In order to convert the sleepy, Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia into a dominating military base, the U.S. forcibly transported its 2,000 Chagossian inhabitants into exile and gassed their dogs.
By banning journalists from the area, the U.S. Navy was able to perpetrate this with virtually no press coverage, says David Vine, an assistant professor of anthropology at American University and author of "Island of Shame: the Secret History of the U.S. Military on Diego Garcia(Princeton University Press)."
"The Chagossians were put on a boat and taken to Mauritius and the Seychelles, 1,200 miles away, where they were left on the docks, with no money and no housing, to fend for themselves," Vine said on the interview show "Books Of Our Time," sponsored by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.
"They were promised jobs that never materialized. They had been living on an island with schools, hospitals, and full employment, sort of like a French coastal village, and they were consigned to a life of abject poverty in exile, unemployment, health problems, and were the poorest of the poor," Vine told interview host Lawrence Velvel, dean of the law school.
Their pet dogs were rounded up and gassed, and their bodies burned, before the very eyes of their traumatized owners, Vine said.
"They were moved because they were few in number and not white," Vine added. The U.S. government circulated the fiction the Chagossians were transient contract workers that had taken up residence only recently but, in fact, they had been living on Diego Garcia since about the time of the American Revolution. Merchants had imported them to work on the coconut and copra plantations. Vine said the U.S. government induced The Washington Post not to break a story spelling out events on the island.