The Unsettlement of Asylum Seekers: Trump, Turnbull and the Deal

A brief comment on an international disgrace

The deal brokered between Canberra and Washington in the last days of the Obama administration for the US to take the asylum seekers holed up on Manus Island and Nauru, should never have ever come about. Australia should have long ago taken these people in. The view put forward by government ministers that to do so would give heart to people smugglers now looks even more ridiculous. One can only wonder what the people smugglers are thinking now. How does this international disgrace contribute to breaking the “business model” of unscrupulous crooks? It doesn’t. It simply confirms, once more, the pagan myth motivating the current White House incumbent (all pious prayer breakfasts notwithstanding) that life in this world is simply a matter of orchestrating deals and then getting away with them by whatever other deals and artful advertising one can spread around!

And President Barack Obama should never have allowed his name and his presidency to be sullied by his administration’s co-operation with this thoroughly ill-conceived effort by the Australian Government to get itself “off the hook”.

Can we seriously believe that those brokering the Canberra-Washington deal, from the Australian side, did not know how precarious the deal was when they brokered it? Did they not know full well that it was also functioning as an Obama administration poke in the eye to the incoming Trump administration?

They may have thought they were being very smart, very tricky – using their agreement to embarrass the incoming administration before they took office and therefore presuming to put pressure on Mr Trump, to force him into line, to discipline him – but let’s not fool ourselves. That is simply diplomacy that idealises a realpolitik view of what politicians might imagine in order to keep their ratings high, and that is a view that has been shown to be vacuous. It only embodies the faint or feint hopes of those who had reservations about this man that they could bring him into line once he took office.

Careful and rigorous political reflection would have instead raised the prospect that Trump would be maintaining his intransigent asinine approach to all things inconvenient. And now he continues the charade – which we should have expected – of trying to present himself as the victim of “dumb deals”, maintaining his own twittered ratings, putting forward an image of one who didn’t know about it.

And national honour in Australia goes down the gurgler as the Australian PM tries so hard to look like a statesman who didn’t expect that Mr Trump would throw a wobbly at the deal. Are both sides of this tatty deal not trying to fool themselves about this issue? we ask. It certainly seems like it.

But the Showman’s explosion that this was and is a “dumb deal” was not unexpected – it should not now be viewed as if it were. It feeds further marketing of his art that this is his way of doing things, this then is a foretaste of how he does and doesn’t do deals.

And now, from “our” Australian side, with the US administration’s threat of “extreme vetting”, we should be “calling them out” and pulling out of the deal forthwith – completely, utterly. These cowboys with their cabinet sheriff badges shining in the new day and their Clown need to be called out into international main street to a gun fight on taking responsibility for the words they use. They should not expect to get away with saying it was only a instinctive twittered response. They should not hide behind a Bart Simpson “I didn’t do it” when they find their Krusty the Clown dropped into ambiguity by their less than well-chosen phrases.

The term “extreme vetting” raises spectres of Gitmo and waterboarding! Australia  should pull out now, resettle the refugees with scrupulously fair vetting processes, with adequate social welfare provision right here, here in this welcoming country. We should do this now, simply because to not do so is to play (further) with the lives of these people in a way that is indistinguishable from the “deal” people smugglers contract to make money from those fleeing for their lives.

The “art of our deal” with asylum seekers, as much as with the US, should now take a new and just direction from this moment! Was it not also our willing coalition in Iraq that brought further instability to a region that in time sent so many fleeing for their lives? Was it not our membership in the Coalition of the Willing (the criminal Bush-Blair-Howard trio) that gave our Government further moral leverage to persuade the US to take the Manus and Nauru detainees? So if we argue morality in order that the US should take these asylum seekers, now with the new administration and their “extreme vetting” we should simply pull out. Thanks but no thanks. Do such deals with some one else, not us.

The willingness of the Obama administration to contract this deal should also be under intense examination – at least by Nurturing Justice if no one else is willing to do so. He and his officers should have known full well that this kind of “exhibitionist rage” from the US clown was on the cards.

Such a u-turn is all a “part of the deal” and now the Obama-Turnbull “deal”,  should be under examination as well, at the US end of this further disaster (for the people on Manus and Nauru), as much as in Canberra.

Barack Obama’s administration should not get off scot-free, at least from the same mainstream media that the new guy continues to sidestep with his Twittered obsession. And after all, we just need to get away from the persistent entertainment that is being massaged of this spat, the talk-show mumbo-jumbo, and instead look seriously at the trouble it is and will be. We in Australia should take no comfort from the fact that by our government’s mishandling of this matter, Turnbull et al take on their own extremely clownish dimensions with Australia playing its part of the ubiquitous US circus.

The election victory of Trump was as much due to an entrenched campaign of unwillingness on the part of his opponent to take his endorsed candidature for President seriously, as it was a political unwillingness among his opponents to examine the man and his approach in a concerted political frame of reference. Trump relied on Twitter. Clinton on cartoons. They should have been identifying the deep political principles involved and suggesting another political course. But they didn’t and Barack Obama and his clan failed to do this and the attempt of his last days to poke Trump in the eye is now seen for what it was – a failure of the former president to justly reckon with the precarious position occupied already by the asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

It was actually Obama’s failure to bring pressure to bear upon the Australian Government, bringing it into line with “our” international and moral obligations. And instead it now unfolds as a decision challenging norms for just international relations between states.

The deal should not have been entertained. But entertained it was because entertaining it is. It’s (cruel) entertainment value is part of the deep political problem we now inherit.

The “deal” already suggested international consequences of significant ambiguity even without the spectre of the Clown’s administration. And the willingness of Turnbull and his henchmen to maintain the deal now under these circumstances does not only confirm hard-heartedness as policy by the Australian Federal Government, it simply walks by on the other side of the road ignoring people begging for our country’s assistance. It shows just how much our political system, as we have come to be entertained by it, presupposes a patent lack of political courage. Nationally, we are not walking in ways described by Micah the prophet : acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. Clowning around with people’s lives is what we as a nation are now doing and we will be judged for that!

For the Australian Government ministers to pretend now that they did not anticipate the new American President’s resistance to the deal, is merely a diversion from facing squarely the consequences of how a hard-hearted approach simply adds further suffering of these people whose desire to escape danger and live with us in this “lucky country” is still ignored.

May God have mercy on us.

BCW 3rd February 2017

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One thought on “The Unsettlement of Asylum Seekers: Trump, Turnbull and the Deal

  1. Fletcher Cole says:

    ” … political unwillingness among his opponents to examine the man and his approach in a concerted political frame of reference. Trump relied on Twitter. Clinton on cartoons. They should have been identifying the deep political principles involved and suggesting another political course.”

    We too, as we are finding out, the hard way.

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