Captain Peter Bethune – The Last Samurai!
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Captain Peter Bethune is a prisoner of war. He is also the only true samurai presently residing in Japan.
Why is he a prisoner of war?
Because his ship was deliberately rammed, cut in half, and sunk by the Japanese harpoon vessel Shonan Maru 2. The very fact that the captain of the Japanese ship has not been questioned for the destruction of the Sea Shepherd vessel denies any civilian description of the Shonan Maru 2. A civilian vessel would have been investigated and the captain questioned and charged for a felony offense. Even if the collision were an accident, the captain would have been questioned. That is the nature of civilian maritime operations. Collisions at sea are investigated and the officers in charge are questioned. Only military officers are immune to questioning by civilian authorities and that is the case with this incident.
There is no case in recent maritime history of a civilian ship engaged in a catastrophic collision with another ship where the incident was not the subject of an official inquiry. In this case, the inquiry should have been ordered by Japan because the Shonan Maru 2 is a Japanese registered ship. The Australian authorities should have investigated the incident because the incident took place in the waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory. New Zealand has been investigating for months, but Japan is stalling and not cooperating so New Zealand authorities are no longer able to move forward. In fact, only New Zealand Maritime Authorities have attempted to question the captain of the Japanese ship that caused the destruction of the New Zealand registered vessel under the command of Pete Bethune—a New Zealand captain with a New Zealand, Australian, and Dutch crew.
To say that this entire situation is irregular and unorthodox is an understatement. In fact it reeks of corruption and abuse of power.
In response to the cowardly refusal of the New Zealand government to back the rights of a New Zealand citizen and vessel, Captain Bethune boarded the Shonan Maru 2 to confront its captain. It was a courageous act! He boarded a ship moving through frigid Antarctic waters at fifteen knots in the dark of night. He jumped from a jet ski to the harpoon vessel, slipped and fell into the sea, was picked up and attempted the boarding a second time, past sharp anti-boarding spikes and netting. He remained on the ship for nearly two hours until sunrise when he calmly knocked on the door of the wheelhouse and presented himself to the captain who sank his ship.
This man is a New Zealand hero defending the whales and the position of the people of New Zealand and Australia. And yet his government turns their back on one of their own to kow-tow to the imperial demands of Japan.
Captain Bethune was not brought back to Japan as a criminal. He was brought back as a prisoner on the ship that had so viciously attacked him and when that ship arrived it was greeted with a nationalist rally of cheering and jeering Japanese right-wingers in the same manner as they cheered the marching of POW’s down the Kokoda Trail or through the streets of Tokyo in 1942.
This was the first time since the Pacific War with Japan that an ANZAC soldier (Pete is a veteran) was transported back to Japan from the Southern Ocean after the sinking of his ship, and the first time that a prisoner was greeted with such jingoistic hatred. They treated him as a prisoner of war and that is exactly what he is.
Captain Bethune has been charged with trespass for politely knocking on the door of the wheelhouse of the Shonan Maru 2 to speak with its captain. He has been charged with assaulting whalers despite the fact that the incident in question was filmed by professional cameras and clearly shows the whalers firing pepper spray into the wind and back into their own faces. He has been charged with obstructing business despite the fact that the business he was obstructing is illegal under international conservation law and despite the fact that the whaling is supposed to be for research and not a business. He is being charged with damage to property for cutting a hole in a net to board the ship that destroyed our vessel valued at $3 million USD.
And strangely he has been charged under an obscure law called the Sword Control Law, the very same law that Emperor Meiji introduced in 1865 to confiscate the swords from the samurai. Apparently the knife that Captain Bethune used to cut the net to board the ship was of sufficient length to be categorized as a sword.
So in charging Captain Bethune under the same law that Emperor Meiji used to destroy the samurai tradition, Japan is treating Pete as a samurai warrior.
And when you think of what the word samurai means than Pete Bethune qualifies indeed for the word samurai means “to serve.”
And there is no question that Captain Peter Bethune selflessly serves the cause of protecting endangered and protected species of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The Japanese government believes that by making an example of Captain Peter Bethune that they will deter Sea Shepherd from obstructing Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean next season.
This will not happen of course. Every Sea Shepherd crewmember signs onto the crew after they answer in the affirmative to the question of weather they are willing to risk their lives to save a whale.
If a crewmember is willing to give their life for a whale, then the threat of being held as a prisoner in Japan is rather trivial in comparison.
Captain Peter Bethune was well aware of the possible consequences of boarding the Shonan Maru 2 but he chose to do what he thought was right, and like any prisoner of war he will not betray his cause in the face of threats of incarceration and intense interrogation.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will help provide Captain Bethune with the best legal defense possible, and we will stand by Pete’s family while he is a prisoner. What we will not do is retreat or surrender to the outlaw whalers.
We are presently rallying our resources, raising funds, and preparing to return to the Southern Ocean next December. I already have a dozen volunteers willing to board Japanese whaling ships next season, willing to be taken prisoner, and willing to sacrifice their freedom and risk their lives for the whales.
Anything they do to Captain Peter Bethune will only serve to inspire those who love our planet, our oceans and the whales.
What the Japanese whalers, politicians, and media do not understand, what the cowardly politicians do not comprehend, is that my crew is armed with the most powerful weapon on the planet – passion!