Did you ever have such a bad day you’d do just about anything to be able to hit a rewind button so you could start all over? It’s happened to everyone at least once or twice. But with the way things have been going over at Greenpeace lately there’s probably a lot of folks who’d just love a time machine to beam them back before the last year’s craziness started.
It has indeed been an annus horribilis for Greenpeace. It all started with the “Arctic 30” debacle in Russia in September 2013. In the wake of a drama on the high-seas in which Russian authorities seized the Greenpeace campaign vessel Arctic Sunrise, Russian investigators announced on 24 September 2013 that they intended to file piracy charges against the 30-member crew.
While waiting for the charges to be filed the 30 activists were remanded in a Russian prison, from whence emanated the loudest of whinges such as “My cell mate smokes” and “they don’t serve vegan food.” No, they don’t serve vegan food. You’re in prison. That’s what prison is – punishment for criminal wrong doing. Suck it up. The incessant high pitched whining noise emanating from the prisoners’ cells likely drove the poor prison guards to distraction.
Finally, piracy charges were filed against the activists on 4 October 2013. The charges were based on the activists’ attempt to climb aboard and force their way onto the Prirazlomnaya drilling platform in the Kara Sea. The activists were charged according to Part II, Section IX Crimes Against Public Security and Public Order, Chapter 24 Crimes Against Public Security, Article 227 Piracy, which states, “Assault on a sea-going ship or a river boat with the aim of capturing other people's property, committed with the use of violence or with the threat of its use, shall be punishable by deprivation of liberty for a term of five to ten years.” The initial charge carried a 15-year sentence. The charges were later reduced to “Hooliganism” (breach of public safety laws) and ultimately commuted by presidential decree as part of a pre-Olympic general state amnesty. The “Arctic 30” activists were all subsequently deported from Russia.
Nearly one year later, on 1 August 2014, the Russian Federation released the Arctic Sunrise back to Greenpeace.
Also nearly a year later, on 26 April 2014, President Vladimir Putin signed into law an act “on the establishment of departmental security to ensure the safety of the fuel and energy complex.” Effectively, the law allows corporations to establish their own private security forces to defend their infrastructure, upping the stakes of oil production in the Russian Arctic while rendering protestors even more vulnerable. On the same day that he signed this act into law, Putin also met with the Russian Security Council, where he urged Russian strength in the Arctic. More importantly, he remarked, “Oil and gas production facilities, loading terminals and pipelines should be reliably protected from terrorists and other potential threats. Nothing can be treated as trivia here.”
The new law and firm stance of President Putin are an obvious signal to Greenpeace that sophomoric hijinks such as what transpired last year on the Artic Sunrise will not be tolerated and will be forcefully dealt with.
On 23 June 2014, UK publications the Daily Mail and the Guardian both ran stories detailing the revelation that Pascal Husting, International Program Director at Greenpeace International, would several times a month commute by commercial airline from his family home in Luxembourg to his place of employment at Greenpeace International's head office in Amsterdam. Since this revelation, and even though there were statements in support of Mr. Husting and his jet setting ways by John Sauven Greenpeace UK's Executive Director, as well as Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo, Husting pledged to make his future trips to Amsterdam via train.
This incident was hugely embarrassing for Greenpeace, which has long made strong statements against air travel in general, discouraging virtually all use of the fuel using, carbon emitting, prosperity-bringing aviation industry. It’s a real fun, retro type of trip to travel between Amsterdam and Luxembourg to conduct business. There’s just one problem. It’s more expensive to travel by eco-friendly trains than it is to fly on a budget airline. But since Greenpeace has deep pockets and loves to squander the money of its donors then what the heck.
Rogue Financial Traders
Greenpeace’s“Travel-Gate” scandal ceased to be humorous when seen in light of the revelation made on 16 June 2014 that a Greenpeace employee lost some £3 million of donated funds by taking out contracts that speculated on international currency markets. While Greenpeace adamantly maintained that the loss was due to the actions of a lone employee who acted without authorization, the same leaked documents that brought the financial loss to light also revealed that the senior leadership at Greenpeace International was aware of the sorry state of its financial department for some time. Were such financial malfeasance committed by a bank, corporation, or a more transparent non-profit, surely heads would have rolled. Not so at Greenpeace.
These two incidents gave rise to an internal rebellion in which 39 of the 40 staff members at Greenpeace HQs called for the ousting of both Husting and Naidoo. No heads are rolling yet, but voices from the Indian office confirm that poor leadership is endemic and does not just plague Amsterdam.
Then, of course we have the prosecution and trial of the “Cincinnati 9,” the brazen activists who, on 4 March 2014, breached “Fort Knox” type security at Proctor & Gamble HQS with military-like precision and executed a banner hanging demonstration that shocked the city. The operation bore all the hallmarks of a sophisticated paramilitary infiltration and attack plan. It is interesting to note that one of the activists involved in the operation, Tyler Wilkerson, was a United States Marine Corps veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, the success with which this operation was executed was a result of all five aspects of a terrorist or Special Forces operation being meticulously employed. One activist has agreed to plea out, while the remaining eight plan to ask the judge to reduce the burglary charge to a (lesser felony of) breaking and entering, as well as have the vandalism charge be dismissed.
Across the Pond in France, a judge in Colmar on 4 September 2014 sentenced 55 Greenpeace activists to two-year suspended sentences after their having been convicted of trespassing and causing willful damage during an 18 March 2014 invasion and occupation at the Fessenheim power plant near the border with Germany and Switzerland.
To finish up on a lighter note, we have “Calendar Gate.” Following on the heels of the two humiliating financial scandals at Greenpeace HQs in Amsterdam, Greenpeace USA put the organization in a negative spotlight again by using a photo taken by nature photographer Alain Mafart-Renodier in its 2015 calendar. It turns out that Alain Mafart-Renodier is really Alain Mafart, one of the French military operatives who was involved in the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand in 1985.
Horrified by the irony, Greenpeace demanded the calendar’s publisher, Workman Publishing, recall the calendars. Workman refused to recall the calendars unless Greenpeace reimbursed the company US$250,000 for costs and lost profits. In the end, Greenpeace realized there was no way to guarantee a complete recall and “determined that this was not the best use of our donors' money.” Instead, Greenpeace returned all royalty payments and ended its relationship with Workman.
Enough is Enough
The bottom line is, governments, law enforcement, corporations, and even their own internal staff, have got the number on Greenpeace. There are a number of pending legal actions against Greenpeace in myriad jurisdictions around the globe. Kumi Naidoo, himself an activist with revolutionary notions who declared in 2012 his own “jihad/war” on the banking industry in an interview with the leftist Guardian, said that Greenpeace is currently facing about 75 million euros in legal claims. This would represent about 25% of its annual budget. But then the Green Machine can afford it.
Overwhelmingly, the legal rulings have gone against Greenpeace in recent years. And governments are taking notice too. Like Canada and New Zealand, which yanked their charity status; Russia, who contemplated prosecuting the “Arctic 30” under terrorist legislation (I bet that got the attention of the folks on the ship); and India, who declared Greenpeace a threat to national security and froze their bank accounts.
Nevertheless, the group will soldier on in its ever growing militancy in the face of embarrassment, adversity, and legal challenges. We still have a lot more to hear from Greenpeace. But at least sometimes, when their silly antics make us laugh (and some of them are funny, like the Lego campaign; however, the Danish company was likely less amused), we can forget for a minute the clear and present threat Greenpeace really poses.