Stealing a Nation

Hidden from Parliament and the U.S. Congress, the deal was this: the Americans wanted the island, in their words, swept and sanitized. An entire population was declared expendable; all of them were to be deported.

Stealing a Nation (John Pilger, 2004) is an extraordinary film about the plight of people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean – secretly and brutally expelled from their homeland by British governments in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to make way for an American military base. The base, on the main island of Diego Garcia, was a launch pad for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the 1960s and 70s, British governments, conspiring with American officials, tricked into leaving, then expelled the entire population of the Chagos islands in the Indian Ocean. The aim was to give the principal island of this Crown Colony, Diego Garcia, to the Americans who wanted it as a major military base. Indeed, from Diego Garcia US planes have since bombed Afghanistan and Iraq. The story is told by islanders who were dumped in the slums of Mauritius and in the words of the British officials who left a ‘paper trail’ of what the International Criminal Court now describes as ‘a crime against humanity’.