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Britain is willing to cut loose its own citizens and is only attached to them if it suits elite interests writes Joe Glenton

Chagos Islanders protestToo much is being made of the Falklands. No can deny the considerable irony in using the debate over a distant colonial possession to obscure the next phase of the imperial project: Iran.

Just this week the Guardian pointed to Tehran ‘raising tensions’ with talk of pre-emptive strikes. This comes after Israel’s talk of doing so over consecutive weeks – albeit unaccompanied in the media with similar accusations of ‘raising tensions’ and without reference to Israel’s proven penchant for pre-emptive, illegitimate military action against innocent people. The regular, recreational strafing of Palestinians is a contemporary issue, while the Iranians haven’t invaded anywhere since before Iran existed as a state.

The not-so clandestine war – now playing out in Iran, the US, Georgia, Thailand and India – is full of promise: the promise of more wars, more bloodshed and the extension of the same imperialist savagery which has seen Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and more countries besides, ruined. Let’s at least try and have some intellectual rigour when we talk about these power-games and not get side-tracked by Prince William’s six week stint of scaring penguins in his helicopter.

The situation on Las Malvinas or the Falkland islands – whatever you want to call them – has been framed as one of self-determination and has served to stir up some exquisite jingoism.

It isn’t about self-determination. It is about pure strategic and economic interest. It is this which drives foreign policy, the invisible hand of neoliberal state ideology. What imperial power – waning or otherwise – wouldn’t want a military footprint at Latin America’s flank? Especially with the political left swing of that continent. Why would Britain – in its increasing frailty – want to abandon any more of its ‘prestige’?

This is not to say that Britain would not abandon the Islanders if required to by the hegemon. In fact, Thatcher looked into cutting the Falklanders loose in 1981. And what about the ejection of the Chagos islanders from their Indian Ocean home, Diego Garcia?

The excellent work of people like John Pilger and Mark Curtis lays bare the power of interest. The indigenous Chagossians were first starved, then terrorised and then had their beloved dogs – a remarkably British cultural quirk – fed poison. They were later forced to abandon their homes and possessions, herded aboard a ship too small for their numbers and dumped in Mauritius to die, illegally displaced in shanties. All for the pleasure of a £14 million discount voucher for America’s Polaris nuclear submarines. Not quite so committed to protecting British colonial subjects then, are we?

Diego Garcia is now well known. Emptied of its rightful owners without a thought for their self-determination and in contravention of international law, it now houses the heavy, long-distance bombers which have pounded Afghan villages for ten years. It is also one of the key sites connecting Britain – who retain ownership – to the policy of kidnapping and torturing people without evidence.

This process is obscured by cant and by war-speak, and ridiculously re-packaged as ‘rendition’. Many of its recent guests have been bound for Guantanamo bay – men and women strapped, gagged, blinded and brutalised in the cargo bays. Diego Garcia has the most unenviable connecting flights in the world.

So there is strong evidence that Britain is willing to cut loose its own citizens and is only attached to them if it suits elite interests. In the case of the Falklands it is oil and proximity to places of strategic value; in the case of Diego Garcia the reasons were broadly the same.

So don’t tell us it’s all about self-determination and fluffy patriotism. Like the spiralling situation in the Middle East, it’s a case of bare-naked imperialism. Just ask the Chagossians, they’ll tell you all about it.

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