Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

The French nuclear testing in the pacific was a significant cause in the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior as it sparked Greenpeace’s attention to protest against their regime. Only in France was it believed that France’s survival depended on the independence of its energy sources, therefore on the development of the nuclear industry. This growing delusion, perhaps for that reason, caused the French to be very passionate about their testing. After World War ll, the French, America and Britain began testing nuclear weaponry in the Pacific Ocean because they were fully aware of the potential damage nuclear and atomic weaponry opposed after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. From the nuclear tests held in the pacific, Rongelap was a very heavily affected area. A very questionable action undertaken by Brookhaven scientists who wanted to study if there were any effects of the radiation was allowing the islanders to return to the atoll after Castle Bravo in 1957. Castle Bravo was a series of high yield thermonuclear weaponry undertaken by the United States at the Bikini Atoll and Marshall Islands. After a year back on the atoll, body levels of radioactive zinc, strontium and caesium had risen at alarming levels. In 1966, the Brookhaven scientists ate coconuts and pandanus under lab conditions and reported their strontium levels twenty times higher than usual, yet the islanders were informed the island was safe to live on. In 1978, the Department of Energy completed an aerial radiation survey of the northern Marshall Islands including Rongelap and Bikini Atolls and found several of the northern islands of Rongelap were heavily more contaminated than areas of the bikini Atoll. At least five of the 66 tests conducted by the United States on the Bikini and Enewetak Atolls between 1946 and 1958 caused fallout rain to fall on Rongelap Atoll. Because of this, rain fell on the roofs of houses which washed away ash. That water fell into the water supply of the local villages. It didn’t taste like rainwater and it was yellow; sometimes even black, yet people drank it anyway. Americans came to the island and simply told the islanders not to drink the water, then left without explaining anything. People then grew sick, weak and began vomiting. A few days after the fallout rain, people’s hair was falling out and were suffering burns on their skin. Because of this, civilians have been reported to have suffer leukemia and cancer and have been funded for medical treatment and surgery and the islanders came under the realization they would have to leave the island in order for their generations to have a successful life.
However, in 1963 the British, American and Soviet Governments agreed to ban atmospheric nuclear tests, alongside New Zealand. The French however opposed of this establishment, therefore continued to nuclear test, alongside India and China. Twenty years on from the humiliation in World War ll and how the peak of the Cold War was approaching, meant France sought the assurance of its own nuclear regime which shows how strong the French felt about the testing which infers they would let nothing detriment their testing. So on July 2 1966, a plutonium bomb code named Aldebaran was dropped from a helium balloon onto the Muruoa Atoll. Since then, France would conduct consistent tests on the atoll; some explosions being 200 times the strength of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. Because of all these tests, the effects on the environment and on the French Polynesians were critical. Thousands of tones of nuclear waste has been dumped into the Pacific since the testing began, and at least two incidents have been documented when lethal plutonium and other radioactive waste has been washed into the sea from at the Muruoa Atoll during storms. Because of this, inhabitants have been known to The fish around the island is a largely common type of food regularly consumed by the French Polynesians, however due to nuclear tests, there has been a significant increase in ciguatera poisoning. Ciguatera is a serious case of human intoxication that can occur from eating certain species of tropical fish which live in reef waters. From 1960 – 1984, over 24,000 people were affected by ciguatera intoxication from French Polynesia alone. Ciguatera has the potential to cause neurological or gastrointestinal disorders, in which extreme cases can lead to death. There is no anti- toxin or specific treatment. From this, I believe it is evident the French did not respect the sovereignty of the French Polynesian’s land, as they caused adverse health effects on the Polynesian’s, tested on their Atoll’s in the first place and left contamination behind which destroyed a considerable amount of marine life. These factors prompted Greenpeace’s attention, which caused Greenpeace to begin protesting and standing up for the Pacific.

