by Terry Bisson
Welcome, sir, to Meat the Press. I hope you are prepared, as
the Administration's chief spokesperson, to answer some tough
You bet. The President is dealing with tough times, which
call for tough policies. If that means tough questions, I'm
ready to endure a little "stress and duress" from the press,
ha ha. That's what democracy's all about, isn't it? But isn't
one word on your logo misspelled? And where are the other
reporters? Aren't Newsweek and the NY Times supposed to be here?
We decided it was time for restraint, as the President
himself has said. We formed a pool, so the wrong questions
wouldn't be asked. We realize that the War on Terrorism
requires a heightened sensitivity to security.
Admirable. I appreciate -- no let me say, since I can speak for
him, that the President appreciates your spirit of restraint
and responsibility. It's an example to us all. But the show
would look better with the usual format, don't you think? I
know I can count on you to ask the proper questions. And you
can count on me not to answer any that might impinge on or
impede our national security efforts.
You never know. We have some new interview techniques, and
you might find yourself answering questions you didn't intend
to. And the pool format gives us a certain institutional
deniability, which keeps our options open.
Since when does the press need deniability? And where are the
cameras? Isn't this supposed to be a live program?
That was before 9/11. We changed our format in the interest
of security. We're not going live until we're sure of our
Q&A. We have a responsibility to the sensitivities of the
Well, if you insist. I guess all that comes under Freedom of
the Press. So let's get on with it. Fire away. Ask me
whatever you want.
First of all, we'd like to ask about the administration's use
of torture in interrogation. In a recent Washington Post
Whoa! We agreed that there wouldn't be any questions on that
subject. That was off limits by agreement, remember?
Well, yeah, but we would have agreed to anything to get you
on this show. Surely you can understand that special
circumstances call for special measures. Let me rephrase the
Can I get a glass of water? I notice they didn't bring me a
There'll be water later on. First, let me ask you about the
men being held in Guantanamo. Are any provisions of the
Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war being violated in--
Damn it, you know I can't answer that. And can I get another
chair? This thing is digging into my back.
I'll see what I can do. But first, tell us about the
conditions of detention at Bagram Air Base.
They're rough. What do you expect? This is not a tea party, and these men are not prisoners of war. They are combatants in a war of terror.
Aren't we all, these days. Certainly as as the chief
spokesman, excuse me, spokesperson for our
Commander-in-Chief, you yourself would come under the
designation of combatant.
There's a distinction between lawful and unlawful combatants.
And in the meantime, this chair is extremely uncomfortable.
It's cutting off the circulation in my legs.
I guess the distinctions are getting a little blurry. And
I'm sorry about the chair. We can fix you up with something
better if you will be a little more cooperative. We have no
interest in making you uncomfortable.
What do you mean, cooperative? Let me remind you that I am
here as your guest.
Oh, we're very conscious of that. The two gentlemen behind
you, who just came into the studio, are here to make sure
that you remain here as our guest.
Hey! Let go of me. Who are these guys? Why are they
duct-taping me to the chair!?
It's just a precaution, so that you don't harm yourself. Now
let me ask again, are there currently any legal or ethical
restraints on your methods of interrogation?
Let me go! I protest!
That's certainly your right. And we will let you go as soon
as you answer a few questions. Would you like a glass of
Yes, please, for God's sake. And this tape is too tight.
It's hard to adjust tape. But I'll have some water brought
in. I should point out that you're making it harder on
yourself by squirming like that.
You are asking about highly confidential matters. I can't be
expected to-- Ow! That hurts!
These guys can get a little rough. They're Israelis, you
know. They lack a certain subtlety, but they're pretty good
at not leaving marks.
What the hell is that thing? Ow!
Some kind of electrical device. They have all sorts of high
tech ways of persuading people to talk. But surely there's no
need for that. All we want is a candid conversation about a
matter of interest to all civilized people.
What do you know about civilized people, you monster! This
interview is officially over. This ... Ow! Take that thing
off my head. I can't breathe!
Don't panic, that just makes it worse. Try breathing more
Why are you doing this to me? You know I can't tell you
anything. It would cost me my job.
I understand, You have your principles, and I respect that.
But are you sure there isn't something you can tell us before
the Pakistanis get here?
The Pakistanis? How did they get involved in this?
It's an international press pool. We had to include them,
which is a problem, because they sometimes do leave marks.
But they give us the operational flexibility we need.
I'm an American citizen. My God, you can't show this on TV.
We can edit around it. Of course, it gets more difficult
after the Pakistanis get started.
Please, let me go! Let me breathe! I'll tell you what you
want to know.
We can talk? Lift the hood a little, guys, so we can talk. I
feel like Joan Rivers, ha ha. I think we are ready to go live
at last. Welcome, sir, to Meat the Press. You said you were
ready for some tough questions, so here goes: Are you
torturing prisoners for information?
All right, yes, but only when we have to. Only in the
interest of national security. We have determined that
certain persuasive techniques are necessary.
Such as the ones described in the Washington Post article?
Yes. Yes, those, and others we don't want to know about. Some
of our allies are not so squeamish.
Squeamish. I like that word. I'll bet there's no place for
the squeamish at Diego Garcia, is there? Or Guantanamo?
No! Certainly not. Now let me go, damn it!
First I have to ask this question in the interests of
journalistic disclosure. Are you sharing this information
with the American people of your own free will?
Yes, of course, damn it. You're not going to get away with
this, you know.
No coercion of any kind was used?
No coercion of any kind was used.
You just wanted to speak up, so the American people could
have a full and open debate about the subject of torture,
Right. Yes, right.
There, that's a wrap. We're off the air. Good show! Now, how
about that glass of water. Do you take ice? Get him some ice,
For God's sake, let me go!
Of course, we will, soon enough. We're just going to have to
hold you for a few days in an undisclosed location in case we
have some follow up questions to ask. You know how we
journalists are about follow-up questions. Do you prefer a
cage or a box?
You bastards ! Take these chains off my legs!
The boxes are warmer, and we have several sizes, including
one that's almost big enough to stand up in. Are you ready
for some good news? Since you've been so cooperative, you're
next in line for a full-size five by five. More water?
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Terry Bisson is a winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards and the author of numerous books and essays.