A possible conversation between Alexander Downer and Robert Gates, as imagined by Bannerman
DOWNER: G’day Bob. I’d heard you were in Munich. Rattled any beer halls yet? [lightly chuckles]
GATES: Hey Lex……good to see you. Yeh, trying to drum up a few more troops for Afghanistan. You know how Europe is. You here on business or pleasure?
DOWNER: [nods knowingly] Well……business really. The Boss is getting jumpy over this Hicks thing, y’know. We have an election this year and the public have finally woken up that you’re holding one of ours at Gitmo. Bloody media prats don’t help either. [scowls] Look, when are you fellows likely to be doing something concrete, so we can tell the media to back off?
GATES: [casts eyes around furtively] Weeeeell, you know how the law goes, Lex. We got our butts canned last year and Dubya doesn’t want any repeats. He’s sort of inferred that he’d like the problem to just go away. [chuckles] Had to send an explanatory memo to the CIA on that one. They kinda got all excited.
[joint mirth on the part of both men]
DOWNER: [frowns] Yes, I know Bob…..but the Weasel’s got his election allergy acting up. Surely you can give me something to be going on with? Can’t you at least formalise those charges? Oh…..by the way…..nice one on the ’material aid’ bit. Next to impossible to disprove, eh? [elbows Gates, nudge-nudge style]
GATES: [frowns] Yeh…..next to impossible to make stick as well, what with the fact that some klutz has already admitted we know he’s never fired a shot at our boys. [shrugs] Still….he was in Afghanistan, so that has to count for something, I guess.
DOWNER: [looks hopeful] So….I can tell the Boss you’re gonna lay charges ASAP? A court date, maybe?? Middle of February is coming up fast.
GATES: [throws hands up] Awww look, Lexy. Why don’t we just send the asshole home? He’s yours anyway and getting him back would certainly kill any dissent in your media and lay public opinion. You could even sell the deal by telling the people what a great bunch we all are – you guys included, of course.
DOWNER: [gasps for breath and clasps hands around face. Voice rises several octaves] WHAT!! And admit that all the things we’d call him, accused him of and hidden behind while you held onto him were all a fraud???!!! Are you mad?! It would mean the end us politically.
GATES: [smirks knowingly] Well, look at it this way, Lex. I’ll be out of a job by years end and misery just loves company, right? Play your cards right, and you might still be in line for that chair at the UN.
DOWNER: [nods while searching for agreement] So…..what you’re saying is that I should just go home and tell everyone we’ve spoken about the issue, and leave well enough alone??
GATES: [gives ’Dolly’ the two finger pistol salute and winks] Y’know, for a guy with a public school accent you’re pretty street smart, Lex.