Sunday, August 6, 2017

Milk People

About a week after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president of the United States, he had a phone conversation with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. The call focused on the deal earlier done with the Obama administration, under which the US would take a number of refugees currently held in Australian offshore detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus island and Nauru, and Australia would receive a corresponding number of people the US wanted to resettle elsewhere.


The transcript of the phone call, released by the Washington Post, discloses several uncomfortable things. Firstly, the number to be resettled in the US is entirely up to them (according to Turnbull). More fundamentally, Turnbull’s discussion with Trump is troubling because it shows that Turnbull has so little understanding of refugee issues and so little concern for the Christian faith he claims to follow.


Turnbull told the president of the United States that all the deal required was that the Americans go through the vetting process, and if eventually they took no refugees at all, that would be consistent with the deal. Of course, it was not consistent with the way the deal had been described to Australians when it was first made public.


It must be obvious to Turnbull that his party’s treatment of people seeking asylum since 2001 has led the US president, and most of Australia, to believe that the people held on Manus and Nauru are criminals. It is the lie on which the Coalition has made itself popular. It is the lie which is essential if the public is not to see the grotesque hypocrisy of self-styled Christians locking up innocent people for years as a warning to others.


Clearly Trump believed he was being asked to resettle criminals. He seems not to understand that a country like Australia would imprison innocent people for years. Turnbull, despite his experience as an advocate, did nothing to dispel Trump’s misunderstanding and said nothing to justify jailing innocent people for years. After all, what sort of government would do that?


It is not surprising that Turnbull is troubled about the release of the transcript: it shows him at his worst.

Turnbull: [...] I want to congratulate you and Mike Pence on being sworn in now. I have spoken to you both now as you know. I know we are both looking to make our relationship which is very strong and intimate, stronger than ever – which I believe we can do.

  Transcript @ The Guardian

Haha. Homeslice.

And what about how the transcript shows Trump? Here's a sample:
Turnbull: Yes, the agreement, which the vice president just called the foreign minister about less than 24 hours ago and said your administration would be continuing, does not require you to take 2,000 people. It does not require you to take any. It requires, in return, for us to do a number of things for the United States – this is a big deal, I think we should respect deals.

Trump: Who made the deal? Obama?

Turnbull: Yes, but let me describe what it is. I think it is quite consistent. I think you can comply with it. It is absolutely consistent with your executive order so please just hear me out. The obligation is for the United States to look and examine and take up to and only if they so choose – 1,250 to 2,000. Every individual is subject to your vetting. You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1,000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process. So that is the first thing. Secondly, the people — none of these people are from the conflict zone. They are basically economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. That is the vast bulk of them. They have been under our supervision for over three years now and we know exactly everything about them.

Trump: Why haven’t you let them out? Why have you not let them into your society?

Turnbull: OK, I will explain why. It is not because they are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers, we had to deprive them of the product. So we said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Noble [sic] Prize winning genius, we will not let you in. Because the problem with the people —

Trump: That is a good idea. We should do that too. You are worse than I am.


Turnbull: The given number in the agreement is 1,250 and it is entirely a matter of your vetting. I think that what you could say is that the Australian government is consistent with the principles set out in the executive order.

Trump: No, I do not want say that. I will just have to say that unfortunately I will have to live with what was said by Obama. I will say I hate it. Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call because I will be honest with you. I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people.

Turnbull: I would not be so sure about that. They are basically —

Trump: Well, maybe you should let them out of prison. I am doing this because Obama made a bad deal. I am not doing this because it fits into my executive order. I am taking 2,000 people from Australia who are in prison and the day before I signed an executive order saying that we are not taking anybody in. We are not taking anybody in, those days are over.

Turnbull: But can I say to you, there is nothing more important in business or politics than a deal is a deal. Look, you and I have a lot of mutual friends.

Trump: Look, I do not know how you got them to sign a deal like this, but that is how they lost the election. They said I had no way to 270 and I got 306. That is why they lost the election, because of stupid deals like this. You have brokered many a stupid deal in business and I respect you, but I guarantee that you broke[red] many a stupid deal. This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible.


rump: [...] I am going to say that I have no choice but to honor my predecessor’s deal. I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made. It is an embarrassment to the United States of America and you can say it just the way I said it. I will say it just that way. As far as I am concerned that is enough Malcom [sic]. I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.

Turnbull: Do you want to talk about Syria and DPRK?

Trump: [inaudible] This is crazy.

Turnbull: Thank you for your commitment. It is very important to us.

Trump: It is important to you and it is embarrassing to me. It is an embarrassment to me, but at least I got you off the hook. So you put me back on the hook.

Turnbull: You can count on me. I will be there again and again.

Trump: I hope so. OK, thank you Malcolm.

Turnbull: OK, thank you.
Homeslice is a great diplomat.  Probably the best in the world.

Why is this being leaked now? Are we about to take some of Australia's wrongly imprisoned Middle Eastern refugees?

Oh, bingo.

From Reuters June 16:
The United States will tell dozens of refugees held in an Australian-run offshore detention center whether they will be offered resettlement in America within six weeks, two detainees told Reuters on Friday.

"Dozens"?  Not 2,000?

Any bets on whether this particular leak was done at Trump/Kelly's behest?

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

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