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Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia Paperback – January 23, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Vine, assistant professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C., relates the untold story of how in the 1970s, the U.S. forcibly relocated the population of Diego Garcia, a small archipelago near the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, in order to build a military base. Colonized by first the French, then the British, the island was populated by African slaves used to cultivate the coconut plantations fueling Mauritius's sugar industry. Vine reveals how the official U.S. Navy strategy of using island naval bases to secure American power during the Cold War led to the decision to deport the indigenous population, the Chagossians, who were not compensated for the loss of livelihood or property and endured pervasive institutional racism, extreme poverty and health problems. Interviews with surviving Chagossians and the officials who supervised the relocation show the strategic planning and careful coverup in establishing what is now one of the largest military bases in the world. While Vine has done a great service in documenting the forgotten plight of the Chagossians, the book's sluggish pace and painstaking details will dissuade casual readers. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[A] meticulously researched, coldly furious book that details precisely how London and Washington colluded in a scheme of population removal more redolent of the eighteenth or nineteenth century than the closing decades of the twentieth. . . . [O]ne likes to think that if Barack Obama were somehow to stumble across a copy of David Vine's fine book, he would instantly realize that a great injustice has been done--one that could easily be put right."--Jonathan Freedland, New York Review of Books

"This angry and angering book is well researched, compelling, and valuable to understanding and emerging US 'empire.'"--Choice

"For Vine imperialism, military prerogative and racism have all combined to deny a people a home simply because they were in the way. His succinct style and controlled outrage make for a damning indictment."--Phil Chamberlain, Tribune

"Island of Shame is not just a gut-wrenching account of how a tropical paradise of powder-white beaches and palm fronds was turned into a massive launch pad for America's military expansionist programme. A large chunk of the book is devoted to how the Chagossians came to build their complex but happy society in the islands and the resulting tragedy of their displacement. Above all, Vine is a top flight researcher. . . . We owe Vine a great debt for shining his light on this island of horrors."--Latha Jishnu, Business Standard

"David Vine's story of the Chagossians is an exemplary piece of both socially embedded reportage and investigative journalism, despite a tendency to indulge in the self-conscious idiom of academic ethnography and reflexive criticism of US 'imperialism.' At heart, however, he speaks truth to power. Power, though, is not listening."--Colin Murphy, Irish Times

"David Vine . . . has rendered high service by writing a thoroughly documented expose of the crime, which the world has ignored because one of its perpetrators is a superpower, the U.S., and its accomplice, the U.K."--A. G. Noorani, Frontline

"Vine's important and timely book sheds welcome light on this dark chapter of U.S. military history, questioning the way our military operates and its impact on civilian populations."--Katherine McCaffrey, American Anthropologist

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; With a New afterword by the author edition (January 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691149836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691149837
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Vine is Associate Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. His other writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, among others. David is a contributor to TomDispatch.com and Foreign Policy in Focus. David lives in Washington, DC, but feels at home in many places.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Magnus Johnson on October 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a detailed and well researched account of how UK and US governments conspired in the 1970's to ethnically cleanse a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Over 1000 people were forcibly removed from the Chagos Archipelago to make way for a huge US air and submarine base. It has been in the news recently because the government is trying to make things look better by declaring an MPA and using that as an excuse to prevent the Chagossians from returning.

It's a sickening story that makes me ashamed to be British. I understand that David Vine is donating the royalties from this book to the Chagossian community.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Peter M. Sullivan Aca on March 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very well researched account of a most disgraceful episode involving the adverse treatment of the Chagossian people by the UK and US governments. It reveals how and why the UK and US governments colluded with each other to remove the Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago to allow a secret military base to be built at Diego Garcia.

This book is of particular interest to me because the removal of the Chagossians from their islands between 1968 and 1973 occurred during my secondary school years in the Seychelles Islands. I must deduce that, at the time, the removal of the Chagossians was done in a most secretive manner for I do not recall any discussion, conversation, debate, radio program (there was no TV), political debate, public rally, or public comment by the then Seychelles Governor, Sir Bruce Greatbatch, on this issue. Nor do I recall the Catholic Church ever once mentioning this issue at any Sunday mass, or at any other time. My parents, of course, did mention Diego Garcia from time to time, but I can only presume they also were kept in the dark because they never mentioned anything about the plight of the Chagossians. The Chagossians were considered the cousins of the Seychellois, with an almost identical creole language and heritage.

As I read this book, I cannot explain the anger I felt, and feel, for this gross injustice carried out by Britain and America against the innocent Chagossian people. It is tantamount to a crime against humanity. This book exposes the gross hypocrisy of the British and Americans. They were preaching human rights to the world while abusing the human rights of the Chagossians. And all because the US needed Diego Garcia for a military base.

I wish everyone would read this book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By ollb on December 6, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The things we did, with Brit complicity, to the Chagos islanders are shameful. I knew about some of this from Simon Winchester's Outposts, but it has been grossly underreported and ignored by U.S. media. Vine spends more wordage than necessary describing the treatment of and the sufferings of the islanders. He is best when pointing out the U.S. Empire and how it relies on island bases; for this reason, especially, a very valuable book. Our base on Diego Garcia is so secretive and restricted that not much can be told - or known - about it.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Neil Cotiaux on June 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anthropologist David Vine spent years researching and writing "Island of Shame", and the meticulousness with which he approached his subject matter shows. For this reader, the book provided important nuances beyond the time constraints of John Pilger's moving television documentary on the deportation of the Chagossians, especially with regard to the type and level of compensation doled out to the evicted Cold War residents of Diego Garcia. (About the only thing missing from "Island of Shame" available within Pilger's first-rate program was the extremely telling on-camera interview with former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, who became visibly irritated, and questioned Pilger's motives.)

Like Pilger, Vine gets up close and personal with some of the deported Chagossians, explains the caste system at play in their new "home", and makes no bones about displaying sympathy for their plight. Likewise, he does a thorough job examining the development of the U.S. government's Strategic Island Concept, and fully chronicles the interplay between Washington and London in formulating the coverup of the handoff of Diego that persisted for decades. And the Epilogue poignantly demonstrates how geopolitical decisions, once made, can pose enduring moral tribulations for those who become cogs in the public policy machine.

Despite this book's painstaking research on a subject of moral significance, Vine's final chapter on the creation of a "Humanpolitik" descends into a broad-based polemic against military installations and American "empire", with precious little analysis of the pros and cons of the Strategic Island Concept and the use of American beach heads (although his discussion of the Bikinians is directly on-point).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By doubledogs69 on April 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I lived in mauritius 40 years ago and met people from the chagos islands and have told people about these poor people and how they had their island country stolen by UK + USA governments so I was so excited when I heard of the book Island of Shame and was not disappointed an extremely accurate and concise book, it told the story without holding back very impressed. Thankyou
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