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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Crossing (S)words with the Goliaths of Doom

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Japan has a highly technological society and thus presents a formidable opposition. The Japanese whaling industry has the support of the Japanese government, media, the unions, the Yakuza, the right wing nationalists, and often the Japanese public.

We are under no illusion that we are outmatched politically, financially, technologically, numerically, and psychologically.

We also understand that we are in a bitter conflict that is being fought not just in the remote and hostile waters off the coast of Antarctica but also in the headlines, on television, in courtrooms, boardrooms, and across the insanity of social network sites.

For every dollar we spend defending whales, the whalers spend a thousand or more dollars killing them and defending the slaughter.

The Japanese government bribes and intimidates entire nations. Japan is after all one of the leading economic powers on the planet with a government representing over one hundred million people. Japan has a government bureaucracy that exercises a powerful influence over its media and institutions.

The New Zealand government representing a nation with three million people has recently demonstrated submissiveness before Japan despite the objections of the majority of New Zealand citizens who oppose whaling.

The government of John Keys has gone so far as to abandon one of her own citizens after refusing to defend the rights of a New Zealand registered ship maliciously and violently destroyed by an outlaw Japanese whaling vessel.

A New Zealand flagged vessel destroyed on the high seas and the New Zealand government declares itself helpless in the face of such deadly aggression against its flag and citizens.

When a government does not have the courage to tackle illegal whaling in its own backyard, it is a daunting challenge for a citizen to do so, as Captain Peter Bethune so courageously did.

It is also a daunting challenge for a small non-governmental organization like the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to take on an economic super power like Japan.

And yet we have done so, and we have proven to be an effective adversary of illegal whaling. Nearly two thousand whales are alive because we have intervened. We have dared to bell the cat and we have survived.

It has not been easy. It has cost us millions of dollars, the loss of a multi-million dollar high-tech vessel, the incarceration of one of our captains, and harassment of our crew by police and immigration officials.

But we do, what we do with the resources made available to us to the best of our ability. We are a small shepherd, like David, seeking to save the lives of gentle whales from the cruel harpoons of the Japanese whalers- a Goliath of Death.

But public relations is an expensive luxury, and because of the nature of the media and the manipulations of public relations experts, Goliath often emerges in today’s media culture as the victim of David. And thus we have the absurdity of an industry that literally pumps tons of hot blood into the sea and extinguishes the life of thousands of sentient intelligent beings, calling the defenders of these magnificent creatures “violent terrorists”!

We have the absurdity of a whaling vessel deliberately ramming and destroying a Sea Shepherd ship, injuring one crewmember, and almost killing six human beings, while accusing the captain of the destroyed Sea Shepherd vessel of being violent because he cut a net, boarded a ship, and may have splashed some stinky rotten butter onto a whaling ship.

We have the absurdity of whalers shooting bullets, using sonic weapons and concussion grenades crying foul when we toss rotten butter at them. They are trying to kill us and we have to do what we do by risking dangerous measures to ourselves in order to not injure them!   

Japan pays big bucks to hire the manipulators to cast the whale killers as victims. And they go about it by hitting the right buttons.

Amongst the tactics is the strategy of stirring up Japanese public resentment by accusing whale defenders of being racist. We are referred to as Westerners seeking to destroy the “culinary” culture of Japan.

A Japanese delegation from the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) actually presented pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the executives of Animal Planet and accused them of inciting the same hatred that led to the nuclear destruction of both cities.

Another tactic is to hire bloggers to post comments on news sites and social network sites accusing Sea Shepherd of being racially motivated to attack Japanese whalers because they are Japanese and not because they are criminal whalers.

Right wing nationalists have loudly demonstrated in front of the courthouse in Tokyo demanding that Captain Peter Bethune be executed for being “violent.” Yet it was his vessel that was destroyed by the captain of the Shonan Maru 2, a man who has not even been questioned by any authority for his crime (Japan has refused to cooperate with both Australian and New Zealand investigations).

The question for Sea Shepherd is: how do we defend ourselves from the cyber bloggers, public relations agents, right wing fanatics, and the economic and political power of the nation of Japan?

