Making Waves: The Greenpeace New Zealand Story
By Michael Szabo
Reed. 264 pp. NZ$49.95
Reviewed by David Robie
The surprise capture of French frogman Gerald Andries, one of the alleged saboteurs of the Rainbow Warrior, once more threw Greenpeace into the limelight, ironically just two weeks before its official history was launched by David Lange. But those who might look to this book to provide some illuminating insights into l'affaire Greenpeace from the perspective of the environmentalists will be extremely disappointed.
While the book is an appealing and very readable account of Greenpeace New Zealand's two decades of existence, it approaches the most devastating moment of its history with remarkable lack of candour. Making Waves fails to live up to its title when it comes to really sensitive issues.
Nowhere does this become more acutely obvious than in the sections dealing with the Rainbow Warrior sabotage. Gerald Andries, for example, one of the quartet who smuggled the bombs into New Zealand on board the Ouvea, is not even mentioned. The bombs led to the death of photographer Fernando Pereira on July 10, 1985, and it was lucky a further six people didn't lose their lives that night.
The nearest Michael Szabo gets to naming Andries is when the author briefly sums up the boat crew's role: "While [Mafart and Prieur] were held in custody, the charter yacht Ouvea, carrying another team of agents implicated in the bombing, sailed to Norfolk Island and then disappeared a few days out to sea headed north for Tahiti. Her crew was reportedly picked up by the French nuclear submarine Rubis, which turned up in Tahiti on 22 July — the first time a French nuclear submarine had been known to enter the South Pacific."
When it comes to discussing the infiltration of Greenpeace (admittedly a farcical description when the movement had no real secret files nor any secret plans!) by Frederique Bonlieu (her alias), Szabo is astoundingly coy. The bizarre episode is dismissed in one sentence: "Then there was Christine Cabon, the spy who "infiltrated" the Auckland office in order to gain access to Greenpeace's secret plans for Moruroa action."
To be fair, these flaws should not be blamed too much on the author, who has strived hard to write a comprehensive and authoritative account of Greenpeace — and who has succeeded for the most part. Rather, the finger should perhaps be pointed at the book's editor and others in the editorial collective who were adamant that the bombing had been done to death in other books and thus warranted only cursory treatment. The arrest of Andries has come home to haunt them — just like the New Zealand government.
Szabo's distaste for the obsessive preoccupation with international espionage, murder and foreign hit squads roaming the country which seemed to afflict the news media at the time is marked. "Within a few months", he writes, "a rash of hastily compiled books, mostly quick-kill exposes, were published".
Yet he also points out quite rightly that the underlying issues were entirely overshadowed by this obsession with the military details of Operation Satanic and the political fallout between New Zealand and France. The evacuation of Rongelap Atoll, for example, in the Warrior's last mission and later voluntary work with the Rongelap Islanders by dedicated Greenpeace activists like Bunny McDiarmid, were rarely reported.
Personally, Szabo believes Andries should be extradited and face justice here. He is sharply critical of the "backwards shuffle" of Prime Minister Jim Bolger and of two newspapers that have published editorials saying we don't want the suspected bomber. He also contrasts the accommodating attitude shown towards French state terrorism with the hardline stance of Western countries over Libya.
From the group of idealists who ventured courageously on the first protest voyages to Moruroa in the early 1970s, the campaigners have matured into the diverse, well-resourced and sophisticated organisation with 140,000 supporters that Greenpeace New Zealand is today — one of the many national bodies affiliated to Amsterdam-based Greenpeace international.
Greenpeace has carved itself a niche as probably the world's leading pressure group on environmental and peace issues.
In spite of the lack of analysis and other flaws, Making Waves is still a handsome book and is bound to prove a collector's item for many people. According to Szabo, the current popularity of green ideas owes much to the long years of persistent campaigning by Greenpeace and other environment groups. "And", he adds, "Greenpeace NZ's authority today rests on the dedication and stubborn commitment of a whole generation of Greenpeace supporters".
Unfortunately for Andries, it seems nobody at the French secret service headquarters took the trouble to brief him on this eco-stubbornness.
[David Robie is the author of Eyes of the Fire:The Last Voyage of the Rainbow Warrior.]