Scene: A secure office somewhere in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is seated behind a desk checking the latest casualty figures. There is a knock at the door…

Maliki: (resignedly) Come in.

(Enter a small, grinning, perspiring, twitching person)

Maliki: And you are …?

Howard (for it is he): John Winston Howard, Prime Minister of Australia. G’day, or Shalom, as I think you people say.

Maliki: No. (pause) Australian, is it? The Australian ambassador told me a joke the other day. He said “John Hunt is a coward.” I did not understand. Perhaps you can explain … no? Then what is your business?

Howard: Well, it’s about all the fighting that’s going on among you lot. I can tell you we’re getting pretty sick of it Down Under.

Maliki: It may surprise you to learn that we don’t like it much either. So …?

Howard: Well, I’m here to tell you that unless you pull up your socks and do something about it, we’ll have to take action. The opinion polls won’t stand for it much longer. We’ll have to consider the position of our soldiers. They might even have to leave.

Maliki: Yes, I suppose that might help. But remind me: you have soldiers here? What exactly do they do?

Howard: Well, some of them guard our Embassy …

Maliki: The Australian Embassy. That’s very helpful.

Howard: … and there are others down South, in the thick if it.

Maliki: Doing what?

Howard: Well, until recently they were looking after the Japanese.

Maliki: Yes, the Japanese … I believe they have left. So are you too planning to cut and run?

Howard: Oh no no no no no no no. Far from it. It is just that if things don’t improve public support for our presence here may no longer be sustainable.

Maliki: But as I understand it there has never been any public support. Almost from the first day the Australian people have vigorously opposed your sycophantic, token involvement. Why are you now mouthing this empty rhetoric, my little man of steel?

Howard: Well, I have this election coming on …

Maliki: Ah, an election. I understand. Well, good luck to you. And may I give you one piece of advice?

Howard: Oh yes, thank you Caliph or Sultan or whatever it is, please please. I’m a little desperate …

Maliki: Change your name to John Hunt.