The anti – nuclear New Zealand campaign was a significant factor in the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior as it ultimately conflicted with France’s nuclear testing regime in the Pacific. The origins of nuclear free New Zealand sparked with the establishment of ANZUS which was a security treaty signed by Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America in San Francisco on September 1 1951. ANZUS came into force on the 29 April 1952, and the purpose of the treaty was for all members to provide security for each other due to nuclear weaponry. This then caused New Zealand to rely on the United States for protection, and the United States was a like ‘nuclear umbrella’ for New Zealand. However, when the French government wanted to begin testing nuclear weaponry on two Polynesian Atolls (Mururoa and Fangatuafa) the concern regarding radiation consequences to New Zealand and the neighboring Cook Islands only 1500km away began to linger. It was thought the 1963 Partial Ban Treaty meant to suppress testing in the Pacific, so when the French began testing in 1966, public pressure forced the Holyoake Government to complain directly to France and sought international support to ban tests. Jack Marshall, the Prime Minister of New Zealand from the National party at the time sponsored a successful United Nations resolution in opposing nuclear tests by condemning French nuclear tests in ‘our region’. Norman Kirk, the leader of the opposition known as the Labour party, accused Marshall of not doing enough to prevent nuclear tests. So, in 1972, Norman Kirk was elected the Prime Minister of New Zealand of a Labour led Government. The following year after Kirk was elected prime minister, he asked global governments to condemn French tests and sent a navy ship into the testing zone as a silent witness against the French. Kirk then sent Attorney General Martyn Finlay to the International Court of Justice to present legal scientific and moral arguments against the French testing. France ignored the Court’s scheme of banning the tests, thus Kirk sent two ships called the HMNZS Otago and HMNZS Canterbury to enhance the world opinion and attract support from wider nations. Because of this constant pressure New Zealand was enforcing on France, the tests moved underground. Even though this action defused protesting and dropped New Zealand and Australia’s case, Kirk turned his attention to a larger nuclear cause – to make the South Pacific nuclear free. After the death of Norman Kirk, Robert Muldoon became Prime Minister in 1975. Muldoon stood by a policy which stated “the best way to protect New Zealand’s nation interests in a world where there is continuing struggle for recognition and existence was to ensure the United States would defend New Zealand in times of trouble.” Because of this, Muldoon attempted to revive ANZUS as 70% of New Zealanders wished to remain in the agreement. He tried to boost the ANZUS alliance by suspending the nuclear-free proposal and inviting navy ships such as the USS Truxton that were either nuclear powered or sometimes even nuclear armed. These vessels were nicknames the “death ships”, therefore protest boats denied entry to the vessels. Within the New Zealand public, favour of banning these ship visits were increasing. For example, between 1978 and 1983 people against the ship visits rose dramatically from 32% to 72%. Due to this common public opinion, the Labour government quickly descended into power. By the end 1984, 40 towns and boroughs declared themselves nuclear free and Labour then announced the decision to ban nuclear powered or armed vessels. Lange inferred to George Shultz, the U.S Secretary of State that a compromise may be possible regarding the no nuclear ship visits policy. The U.S, hoping public opinion to revolve around the possibility that it was not nuclear armed requested the USS Buchanan which was an aging missile destroyer to visit New Zealand. However, the Labour government declined this offer on 4th February 1985, which lead to the United States stating how they could no longer maintain the ANZUS alliance with New Zealand. New Zealand was accused of spreading an anti-nuclear “contagion” and was no longer considered an ally, but a friend from the United States. On March 1st 1985, David Lange presented an argument at the Oxford Union Debate stating how “nuclear weapons are morally indefensible”.

On the evening of July 10th, 1985, a party was being held on board the Rainbow Warrior to celebrate the birthday of a crew member. Suddenly, shortly before midnight at approximately 11:38pm, a bomb was detonated at the on the outside of the ship outside the engine room. This bomb blew a hole six by eight foot on the side of the ship below the waterline which caused serious damage to the stern and propeller. Four minutes later, the second smaller bomb detonated which was attached to the keel of the ship. This caused the ship to sink in four minutes. Fernando Periera is killed from drowning, and his body was retrieved from navy divers at 4am. The French Secret Service had been ordered to bomb the Rainbow Warrior in order to suppress the ship from protesting against nuclear weaponry in which France was testing at the Mururoa Atoll. 30 years on from the bombing, Jean Luc Kister, a former navy diver and leader of the attack who planted the bombs on the Warrior comes forward and explains the specific lead up to the event. The team used the Ouvea to transport the explosives to the Zodiac boat which where Jean Luc Kister, Jean Camus and Jerrold Royale drove the boat 500 meters from the Rainbow Warrior, in which Kister and Camus the two combat divers were deployed. Supposedly they were not aware of anybody on board, even though there was a birthday party going on inside the ship. From all the evidence I have collated, I believe it is evident the French are either lying or extremely incompetent when they stated they did not want to hurt anybody. Peter Wilcox, a crew member on board the warrior on the evening stated how if the bombs had detonated half an hour sooner, they would’ve lost 20 crew members. They barely had enough time to get off the boat after the first bomb was detonated. Also, Jean Kister states how they weren’t aware anyone was on board, yet there had been a member of the secret service on board the warrior that night. Wouldn’t they report to the dive combat team there was someone on board and to delay the explosions? No, they did not because they didn’t care about the lives of people on board. The bombs were also detonated at the most vulnerable part of the ship which caused it to sink quickly, and also the shrapnel originating from the bombs ripped through the upper decks. What if there was somebody on the top deck at the time? This is showing the sheer carelessness and incompetence the French portrayed because if they really did not want to hurt anybody, wouldn’t they have thought the whole operation through very carefully, or at least wait till everyone was off the ship?

