Monday, December 28, 2009

DBTL 50A: Where Beer Does Flow and Men Chunder

This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth. With no spellbinding demagogue to unite them, Germany's radical right remains fragmented. In October 1932, ex-Army Captain Ernst Röhm, the leader of Germany's right-wing street fighters, siezes power in a coup d'etat. The lawlessness and misrule of his Brown Revolution leads to growing popular discontent, and in an effort to head off a possible uprising, Röhm launches an invasion of Poland on 10 May 1936 . . .

Canberra, Australia
13 May 1936

Joe Lyons, Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth, was a bit puzzled when his Attorney General, Bob Menzies, turned up in his office the afternoon after a Cabinet meeting. Lyons himself didn’t set too much store by official procedures and protocols, but he knew that Menzies did. Ordinarily Menzies would have made an appointment with Lyons’ secretary. The fact that he had just turned up this way was a sure sign that big things were in the offing, and Lyons was pretty certain he knew which big things.

“G’day, Bob,” said Lyons. “To what do I owe the honor?”

“I’ve come here to discuss this morning’s Cabinet meeting,” said Menzies in that ponderous way he had when he meant to Discuss Important Matters.

“You mean you still think we should declare war on Germany,” said Lyons. The Germans had seized Danzig and invaded Poland Sunday morning (typical of Röhm, thought Lyons, to wantonly violate the Sabbath this way on top of all his other wicked deeds), and Stanley Baldwin had finally, reluctantly, followed the lead of Leon Blum and declared war Tuesday afternoon.

“We owe it to England to stand by her side in her moment of crisis,” Menzies insisted.

“Mackenzie King doesn’t seem to think so,” Lyons pointed out. “He says that the war for Danzig isn’t Canada’s war.”

“Mackenzie King is a fool,” Menzies responded. “He’ll live to regret his selfishness. When England triumphs over her enemies, she’ll remember who kept faith and who didn’t.”

Bob was really laying it on thick. Lyons said, “If King is wrong he’ll pay for it in the time-honored fashion, by being voted out.”

Menzies shook his head. “That’s not good enough. The Party don’t wish to be found on the wrong side of this question.”

Now we come to it, thought Lyons. “Just how much of the Party are we talking about here?”

“Enough,” said Menzies with uncharacteristic simplicity. “We wish you to reconsider your decision on the war.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then it will be my unpleasant duty to inform you that you no longer enjoy the Party’s confidence,” said Menzies.

Lyons tried to reason with Menzies. “Bob, can’t you see that this is the wrong war with the wrong enemy? The Japanese are becoming more aggressive every day. We can’t allow ourselves to be distracted by what’s happening in Europe.”

Menzies insisted, “This is a matter of principle.”

Lyons put his head in his hands. “Then you’ll have to give me the boot. I’ve no intention of sending another generation of young men off to be killed in some pointless Gallipoli.”

“It won’t come to that,” said Menzies reassuringly. “You’ll see. After all, it’s not as though they’d let Churchill plan another amphibious landing.”

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