Saltwire: Atlantic Canada News Service — Sept. 6, 2023
Most of the international community regards the Chagos Islands as belonging to Mauritius, from which they were detached in 1965.
Henry Srebrnik, a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island, provided the following opinion article.
Is the sun about to set on Britain’s control of the Chagos Islands? This archipelago of around 60 islands can be found halfway between East Africa and Southeast Asia. They are over 1,500 kilometres south of India, and even further from Mauritius, from which they were detached in 1965.
The Chagos group is currently governed by London as the British Indian Ocean Territory, but most of the international community regards it as belonging to Mauritius.
Also at stake is the future of the indigenous population, the Chagossians, who were expelled from their homes in the 1960s and 1970s. For decades, Britain has blocked them from returning to their islands. For what reason? And why has this become the centre of a power struggle between the United States and China?
YOU can expand the curious organisation called the BRICS, but you can’t define it. In fact, it’s hardly even an organisation: no headquarters, no secretariat. Even the (British) Commonwealth and la Francophonie have more substance: at least they share a former oppressor. Yet the BRICS are expanding.
[NOTE: In 2008, Al McCoy was a main speaker at a conference on U. S. torture that I helped organize. Both his talk and his academic record marked him as a scholar to reckon with on matters of foreign policy and empire. This record drew me to this new analysis of the rapid shifts of power and empire, especially in the context of the Ukraine war.]
From the ashes of a world war that killed 80 million people and reduced great cities to smoking rubble, America rose like a Titan of Greek legend, unharmed and armed with extraordinary military and economic power, to govern the globe.
[ NOTE: Dan Ellsberg, born in April 1931, started out as a laser-bright Harvard grad, a Marine, and was a Pentagon whiz kid under Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara, when the Vietnam War heated up.
He rose to fame when his conscience moved him to copy and release a secret report, called the Pentagon Papers, which showed that the government had been lying about the war, and its prospects, for years. The Nixon administration wanted to jail him forever; but in a story marked by his courage and a long line of federal screwups and crimes that mixed Kafka with the Keytone Kops, the charges were thrown out.
Ellsberg has never since stopped campaigning against nuclear weapons and wars. But if he beat the federal rap, he couldn’t beat the clock. This week he sent out letter about that, joining Jimmy Carter on a list of generational heroes in their closing days. ( My putting them side by side might make Jimmy, or both, uncomfortable; but I’ll stand by it, and them.)]
From Daniel Ellsberg, originally in Twitter:
Dear friends and supporters,
I have difficult news to impart. On February 17, without much warning, was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer on the basis of a CT scan and an MRI. (As is usual with pancreatic cancer–which has no early symptoms–it was found while looking for something else, relatively minor). I’m sorry to report to you that my doctors have given me three to six months to live. Of course, they emphasize that everyone’s case is individual; it might be more, or less.
And he said this very calmly. I hadn’t known that he was about to be sentenced for draft resistance. It hit me as a total surprise and shock, because I heard his words in the midst of actually feeling proud of my country listening to him. And then I heard he was going to prison. It wasn’t what he said exactly that changed my worldview. It was the example he was setting with his life. How his words in general showed that he was a stellar American, and that he was going to jail as a very deliberate choice—because he thought it was the right thing to do.
There was no question in my mind that my government was involved in an unjust war that was going to continue and get larger. Thousands of young men were dying each year. I left the auditorium and found a deserted men’s room. I sat on the floor and cried for over an hour, just sobbing. The only time in my life I’ve reacted to something like that.
Decades later, reflecting on Kehler’s decision, Ellsberg said:
Randy Kehler never thought his going to prison would end the war. If I hadn’t met Randy Kehler it wouldn’t have occurred to me to copy [the Pentagon Papers]. His actions spoke to me as no mere words would have done. He put the right question in my mind at the right time.
In a 2002 memoir, Ellsberg wrote about the Vietnam War, stating that:
It was no more a “civil war” after 1955 or 1960 than it had been during the U.S.-supported French attempt at colonial reconquest. A war in which one side was entirely equipped and paid by a foreign power – which dictated the nature of the local regime in its own interest – was not a civil war. To say that we had “interfered” in what is “really a civil war,” as most American academic writers and even liberal critics of the war do to this day, simply screened a more painful reality and was as much a myth as the earlier official one of “aggression from the North.” In terms of the UN Charter and of our own avowed ideals, it was a war of foreign aggression, American aggression.
Ellsberg Letter, Cont.: I have chosen not to do chemotherapy (which offers no promise) and I have assurance of great hospice care when needed. Please know: right now, I am not in any physical pain, and in fact, after my hip replacement surgery in late 2021, I feel better physically than I have in years! Moreover, my cardiologist has given me license to abandon my salt-free diet of the last six years. This has improved my quality of life dramatically: the pleasure of eating my former favorite foods! And my energy level is high.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve done several interviews and webinars on Ukraine, nuclear weapons, and first amendment issues, and I have more scheduled.
As I just told my son Robert: he’s long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!
