I know Abbott quite well and it occurs to me what a conversational coward he is. He hasn’t yet rung even one of the bereaved, and there are about a thousand of them. He hasn’t been, and he’ll never go, to the crash site. He hasn’t been to the United Nations. He didn’t ring Putin for three days, it didn’t occur to him that he ought to. And when he got through to him, he had I suspect a grovelling conversation with him, as he used to with me, ‘Australia’s finest writer,’ he told me often enough. ‘After the crime, the cover-up,’ he said a few minutes ago. He said, I will bet a thousand dollar lunch at Macchiavelli’s, no such thing to Putin.
It’s a fair question what reality he’s in. He doesn’t imagine that Putin could sue him, which he can. He doesn’t remember that you don’t prejudge a case not yet before a jury. He’s a lawyer and he doesn’t remember this. He said what has happened was a ‘crime’, but not a ‘war crime’, not wanting to upset Putin too much. He’ll have to shake his hand in September after all, whatever comes of this.
He’s trying to cast as an ongoing uncertain emergency what is hereafter mere procedure. The Black Box will show if another plane was nearby. The names of the suspect gunners will soon be known. The ‘contamination’ of the ‘crime scene’ is bullshit. Nothing on the ground will alter the Black Box evidence or the certain verdict of misadventure in wartime. The theft of wallets and passports is routine on any battlefield in any neighbourhood of impoverished peasantry in Europe.
Yet he behaves like JFK in Thirteen Days: sexy, decisive, wise, world-altering. A narcissistic magnification of his role in millennial history, some would say. A prematurely ejaculated wet dream, no more, of the kind that he had as a trainee priest, as he meekly reveals in his book.
It was a luckless accident, that’s all, which happened to people put in harm’s way by corporate arseholes wanting to save, oh, thirty dollars’ worth of kerosene and reduce, it turns out, the distance flown between Amsterdam and KL by three kilometers.
And yet he witters on, convincingly perhaps, about the enormity of an event that rivals, probably, the Marysville fires or the Granville train crash but is not a signicant world calamity.
Asked if it was a war crime, he dodged around it, knowing he would have to finger Putin, who buys a lot of our meat, if he said yes at a subsequent press conference. Asked if it was a terrorist act, he fudged it, knowing that if he thus called Russia a terrorist state he would have to call Israel one too by the end of the week when their toll of dead children topped a hundred. And that would never do.
What a shifty, sneaky, unlikeable, cowardly, cuckolded moral midget he seems entirely.
I’m so sorry now that I thought for so long I liked him.