Although we were glad to see the article, "Greenpeace: The Protest in Paradise" in the November 1985 issue, some unintended impressions and minor inaccuracies seemed to us to feed misconceptions of Pacific people.
You sought to negate the stereotype of Pacific Islanders when you say "Well, it's image-updating time." Since the image is false to begin with, updating it is inappropriate. The stereotype should be shown for what it is: a characterization of well-developed cultures, complex and beautiful languages, and a matrilineal social structure. Romanticizing their imagined paradise, past or present, doesn't help us to understand the real lives of Pacific Islands peoples from whom we have much to learn.
Our sources say 167 people were moved from Bikini, not 1200. You mentioned French military bases and radiation dangers in Papeete--these are in Mururoa, Fangataufa, and Hao. Poverty in Tahiti is certainly related to French militarism, but not as directly as you indicated. Your description of the neutron bomb suggests testing it is "killing all living things"; the testing is in basalt rock under the lagoon, so it's not.
There are strong anti-nuclear movements in France, although you do not find them worth mentioning. These are often "underground" because of the cruel treatment of police. At Creys Malville, police fired into a peaceful demonstration, killing a thirty year old mathematics teacher. French demonstrators have had both hands amputated after demonstrations at which police used hand grenades filled with tear gas.
The French Green Party, Greenpeace (France), and Women for Peace (France) have strongly supported the French Polynesians. You suggest that the majority of French citizens regard the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior as "scandalous because it had been carried out so clumsily." Even if true, your reading of French political opinion on nuclear policy ignored French people who have risked more than many protesters in other Western countries.
We love Peace Magazine and thank you for drawing attention to Pacific problems and trying to awaken Canadians to themselves as a Pacific nation.
Rosalie Bertell, Dwight Burkhardt, Toronto
Gillian Thomas quotes Owen Wilkes as saying that the international law of the sea requires a vessel being overtaken to keep clear of the vessel overtaking it and that this rule somehow gave the New Zealanders who wanted to blockade their harbor from visiting warships some advantage because, if they were overtaking the warship, "no matter how slowly," it had to get out of the way.
Simply visualizing the scene would show a reflective person that--were this the case--the warship would only have to accelerate towards its destination, the harbor, and the blockade would be foiled.
As a seaman, Wilkes could not have said that the overtaken vessel must keep clear. He must have said "The overtaking vessel must keep clear" (that being the law). He certainly could not have uttered the subsequent mystifying words about forcing a warship to change course by overtaking her slowly....
Were I a critic of the peace movement, I would seize upon this with glee to demonstrate the ignorance and intellectual frailty of the Movement. Please be careful.
Patrick Watson, Toronto
P.S. On reading this over I see that I have not said that I read the magazine carefully and find it provocative and helpful! (Otherwise I would not have bothered to write.)