Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

Remembering the Rainbow Warrior and the fallout


Rainbow WarriorIt is twenty nine years ago today that the French sank the Rainbow Warrior. The event was a trigger for me and many of my compatriots to reevaluate how we viewed NZ’s relationship with our so-called allies. For those who are unfamiliar with the Rainbow Warrior Affair, I suggest reading the Wikipedia article Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.

I felt NZ had been betrayed twice. Firstly by France. That a supposedly friendly nation could condemn the sinking as an act of terrorism — when it was in reality guilty of the act itself — was quite appalling. The second betrayal was the refusal of our allies to condemn the sinking once it was discovered that France was the guilty party. Both the U.S. and U.K. made it quite clear that they were not not interested in the sinking, and it was a matter to be resolved between NZ and France.

Even after NZ jailed two of the DGSE agents and NZ was being crippled by France’s blockade of our produce to Europe — mainly the U.K. — neither of our major allies were prepared to comment. To rub salt into the wound, the U.K. bought produce from France without so much as a murmer. A great way to discover who your friends aren’t.

NZ has always had an antinuclear stance but the reaction of our so-called allies shifted our attitude even further against Nuclear weapons. When the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act was passed in 1987, it was supported by 92% of the population.

In the wake of the Rainbow Warrior sinking, the U.S. made the mistake of testing NZ’s antinuclear stance by requesting access to our ports for the USS Buchanan. The ship was capable of launching nuclear depth bombs, and it would have been political suicide for the government to have accepted the visit. How could Reagan have misread NZ’s attitude so soon after the sinking? His reaction to the refusal was certainly not the way to retain a friend.

So how did the the Reagan administration react? They scrapped the ANZUS treaty. We could live with that. Judging by the support NZ received over the Rainbow Warrior affair, it would be a mistake to expect the treaty to be honoured. What was insulting was that NZ envoys were denied access to the U.S. administration. While so-called enemies such as the USSR and China could access the U.S. administration, NZ could not. There were elements of the administration that wanted to punish NZ with trade sanctions: “How dare a little country stand up against us”. Is it any wonder that anti American sentiment rose many fold?

It has taken the U.S. twenty five years to get over their perceived insult by NZ. We are finally allowed to participate in multinational military exercises, and can take part in trade negotiations with the U.S. The American right still want to have trade liberalisation tied to the scrapping of our antinuclear legislation, but it seems that the Obama administration accepts that is not going to happen.

Will NZ and America ever return to the close relationship that existed before 1984? Somehow I doubt it. The fallout from the Rainbow Warrior Affair has seen a profound Change in how NZers see our place in the world. Is it for the better? I’m not sure. Only time will tell.


Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and discovered I am autistic at the age of sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

9 thoughts on “Remembering the Rainbow Warrior and the fallout

  1. I had actually never heard of this Rainbow Warrior incident. Thanks for the history lesson.

  2. I had heard about the Rainbow Warrior, but not the full circumstances surrounding what had happened. That the U.S. did not condemn the attack under Reagan’s watch is appalling but not surprising, as his only concern was fighting communism. His petulant reaction after the Buchanan incident is also sadly typical, damaging U.S. relations in the long term for some perceived short term benefit. I’m an American, and it is incidents like this that are truly shameful.

    With regards to whether or not N.Z. and the U.S. return to a close relationship, that is anyone’s guess. I would hope that an ally that fought two global conflicts with us would count for something. Mending this relationship should be important, if for no other reason than to repair the damaged reputation this has caused.

    • I often have the impression that the U.S. is its own worst enemy when it comes to international relationships, particularly with smaller nations. I don’t think it’s intentional on their part, but the U.S. frequently takes actions which smaller nations perceive as bullying. The reaction over the Buchanan and our antinuclear legislation is quite typical of the U.S. And then Americans wonder why there is so much anti American sentiment abroad.

      I think now that the U.S. has accepted that bullying won’t make us change our antinuclear stance, the relationship is improving. But I doubt we’ll ever be quite so trusting of a major power and ally as we were prior to 1984.

  3. Hello from the country that has the longest intenational border in the world – and shared with the US. See, there’s one thing you have to understand when it comes to American politics – they take their democracy seriously. Which you would think would be a good thing BUT the problem is the fundamental premise of democracy – the driving force is “what is best for ME”. And so people vote. Which works well, because there are many opinions and many thoughts and they usually come out right, and if they don’t then their Constitution keeps them on the straight and narrow. Unfortunately there is no intenational constitution, so the US pursues international relations and gives where it receives and no where else. They are our biggest customer and even so and with a trade agreement, they have broken their own promises too many times to count whenever it is to their benefit to do so. As a society they have universally sworn allegiance to the free market to the extent that they would rather let 3rd world residents starve to death than invest in countries that have agricultural subsidies. And yet their own agricultural sector is rife with subsidies. When the big investment houses collapse or GM is going bankrupt – there is lots of government money available to prop them up , the direct opposite of the policy that the free market should rule – unkess it doesn’t benefit their needs.

    Don’t get me wrong, Americans are just a regular bunch of mixed folks, just like everywhere else – most good and kind and a few bad. As the most powerful nation in the world they act only in their best interests – and believe it or not, they don’t see the problem with that. If they don’t need you, you don’t get any consideration – as a nation. Let me stress that my experience with American individuals (I worked in the States for 6 years) is that they are kind and giving and caring. As a country, not so much. I haven’t figured how this can be but it is my observation.

    Enough rant – I’ll get myself banned from every American blog. Greenpeace. Well, I have to tell you that they and Paul Watson were hated characters where I’m from. I don’t have much empathy for them, just as they seem to not have much empathy for others. You see, I grew up in an Atlantic port town where fishing was one of the major sectors. It wasn’t unsual for Greenpeace to attack legal fishing or harvesting activities. They would run at ships and turn away at the last moment, occassionally ramming the ship. They endangered many lives. I understand that they had issues with policies and poor enforcement and sometimes they were right – but being a hired fisherman standing on the deck of a legal trawler and watching Greenpeace ram your ship, doesn’t engender any empathy. They treated anyone not on their side as being the enemy. They were unsafe to be around.

    I’ve expressed this opinion before to Australians and they get upset – Greenpeace are their heros. Maybe Greenpeace has changed – I know they are heavily involved in Reef conservation and I applaud that. But there is still a bad taste in my mouth from their life-endangering antics years ago in the Atlantic.

  4. The Greenpeace you describe sounds more like Sea Shepherd which aggressively disrupts the Japanese “scientific” whaling in the Antarctic ocean. Perhaps the more aggressive elements of Greenpeace left to form sea Shepherd? Perhaps also,because they had support from a sizeable proportion of the population, they were more effective and therefore less extreme than they might be where they had less support? Just a hypothesis.

    I too have noticed that the citizens of America are friendly, although somewhat loud and boisterous for this kiwi. I have spent time there — mainly in southern California. That was fifteen years ago. At that time very few Americans were aware of what went on outside their borders. Hopefully they are better informed today.

    • You are right. I looked it up and Watson (Who is a violent asshole Canadian by the way – we have a few) was intimately involved with Greenpeace until the late 70’s which is when my memroies of Greenpeace are from. They did kick him out for being violent (he calls it direct action)and he started Sea Shepherd. He says he is biomophic rather than anthromorphic which would put humans as equally important to algea. Not real in my book. Thanks Barry.

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