Australia, US continue spat over boat people

CANBERRA and WASHINGTON (Rooters agency) – Tensions between the United States and Australia remain unusually strained despite mutual attempts to defuse the crisis that erupted last week after the Australian Navy boarded what the Australians called SIEV 439 and US authorities called “the cruise ship Ronnie Reagan.”

SIEV (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel) 439 was boarded after being shadowed for two days by the HMAS Blunder, which had reportedly determined that the Ronnie Reagan’s course south-west from Honolulu would take it into Australian waters.

Acting on orders from the Australian Cabinet’s Notional Insecurity Committee (chaired by the Prime Minister), sailors from the Blunder boarded and took control of the SIEV. When it was determined that none of the passengers on SIEV 439 had valid Australian visas, the vessel was upgraded to TCIEV (Tentatively Confirmed Illegal Entry Vessel) 439. All of the suspected illegally intending entrants were then transferred into the hold of the Blunder, and the Ronnie Reagan was scuttled.

Sources in Washington acknowledge that the subsequent hard feelings over the incident were probably magnified by intelligence failures in the State Department. According to these sources, the information delivered to the President was based on an outdated file from the Lyndon Johnson administration, which described Australia as “one of those square-shaped states west of Texas.”

This may have been the reason for the the administration’s threat “to send the Marines to deal with those right-wing nut cases.” Or it may not have been.

Possible US mistakes were magnified by the unfortunate remark of the Australian Minister for Arbitrary Imprisonment, Budgee Vader, who told the Muckrack network TV program Inside Outside: “If they weren’t hiding something, why would they come to a penal colony?” And it certainly didn’t help when Vader added that “all these illegal people” would be “sent back where they came from,” which turned out to be the United States, with only a few exceptions.

The US response that the Blunder would not be allowed to dock in any US port – possibly based on a further misconception about Australia being a German-speaking country in central Europe that doesn’t have a navy – led to additional complications. After a flurry of diplomatic activity, Vader announced the “Tijuana solution.”

Under this arrangement with Mexico, the “illegal people” would be disembarked on beaches to the west of the Mexican city and encouraged either to hitchhike up Route 10 to the US border or to proceed on foot the four or five kilometers up the coast until they reached the Border Field State Park in California. Those illegals not from the United States would be offered a choice between indefinite interment in Mexico and assisted suicide.

The White House response was terse: “We are not happy with the proposed arrangements for US citizens.” The Press Office declined to comment on reports of military drones being moved to Hawaii.

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