Sink the Rainbow! Ana Inquiry Into the "Greanpeace Affair"

by John Dyson
192 pages,
ISBN: 0774701390

The Rainbow Warrior Affair

by Richard Shears, Isobelle Gidley
217 pages,
ISBN: 0777516081

Rainbow Warrior. The French Attempt to Sink Greenpeace

by Key Porter
342 pages,
ISBN: 0919493890

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The end of the Rainbow
by Matthew Behrens

At last spring's economic summit in Tokyo, world leaders issued a ringing statement about "international terrorism," prompting one journalist to ask Margaret Thatcher the difference between alleged Libyan involvement in a Berlin disco bombing and France's bombing of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior. The British prime minister replied the two could not be compared and dismissed the subject without explaining why.
That few journalists pursued the point is disturbing. The Rainbow Warrior affair -- in which French secret service agents, acting on nudes from high within the French government, sank the environmental group's ship. killing a Greenpeace photographer in the process -is part of a broader question that has become a central issue in this decade. Where does one draw the distinction between state-sponsored terror in regimes like El Salvador and South Africa and acts committed by those nations to which western powers are ideologically opposed? One person's freedom fighter is always someone else's terrorist.
One would hope that any analysis of the Rainbow Warrior story would take them larger aspects of the matter into consideration, examining the injustices various governments perpetrate for reasons of "national security." However, tease works pay scant attention to such realities. As studies of the events leading up to the incident, the bombing itself, and the aftermath, they are satisfactory histories, but all three have the same major fault: they report the story in a vacuum, scarcely acknowledging that such acts are carried out on a daily basis in various parts of the world.
Shears and Gidley bring to light numerous points of interest but often fail to tie them together coherently. They popularize history to the point of recreating dialogue, a liberty that proves more annoying than interesting in a journalistic study. They also display some fairly sloppy reporting in unquestioningly accepting U.S. rhetoric about South Pacific military alliances (mast international reporters dismiss the State Depart meat's distorted sad bloated handouts) and in referring to Afghan rebels as "freedom fighters" - a term that should be left to the propagandists.
Dyson presents a much tighter account, and gives background information that Shears sad Gidley hint at but do not thoroughly explore. As a veteran New Zealand reporter, Dyson deftly fits the bombing into the larger history of the region. His style suits the almost folkloric elements that make up the story: the bumbling, Clouseau-Like French agents who, in their parsimonious insistence on receipts sad balancing the books on this secret mission, eventually get caught while waiting for a refund; the exploited South Pacific aborigines, whose culture and people have been destroyed by the advent of nuclear testing; and a shipload of noble people concerned about the fate of the planet, docked in a country that is "arguably the least tease and most peaceful on earth." Were the tale not so maddening it would make a wonderful film script.
The most recent book comes from the Sunday Times "insight team." It is the most factually reliable of the three; with its larger number of reporters and "exclusive access" to Greenpeace files, it inevitably widens the foundation of the story. These reporters do not fail to take note of France's post-war brutality and the doings of its corrupt secret service from the decolonization struggles of the Algerians a quarter-century ago to the present battle for independence in New Caledonia.
The Times team brings up many points that are ignored by the other two books, but that have dear bearing on some of the mysteries surrounding the Greenpeace affair: the politically ambiguous past of French President Francois Mitterand; the workings of the French government in relation to its secret services; the surprisingly unanimous support in France for continued testing of nuclear weaponry; and speculation that New Zealand's prime minister, David Large, might have used the whole incident to detract attention from a faltering economy.
The Times team also provides a global perspective. Rather than merely hinting at the militarization of the Pacific, it points out that there are 517 U.S. bases in the region and that the U.S. was involved in French atmospheric testing (finally forced fund in 1976 after an outcry led by Greenpeace) in clear violation of the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty.
In the time that has passed since the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, we've witnessed U.S. contempt of the Soviet test moratorium, the disaster at Chernobyl, continued French testing an the Mururoa atoll, the U.S. attack an Libya, and increased attention to the wars in Central America. All .of these seem to have relegated the Greenpeace affair to an almost forgotten asterisk. These books serve as a reminder of the ultimate terror that remains unresolved as the nuclear clock continues to tick relentlessly toward midnight.

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