Friday, February 3, 2017

Note on the Oz refugees

Photo via Green Left Weekly.
An ironic thing about the Trump-Turnbull dustup where poor old Trump sent his intemperate foolery halfway around the world and hung up on the Oz prime minister—apparently tired and cranky after a long napless day, because as you know he's all about stamina for other people but not so much himself—

—an ironic thing, I was saying, is that the Australian policy he's objecting to is fundamentally Trumpian: a selfish and radically un–Judeo-Christian-Muslim refusal to lift a finger in aid of desperate refugees and determination that somebody else should deal with them.

For Australia's conservative Liberal-National coalition (the liberals are Labor), when it came into power in 2013, was determined to cut down the number of refugees of color appearing on their shores all the way to zero, and that's what they did, denying resettlement to any asylum seeker arriving by boat. They took to escorting refugee boats to Indonesia, or paying the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru to hold refugees (mostly, The Times tells us, from Iran and Iraq) in island detention centers, prison camps really, horrible places, as Amnesty International noted:

The Australian government’s failure to address serious abuses appears to be a deliberate policy to deter further asylum seekers from arriving in the country by boat. Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans.
They endure unnecessary delays and at times denial of medical care, even for life-threatening conditions. Many have dire mental health problems and suffer overwhelming despair—self-harm and suicide attempts are frequent. All face prolonged uncertainty about their future.
To the point where it became an international scandal of exactly the kind Trump is now facing with his cruel and irrational Muslim ban.

Why President Obama decided that the US needed to accept these people—around 1700 of them with claims to asylum that have already been verified by Australian intelligence, on Nauru and on Manus island in PNG—in November, just after the election, is not quite reported,  not even by Vox, but to tell the truth, I think Obama was trolling the president-elect to some extent, to put him in this position of being basically forced by international agreement to break a campaign promise.

It's doing the right thing, to be sure, the Australian treatment of the refugees is truly inhumane, but it's also kind of funny: especially as all the news media go gooey on our Anzac brothers who've been with us in every battle from Gallipoli to Abu Ghraib. It's the other Australia that's on view here, the White Australia that put Turnbull in office the way nasty old white people elected Trump. Trump and Turnbull should by rights be getting along like the proverbial house on fire, with their similar crimped nativism and love of the moneyed class, and instead they're fighting over who gets to be the nastiest bully in the yard.

I think Trump's going to be the one to cave, too (which will at least be a good thing for those refugees, who will be taken in by the other kind of Americans, people who practice something that deserves to be called "Judeo-Christian morality"), judging from the way he's already backtracked, yesterday bragging about how "tough" his conversation with Turnbull was, as revealed in the leak, and today denying it ("Very nice!"), and suggesting the leak was bogus:

But that will show that he himself can't enforce his own stupid ban. He hasn't got the stamina.

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