It was 32 years in the making. On 10 July 1985 the French Government – until then perceived to be an ally of New Zealand – committed state sanctioned terrorism against New Zealand. The bombing of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior shocked New Zealand and angered nations around the world.
New Zealanders rightfully itched for retribution. The massive Police manhunt for the agents who committed the act of terrorism which sank the Rainbow Warrior and killed Portugese photographer Fernando Pereira managed to catch up with two of the agents, whilst the rest got away. Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart were not admitting much, much less apologizing. Mafart would go on to become Commander of the French Navy Training Centre in Corsica. Prieur would become a Major and later a Colonel in the French Army before taking up a civilian job in human resources.
Now it looks like after 32 years, a French woman who infiltrated Greenpeace and sent intelligence back to France for analysis has been outed as another of the agents used in the attack. Christine Cabon was the youngest of the agents complicit in the attack.
Whilst admitting her complicity in the attack, she says that there is no apology forthcoming. She said she was simply doing what she was trained to do at the time, and it was simply her job.
Such a lack of critical analysis of ones role in the attack will no doubt have come across as a shock to some, even 32 years after the attack, with French and New Zealand relationships now enjoying relative good times – if you can see past Romain Poite’s handling of the British and Irish Lions test against New Zealand at the weekend. I thought there might have been a bit of remorse that an innocent man just doing his legitimate job as a photographer had to die because of the actions of these agents, but none was forthcoming.
New Zealand and France on either side of this act of terrorism have actually gotten on fairly well. New Zealand fought on the side of the French in two world wars and had a hand in the April 1917 Battle of Arras where a major clash against the Germans occurred. New Zealand also contributed R.N.Z.A.F. squadrons to the aerial campaign against the Germans during World War 2
This event though, whether the day after the attack or another 20 years from now, will remain a stain on otherwise good history between the countries. The unapologetic Christine Cabon’s passport should perhaps be stamped with the words “Banned from New Zealand”, along with those of Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart.
Now there is no chance of further prosecutions, however appealing it might be to some. The case is closed. Nothing meaningful is left to be gained.
We should also forgive France. It was a revolting act and an incredibly dumb thing to do, but the French people are remorseful to the highest levels of French politics – only the Front Nationale dreams of resuming nuclear testing and they have been soundly defeated in the recent French Presidential election.
But we should not forget.