I feel lucky and grateful that l’ve had a wonderful life far beyond the proverbial three-score years and ten. ( I’II be ninety-two on April 7th.) I feel the very same way about having a few months more to enjoy life with my wife and family, and in which to continue to pursue the urgent goal of working with others to avert nuclear war in Ukraine or Taiwan (or anywhere else).
When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969, 1 had every reason to think I would be spending the rest of my life behind bars. It was a fate I would gladly have accepted if it meant hastening the end of the Vietnam War, unlikely as that seemed (and was).
Yet in the end, that action-in ways I could not have foreseen, due to Nixon’s illegal responses- did have an impact on shortening the war. In addition, thanks to Nixon’s crimes, I was spared the imprisonment I expected, and I was able to spend the last fifty years with Patricia and my family, and with you, my friends.
What’s more, I was able to devote those years to doing everything I could think of to alert the world to the perils of nuclear war and wrongful interventions: lobbying, lecturing, writing and joining with others in acts of protest and non-violent resistance efforts.
As I write, “modernization” of nuclear weapons is ongoing in all nine states that possess them (the US most of all). Russia is making monstrous threats to initiate nuclear war to maintain its control over Crimea and the Donbas–like the dozens of equally illegitimate first-use threats that the US government has made in the past to maintain its military presence in South Korea, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and (with the complicity of every member state then in NATO ) West Berlin. The current risk of nuclear war, over Ukraine, is as great as the world has ever seen.
China and India are alone in declaring no first use policies. Leadership in the US, Russia, other nuclear weapons states, NATO, and other US allies have yet to recognize that such threats of initiating nuclear war — let alone the plans, deployments, and exercises meant to make them credible and more ready to be carried out — are and always have been immoral and insane: under any circumstances, for any “reasons,” by anyone or anywhere.
It is long past time–but not too late!–for the world’s publics at last to challenge and resist the willed moral blindness of their past and current leaders. I will continue, as long as I’m able, to help these efforts. There’s tons more to say about Ukraine and nuclear policy, of course, and you’ll be hearing from me as long as I’m here.
As I look back on the last sixty years of my life, I think there is no greater cause to which I could have dedicated my efforts. For the last forty years we have known that nuclear war between the US and Russia would mean nuclear winter:
more than a hundred million tons of smoke and soot from firestorms in cities set ablaze by either side, striking either first or second, would be lofted into the stratosphere where it would not rain out and would envelope the globe within days. That pall would block up to 70% of sunlight for years, destroying all harvests worldwide and causing death by starvation for most of the humans and other vertebrates on earth.
So far as I can find out, this scientific near-consensus has had virtually no effect on the Pentagon’s nuclear war plans or US/NATO (or Russian) nuclear threats. (In a like case of disastrous willful denial by many officials, corporations, and other Americans, scientists have known for over three decades that the catastrophic climate change now underway–mainly but not only from burning fossil fuels–is fully comparable to US-Russian nuclear war as another existential risk.)
I’m happy to know that millions of people–including all those friends and comrades to whom I address this message–have the wisdom, dedication, and moral courage to carry on with these causes, and to work unceasingly for the survival of our planet and its creatures.
I’m enormously grateful to have had the privilege of knowing and working with such people, past and present. That’s among the most treasured aspects of my very privileged and very lucky life. I want to thank you all for the love and support you have given me in so many ways. Your dedication, courage, and determination to act have inspired and sustained my own efforts.
My wish for you is that at the end of your days you will feel as much joy and gratitude as I do now.
[Blogger’s P S: As late as 2021, Ellsberg wa s still up to his whistleblower mischief. I wonder if the plans he leaked then, about ultra-secret Pentagon plans for a pre-emptive nuclear attack on China, had anything to do with the secret photo reconnaissance missions my late Air Force pilot father was called on to fly in those same years, blogged about here. take a look, see what you think:
On May 22, 2021, during the Biden administration, The New York Times reported Ellsberg had released classified documents revealing the Pentagon in 1958 drew up plans to launch a nuclear attack on China amid tensions over the Taiwan Strait.
According to the documents, US military leaders supported a first-use nuclear strike even though they believed China’s ally, the Soviet Union, would retaliate and millions of people would perish. Ellsberg told The New York Times he copied the classified documents about the Taiwan Strait crisis fifty years earlier when he copied the Pentagon Papers, but chose not to release the documents then.
Instead, Ellsberg released the documents in the Spring of 2021 because he said he was concerned about mounting tensions between the U.S. and China over the fate of Taiwan. He assumed the Pentagon was involved again in contingency planning for a nuclear strike on China should a military conflict with conventional weapons fail to deliver a decisive victory. “I do not believe the participants were more stupid or thoughtless than those in between or in the current cabinet,” said Ellsberg, who urged President Biden, Congress and the public to take notice.
In releasing the classified documents, Ellsberg offered himself as a defendant in a test case challenging the Justice Department’s use of the Espionage Act of 1917 to punish whistleblowers. Ellsberg noted the Act applies to everyone, not just spies, and prohibits a defendant from explaining the reasons for revealing classified information in the public interest.