The answer is that we need only be true to ourselves and our mission. Our objectives have been clear since the first day we ventured into the Southern Ocean, and that is to defend and save whales without inflicting physical harm upon the whalers. That was our objective, and it continues to be our objective, and the focus of all our tactics.

Our clients are the great whales and the people of the world who desire their protection. Our weapons are the truth through the eyes of the camera backed by a courage born of compassion and sustained by a fiery passion for the sanctity and respect for all life and for the upholding of international conservation law.

The purity of our compassion is highlighted in the fact that not a drop of blood is shed to feed the crew of the Sea Shepherd ships and Sea Shepherd has not injured a single person since I founded the organization in August 1977.

Accusations that the crew of the Sea Shepherd are motivated by racism are pathetically absurd. The ships are crewed by men and women of all races and nationalities. Our last campaign included Japanese, Chinese, North and South Americans, East and West Europeans, Africans, Australians and New Zealanders, including Maori.

Sea Shepherd has an online-posted condemnation of racism. We abhor racism and we abhor those who would cowardly use racism as an excuse for directing their hatred at us.

Accusations that I am anti-Asian are absurd. I love my daughter and she is half Chinese.

But racism charges are a potent weapon in the hands of public relations experts, and since racism is generally regarded to be more socially reprehensible than killing whales, bogus racism charges are used to trump compassion for whales.

One charge we hear repeatedly is: why are we picking on the Japanese whalers? They conveniently ignore our history of aggressive opposition to Norwegian, Icelandic, Faeroese, and Soviet whaling activities. They also ignore that as a Canadian, I have been a leading opponent to the slaughter of Canadian seals.

Another spin by the public relations agents is that we do what we do for the money. This accusation ignores the fact that Sea Shepherd is a small organization with meager funds primarily because we do not spend money to raise money. You don’t see Sea Shepherd people harassing people on street corners, knocking on doors, or phoning people up in their homes asking for money. We are not hiring fundraising agencies. With Sea Shepherd, it is primarily all word of mouth, and since we are not spending tax dollars, the voluntary source of our contributions is above reproach.

Sea Shepherd could not exist nor accomplish anything without our volunteers. Volunteers bring passion to a cause, the kind of passion that can’t be hired or bought. It is that passion that makes us effective, and defines who we are.

We realize that we are not everyone’s cup of tea. For every supporter, we have many others who oppose us, some who actually hate us. What does that mean to us? It means we are effective, because only people who do nothing are devoid of enemies.

The late American writer and environmentalist Edward Abbey once said to me, “Paul, you know you’ve hit a nerve in society when people begin to hate you. And the more people that hate you, the more effective you become. You’re not here to win the goddamn Chevron environmental award, your job is to save the planet – from us, and that means that many of “us” ain’t gonna like what you’re doing. Piss them off when you speak, piss them off when you act, but the bottom line is your job is to piss them off, get them thinking and running scared.”

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is unique in not caring about what other groups, governments, or individuals think or say about us.

We do what we do for the sentient creatures of the sea. We do what we do for the interest of generations unborn.

Our objective in the Southern Ocean is to abolish whaling completely by any group of people for any reason. The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is a Sanctuary and that means no killing of whales. This has nothing to do with culture or race and everything to do with upholding international conservation law to defend and protect the Whale Sanctuary.

That is all we need to focus on – the defense of the Sanctuary!

And towards achieving that goal we should not be distracted by criticism of our motivations, our strategies, our tactics, or our behavior.

We need only follow two rules. We will not injure anyone and we will not step outside the serious boundaries of international law. This is the reason we have survived for three decades without criminal convictions or lawsuits.

We are not a protest organization. We do not practice civil disobedience. We are simply a non-governmental anti-poaching organization privately funded by donations and dedicated to the cause of upholding international conservation law in the face of corporate, political, and bureaucratic corruption and abuse.  

