people. The U.S. continues to scoff at the legal and moral basis for justice, for simply doing the right things.