The World War on Democracy

January 25th, 2012

Linked on our blogs with John Pilger, Australia and England. – Published on ZSpace, by John Pilger, January 19, 2012.

… In the early 1960s, the Labour government of Harold Wilson secretly agreed to a demand from Washington that the Chagos archipelago, a British colony, be “swept” and “sanitised” of its 2,500 inhabitants so that a military base could be built on the principal island, Diego Garcia. “They knew we were inseparable from our pets,” said Lizette, “When the American soldiers arrived to build the base, they backed their big trucks against the brick shed where we prepared the coconuts; hundreds of our dogs had been rounded up and imprisoned there. Then they gassed them through tubes from the trucks’ exhausts. You could hear them crying.”

Lisette and her family and hundreds of islanders were forced on to a rusting steamer bound for Mauritius, a distance of 2,500 miles. They were made to sleep in the hold on a cargo of fertiliser: bird shit. The weather was rough; everyone was ill; two women miscarried. Dumped on the docks at Port Louis, Lizette’s youngest children, Jollice, and Regis, died within a week of each other. “They died of sadness,” she said. “They had heard all the talk and seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. They knew they were leaving their home forever. The doctor in Mauritius said he could not treat sadness.”

This act of mass kidnapping was carried out in high secrecy. In one official file, under the heading, “Maintaining the fiction”, the Foreign Office legal adviser exhorts his colleagues to cover their actions by “re-classifying” the population as “floating” and to “make up the rules as we go along”. Article 7 of the statute of the International Criminal Court says the “deportation or forcible transfer of population” is a crime against humanity. That Britain had committed such a crime — in exchange for a $14million discount off an American Polaris nuclear submarine — was not on the agenda of a group of British “defence” correspondents flown to the Chagos by the Ministry of Defence when the US base was completed. “There is nothing in our files,” said a ministry official, “about inhabitants or an evacuation.”

Today, Diego Garcia is crucial to America’s and Britain’s war on democracy. The heaviest bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan was launched from its vast airstrips, beyond which the islanders’ abandoned cemetery and church stand like archaeological ruins. The terraced garden where Lisette laughed for the camera is now a fortress housing the “bunker-busting” bombs carried by bat-shaped B-2 aircraft to targets in two continents; an attack on Iran will start here. As if to complete the emblem of rampant, criminal power, the CIA added a Guantanamo-style prison for its “rendition” victims and called it Camp Justice.

What was done to Lisette’s paradise has an urgent and universal meaning, for it represents the violent, ruthless nature of a whole system behind its democratic façade, and the scale of our own indoctrination to its messianic assumptions, described by Harold Pinter as a “brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.” Longer and bloodier than any war since 1945, waged with demonic weapons and a gangsterism dressed as economic policy and sometimes known as globalisation, the war on democracy is unmentionable in western elite circles. As Pinter wrote, “it never happened even while it was happening”. Last July, American historian William Blum published his “updated summary of the record of US foreign policy”. Since the Second World War, the US has:

Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of them democratically-elected.
Attempted to suppress a populist or national movement in 20 countries.
Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.

In total, the United States has carried out one or more of these actions in 69 countries. In almost all cases, Britain has been a collaborator. The “enemy” changes in name – from communism to Islamism — but mostly it is the rise of democracy independent of western power or a society occupying strategically useful territory, deemed expendable, like the Chagos Islands … //

… The same shadow is across Britain and much of Europe where social democracy, an article of faith two generations ago, has fallen to the central bank dictators. In David Cameron’s “big society”, the theft of 84bn pounds in jobs and services even exceeds the amount of tax “legally” avoid by piratical corporations. Blame rests not with the far right, but a cowardly liberal political culture that has allowed this to happen, which, wrote Hywel Williams in the wake of the attacks on 9/11, “can itself be a form of self righteous fanaticism”. Tony Blair is one such fanatic. In its managerial indifference to the freedoms that it claims to hold dear, bourgeois Blairite Britain has created a surveillance state with 3,000 new criminal offences and laws: more than for the whole of the previous century. The police clearly believe they have an impunity to kill. At the demand of the CIA, cases like that of Binyam Mohamed, an innocent British resident tortured and then held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, will be dealt with in secret courts in Britain “in order to protect the intelligence agencies” – the torturers.

This invisible state allowed the Blair government to fight the Chagos islanders as they rose from their despair in exile and demanded justice in the streets of Port Louis and London. “Only when you take direct action, face to face, even break laws, are you ever noticed,” said Lisette. “And the smaller you are, the greater your example to others.” Such an eloquent answer to those who still ask, “What can I do?”

I last saw Lisette’s tiny figure standing in driving rain alongside her comrades outside the Houses of Parliament. What struck me was the enduring courage of their resistance. It is this refusal to give up that rotten power fears, above all, knowing it is the seed beneath the snow. (full long text).

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