The guise of modern-day terrorism is no longer limited to Palestinian suicide-bombers or the visceral images of the tragedy of 9/11. In a world of ever-increasing ideological disharmony, a new, equally violent terrorist has emerged – the eco-terrorist. Like the purveyors of radical Islamic terrorism, the eco-terrorist uses fear, intimidation, and violence in attainment of its goal, which for the eco-terrorist is simply the reclamation of the Earth to its pre-humanity condition, no matter what the cost. Heading-up this domestic terrorist offensive of radical animal-rights and extreme environmentalism is Paul Watson, who, even amidst the nation’s grief over 9/11, made the audacious and frightening statement, “There's nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win.”
Paul Watson is considered by many to be the originator of environmental terrorism; what he refers to as “passionate activism.” Watson was one of the founders of Greenpeace, the largest environmental rights organization in the world, with over 5 million members claiming allegiance in over twenty countries. Watson left Greenpeace, which originated as a splinter faction of the 1960’s anti-war group, “Don’t Make a Wave Committee,” due to the passivity of the group. Of Greenpeace’s objection to the use of excessive violence in their protests, Watson declared his former group the “Avon ladies of the environmental movement.”
In 1977, Watson founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), which Watson describes as a “policing organization,” but which is in fact a radical terrorist outfit the travels the oceans of the world enacting violence against the world’s fishing industry. Watson oversees a small fleet of ships outfitted with cement-filled bows built for the sole purpose of violently ramming and sinking ships they deem as enemies of the environment; this could take on the shape of everything from large whaling ships to small commercial fishing vessels. Each boat of Watson’s is armed with high-powered water cannons and is protected by electrical barbed wire. They have used acid, explosives, and a host of other means to disable and sink “enemy” ships. Watson himself has been known to brandish an AK-47 that he has used to fire on targeted fishing vessels. And painted on the sides of his ships are the names of those boats he has sunk.
The method of operation of Paul Watson isn’t all that different from the nineteen suicide highjackers of 9/11. Instead of airplanes, Watson uses his boats to ram and sink the objects of his disdain. Of his 1979 sinking of a commercial whaling vessel, Watson stated, “I set out from Boston in the Sea Shepherd with a crew of 19 volunteers…I hunted down, rammed, and disabled the pirate whaling ship Sierra…(We) fired up the engine and made for the Sierra, which was in the middle of the harbor. I hit her at full speed….” Although this attack failed to sink the Sierra, Watson and his crew returned for a second attack on the vessel and “blew the bottom out of her and permanently ended her career.”
Although there is no definitive count, Watson is responsible for ramming, scuttling, and sinking a slew of boats across the world’s waterways, all in an attempt to bring about the cessation of the fishing industry in its entirety. Watson has also used the mere threat of force in pursuit of other activist causes, including socio-political causes. In 1992, despite his animals-first/humanity-last stance, he threatened to sink a fleet of ships reenacting Columbus’ voyage of the discovery of America on its 500th anniversary if the re-enactors didn’t sign an apology for Columbus’ mistreatment of American Indians.
Watson’s dogmatic and authoritarian love of animals and nature, and hatred for all of humanity en toto, has found him making such absurd statements as “earthworms are far more valuable than people.” Watson has gone so far as to preach a blasphemous set of “ten commandments” that he authored, with the goal of elevating animals and nature above people. Watson’s commandments are bookended with his apparent loathing of humanity: his first commandment reads “Don’t bring any more humans into being;” and his tenth reads, “Don’t get caught by the forces of anthropocentrism.”
Watson’s continual disregard for the value of human life is clearly discerned from his terrorist actions. When a former Greenpeace colleague criticized his sinking of half of a fleet of Icelandic whaling boats in 1986 as being a “cowardly, despicable, criminal, and (an) unforgivable action,” Watson barked in retort, “So what? We did not sink those ships for you or for any of the six billion hominid a--holes on this planet…we could not give a damn what human beings have to say about the actions.” Demonstrating the true extent of Watson’s distaste for humanity, he has said, “The world will be a much nicer place without us,” and that he “owed no allegiance to humanity.” This message is in stark contrast to his attesting to using the SSCS “as a vehicle to empower people.”
Aside from jeopardizing the lives of seamen in the world’s fishing industries, Watson has also taken his terroistic crusade to land. Watson oversees the radical activist group, Coeur du Bois (Heart of the Wood), which spikes trees targeted for cutting by the logging industry. Watson himself has claimed to have created “tree spiking,” which consists of driving large nails into trees in attempt to hurt lumberjacks upon their felling or milling. His plan succeeded, and in 1987, a mill worker in California received a broken jaw when his band saw struck spikes in a tree, causing the blade to splinter in an explosion of shrapnel. Of the use of tree-spiking and its possible deadly consequences, Watson said, without a shred of remorse, “Those loggers don’t give a damn for future generations… And if they don’t have any compassion for the future, I don’t have any compassion for them.”
For his crimes against both people and property, Watson has spent much time in the jails, and before the judges, of numerous countries, from Canada to Costa Rica. In 1997, Watson was imprisoned in a maximum-security prison in the Netherlands, where he was picked up for the scuttling of a whaling ship at dock, and the intentional ramming of a Norwegian coast guard vessel. Most recently, Watson was investigated by a Costa Rican court for the attempted murder of a Costa Rican fisherman. In 2002, when he came across a shark fisherman in a 13-foot vessel, Watson attempted to ram the small boat with his SSCS mammoth flagship “The Farley Mowat,” originally named “The Ocean Warrior.” When the cameras are on, Watson pretends to accept incarceration as the price for saving the planet from the scourge of humanity. “Going to jail is simply the price of doing business as an activist,” he has said. However, after posting bail in the Costa Rican case 2 years ago, Watson fled the country.
In April of 2003, Watson was elected to the board of directors of the Sierra Club, “America’s most influential environmental organization.” Watson’s goal for the Sierra Club is to alter the club’s founding philosophy to include his own brand of radical eco-terrorism. At an “animal rights” demonstration, Watson declared, “One of the reasons I'm on the Sierra Club board of directors right now is to try and change it...we're only three directors away from controlling that board...Once we get three more directors elected, the Sierra Club will no longer be pro-hunting and pro-trapping and we can use the resources of the $95-million-a-year budget to address some of these issues."
What can an eco-terrorist like Paul Watson do with $95 million of the Sierra Club’s funds? Most likely, more ship-ramming and tree-spiking, in what Watson describes as an “open war.” At the same animal-rights demonstration, Watson continued, “we should never feel like we’re going too far in breaking the law.” He has also shockingly said, “If you do not intend to kill anybody, if you make every effort to not kill and injure anybody, that’s all you really can do. You can’t stop somebody from walking into a situation, and we really can’t be too overly preoccupied with this.”
In a recent interview, when asked if he viewed violence as a “legitimate means of social change,” Watson replied, “We are a violent species, and we always solve our problems with violence. There have been no exceptions. Nonviolent victories are a myth. Force has always prevailed…One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.” While Watson continues to roam the seas with aspirations of violently sinking the world’s fish suppliers, somewhere in the world, Islamic terrorists – Watson’s idea of “freedom fighters” – are seeking the complete destruction of the United States, regardless of our policies on the environment. Politically, they differ. In terms of their tactics, they are Watson’s soulmates.