The Bombing of the Rainbow Warrior was pure shock to New Zealand as a whole. The very first act of terrorism had just been committed on New Zealand soil, so it was a race to uncover who and why someone so disturbed would carry out an action like this, which caused the largest police investigation in New Zealand. Just two days after the bombing, on 12th July 1985, two French citizens were arrested for having fake passports. Dominic Preiur and Alain Mafart who were posing as Swiss honeymooners confessed they were part of an operation code named “Operation Satanic” who was ordered by the highest level of Government – the President. The two agents, Mafart and Preiur pleaded to ten years imprisonment. The police investigation alleged Mafart and Preiur who were associated with other members of the French Security Forces arrived in New Zealand on the 22nd June with a specified plan to ensure the Rainbow Warrior would not voyage again into protesting against nuclear weaponry in the Pacific. The first task was to ensure Frederique Bonlieu who arrived in Auckland on the 23rd of April with a fake passport would gain information amongst Greenpeace members and pass the information such as the Rainbow Warrior movements onto the French Secret Service in which further planning would be taken. After Bonileu’s departure from New Zealand the Secret Service initiated the boat ‘OUVEA’ in Noumea, and after charter arrangements the French External Security Service shipped to New Zealand. The ‘OUVEA’ was the vessel that carried the explosives to bomb the Rainbow Warrior and left New Zealand waters on the 9th July. Three days after the bombing on July 13th Police investigators uncovered evidence of the crew’s involvement in the plot. Traces of explosives and Marfart’s fingerprints was found on the Newman’s map. This immediately justified the lie Mafart said as she supposedly had no association with the ‘OUVEA’ crew. On July 15th Police had confirmed the Swiss documents were fake so were arrested for false immigration declarations. By the end of the month, Mafart and Preiur confessed they were part of ‘Operation Satanic’ which was code named for the French Secret Service going to bomb the Rainbow Warrior. They were charged with conspiring to commit arson and willfully damaging the Rainbow Warrior and murder.

Because of the largest police investigation to occur in New Zealand, the information uncovered was detrimental regarding France and New Zealand’s relationship. The French first denied any involvement with the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior which immediately raised suspicions about their claim once the two French agents were arrested for possessing fake passports. Once Mafart and Preiur were sentenced to ten years imprisonment, the French government threatened an economic embargo on exports to the European Economic Community against New Zealand to put immense pressure on our country to hand the agents back to French custody. With the harsh reality this action would cripple New Zealand’s economy as they relied heavily on Britain’s exports and New Zealand had a lot of diary trade into the European Economic Community. In response to this threat, New Zealand began to boycott French products. However, once United Nations intervened to mediate the situation UN Javier Perez de Cuellar announced New Zealand would receive an official apology from France, a $13 million-dollar compensation and were ordered to never interfere with New Zealand’s trade negotiations. France also has to pay $8 million dollars towards Greenpeace and in return New Zealand was ordered to give back the French agents to French custody. The fact that France had already denied involvement with the bombing and sparked an economic embargo which had already sparked an uproar in New Zealand, this uproar was immediately amplified once France had promoted their agents and welcomed them with a “hero’s welcome”. The new French defence Minister welcomed Preiur as she stepped off the plane in France while Mafart received promotions and was decorated by Paris. A country in which men from our country had died for in both world wars and a supposedly friendly ally had just performed the ultimate form of betrayal which diminished relations between France and New Zealand completely. From my perspective, the French were obviously so passionate about their nuclear testing regime that they’ll let nothing get in their way. It seems they have lost all their sense of loyalty towards other acquaintance countries such as New Zealand, as they feel no guilt or remorse by committing such a terrible and shocking crime because of the way they reacted to the bombing.

The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior was the first form of terrorism ever committed on New Zealand soil and had a significance at the time of the event, and is still relevant in today’s society. At the time of the bombing, it was a scandalous shock how an ally to New Zealand would commit such a disgusting crime to a harmless organisation such as Greenpeace that simply wanted the world to be a better place. France had been an ally to New Zealand in both world wars in which thousands of New Zealand men had died for France’s sovereignty, therefore this wasn’t interpreted as an attack on Greenpeace, but an attack on New Zealand so this diminished French and New Zealand relations significantly. The death of Fernando Peirira who was the photographer on the Greenpeace vessel inflicted mass grief for both Greenpeace members and the citizens of New Zealand due to the blunt nature of the bombing and the uproar from New Zealand was amplified once the two French agents were faced with a “hero’s welcome” once they were put into French custody. From my perspective the French are implying their praise for the agents in killing a man, which shows they convey not guilt or remorse from carrying out a brutal procedure on a friendly and ally country. Even to the present day, the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior is still relevant ion today’s society. The anti-nuclear campaign which sparked the bombing has shaped New Zealand’s identity as even to this day we are still nuclear free. For example, in 2007 it was the 20th anniversary of the bombing, in which Phil Goff stated how the policy is till relevant and necessary today because it gives New Zealand a strong voice for nuclear disarmament. The bombing was also a stimulus for New Zealand independence as we as a country make decisions and policy that uphold the morality of our nation. Other countries that are passionate about nuclear weaponry prove it is evident they do not hold any conscience that supports their nation because nuclear weaponry cannot prevent issues in today’s society without having long term consequences.

On July 10th 1985, Greenpeace’s vessel named the Rainbow Warrior was bombed by the French Secret Service. A long term chain of events occurred which provoked the bombing such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which raised awareness for the devastation atomic weaponry posed, French nuclear testing in the Pacific which conflicted with the anti-nuclear New Zealand campaign progressing at the time, which was also an aspect for the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior. This bombing sparked the largest Police investigation to ever occur in New Zealand, and the findings from this would forever change New Zealand’s perspective and relations with France. The bombing which was significant to New Zealand at the time is also significant today, as we as a country are still and proud to be nuclear free.

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