THE ENGLISHMAN waltzed into a very important job about a decade ago, and on the home front didn’t make too bad a fist of it. But he just didn’t seem able to get his head around what makes foreigners tick, especially the non-Western ones. He seemed to lump them all together, a bit like the American tourist who wasn’t sure whether it was A-rabs or A-sians she couldn’t stand.

After September 11, 2001, the Englishman could barely restrain himself in his enthusiasm for his trans-Atlantic master’s planned assault on a mountainous and far-distant nation, the main objective being to knock a lot of other-religion heads together and nail the man who wounded New York.

Then, not satisfied with that bloodletting, he joined an illegal assault on a not-quite-so-far-off, rather rigidly secular nation, this time the objective being to knock off its murderous dictator. Sadly, this shock-and-awe plan (non-plan?) inadvertently involved wiping from the face of the earth unknown thousands of terrified bystanders and, subsequently, displacing four million people of that now even more tortured country’s 28 million.

A master of the art of compromise, the Englishman more recently cobbled together a “solution” to a problem stemming from an invasion of an island off his country’s west coast hundreds of years ago. He did so by giving his blessing to a self-rule government for a portion of that island that is headed by a religious bigot with a terrorist as his deputy. As a sustainable solution it looks about as watertight as the West’s strategies for the not-quite-so-far-off and far-distant nations.

Last week, having been squeezed out of his very important job by his erstwhile political mates, the Englishman was quickly confirmed as the West’s “peace envoy” in the region that contains that beleaguered not-quite-so-far-off nation. We don’t know yet just what religious organisation he will belong to by the time he gets there but it seems he may only be considering a denominational shift within his Christian culture. Whatever he does do next, the sense is that there are all sorts of ironies in this Englishman’s semantic acrobatics.

THE AMERICAN guy stole his very important job at the turn of the century. It was one his not-so-dopey dad had made a mess of about a decade earlier. It seemed junior had a few preconceptions about what he was going to do about that awful dictator in the not-so-far-off land who, fairly convincing circumstantial evidence suggested, had planned, but failed, to knock off his dad.

Then along came just the excuse junior needed: September 11, 2001. Eagerly he sent off his troops to kill and maim with abandon in the far-distant nation, all the time thinking of a way of justifying an onslaught on the not-quite-so-far-off nation. After a lot of vague but Texan-sincere talk of WMDs, it was “all stations go”. “Victory” was swift and “mission accomplished” was triumphantly announced. All that was left to be done was to hang around for a while until the evil dictator was found. In the meantime, the killing went on. It got worse. And still today, junior’s “Christian” soldiers are out there killing and maiming plenty of “terrorists” in both the not-quite-so-far-off and the far-distant lands. At the same time, lots of other-religion fanatics are indiscriminately killing lots of their own as well as “Christian” soldiers. Humans have always been good at this social skill.

Junior before he got his present very important job had a not-quite-so-important job running his home state. There, we are told, he displayed unabashed enthusiasm for its capital punishment policy. In fact, at some stage, he held the record for ordering the most executions in one year in that state’s history. And last month, he went on television to tell the world that, because America believes so strongly in the sanctity of human life, he would not allow his nation’s scientists to play around with embryonic stem cells.

Meanwhile, in the not-quite-so-far-off and far-distant lands, the killing goes on.

There must be an irony there somewhere.

THE AUSTRALIAN bloke romped into his job about a decade ago, replacing a visionary but self-damagingly loose-mouthed competent. Quickly he realised he didn’t like just being a hard-working prime minister. So he metamorphosed himself into a very hard-working de facto president/PM.

For much of the 11 years of his imperious rule, he has overseen the abuse of scores of children in concentration camps in his country and in the camps he finances in neighbouring mendicant nations. (Simply by allowing children, from babes-in-arms to pubescents, to be kept for long periods behind barbed-wire fences has to be a form of child abuse.) He also has on his hands the same blood that is on those of his Western coalition-of-the-willing allies, the aforementioned Englishman and American.

And now this little Aussie is sending in the military and police to put an end to Aboriginal child abuse in his nation’s north. Nothing much wrong with the intent. It just seems his every solution to a problem turns out to be armed and wearing a uniform. A hint of dark irony somewhere here, methinks.

Well, that’s my joke about the Englishman, American and Australian . . .

Please everyone, don’t all laugh at once.

BOB HAWKINS

Bog Hawkins Have you heard the one about the Englishman, the American guy and the little Aussie bloke?

For much of the 11 years of his imperious rule, he has overseen the abuse of scores of children in concentration camps in his country and in the camps he finances in neighbouring mendicant nations. (Simply by allowing children, from babes-in-arms to pubescents, to be kept for long periods behind barbed-wire fences has to be a form of child abuse.) He also has on his hands the same blood that is on those of his Western coalition-of-the-willing allies, the aforementioned Englishman and American.