We simply need to ignore the criticisms, ignore any negativity in the media or on social network sites. We especially need to ignore the manipulations of public relations professionals. We should never respond nor acknowledge the opposing opinions of those who would distract us from the primary focus and objective of ending whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

We are winning this war to save the whales in the Southern Ocean. Our television show Whale Wars is huge and it is making the public very aware of our campaign and Japan’s continued illegal whaling activity. We have a major motion picture in the works and we are making headlines in the world’s most prominent media outlets. The trial of Captain Peter Bethune in Japan has illustrated just how influential we are. He is being treated like a major international celebrity and hero, as he should be. Special police escorts and the Japanese Coast Guard even staged a large public demonstration as a consequence of Pete’s actions, a demonstration that illustrated how “professional” they are at anti-boarding procedures. They forget that Pete boarded not just any harpoon vessel, but the fleet’s security ship and was on the vessel for nearly two hours before he presented himself to the captain of the Shonan Maru 2 to confront the man for destroying his ship, the Ady Gil.

We are winning the war because we are affecting the numbers. We are cutting kill quotas in half and negating illegal profits. In the end, it is really all about the finances and our mission is to bankrupt the whalers – to sink them economically.

As we prepare for our return to the Southern Ocean, we are under no illusions that the next battle in the Whale Wars will be much more aggressive and that Japan will escalate its defense of their illegal whale slaughter.

But this time we have more than just the moral support of the Australian and New Zealand public, we also have a commitment by the government of Australia to take Japan to the international court in the Hague, and that action has come about in part because of Sea Shepherd pressure.

We may be attacked with more violent means next season. We may be boarded. We may send boarders to obstruct the whalers. We may be shot at again. We may be arrested and hauled back as prisoners of war to Japan to be tried for our efforts. The Japanese government may find a way to take me prisoner before the campaign or even during the campaign. We don’t know what will happen, but we know we aren’t backing down.

If they take me before the campaign for some reason, I have captains who will take over and bring our ships back to the Southern Ocean without me. Such a move will not deter us. If Captain Bethune is given a prison sentence, it will not deter us. If we are willing to risk our lives for the defense of the whales, going to prison for their defense is hardly a deterrent.

Now that the Japanese whalers successfully sank one of our ships without consequence, we can expect that they may try to sink our other ships. The New Zealand government has given them a green light to be violent, but we are confident that the Dutch will not be so craven. And the bottom line is that our ships are expendable – the lives of the whales are not.

If I am taken to Japan as a prisoner for any reason, I can promise that there will be no remorse from me, no apologies, no deals, and no pleas for mercy. My entire life has been dedicated to the defense of the whales and the creatures of the sea. I will never apologize to any nation, court, or people for my passion for the lives of our clients – never!

Every whale that we have saved has driven a nail of deep satisfaction into the shield of our moral integrity. Nothing these killers or their supporters say or do can knock that compassionate shield aside. If I were to die today it would be with a clear conscience for the lives that I have saved and a life without regret for the actions I have taken over the years to oppose the Goliaths of Doom, these people who would tear down the sun for profit if given a chance. 

And so we face another season of increasingly violent confrontations with a ruthless foe in the remote and hostile waters at the bottom of the planet.

And thus we prepare for our 7th Whale Defense Campaign: Operation No Compromise.

There is a Chinese proverb that sarcastically states, “May you be cursed to live in interesting times.”  

All that I can say to that is, “Let’s make the most of this curse, and let’s make our time on the Earth as interesting for our opponents as we possibly can.”

Back into the breach in the Southern Ocean in December – no retreat, no surrender, no apologies, no regrets, no concerns, and no compromise!

We have whales to save and THAT is our only focus and our only truth – the defense of life against the craven whores of death.

We will win this fight to save the whales, but only if we exercise courage and a dedicated and determined resolve to keep our focus on the goal, and not to be distracted by the trivialities of anthropocentric conceit and arrogance.

There are whales swimming in the Southern Ocean at this moment that would be dead now, their flesh frozen and boxed in some warehouse in Japan, were it not for Sea Shepherd actions. Our actions have kept them alive and by saving them, perhaps, just perhaps we may be able to save ourselves. For if the whales are destroyed, and the fish diminished, the oceans will die, and if the oceans die – humanity dies!

It really is a question of self-preservation.

It’s as simple as that!