Item: The Bush administration has proposed exempting employees of the Central Intelligence Agency from a legislative measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody.

The proposal, which two sources said Vice President Cheney handed last Thursday to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the company of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, states that the measure barring inhumane treatment shall not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by "an element of the United States government" other than the Defense Department.

... Cheney's meeting with McCain last week was his third attempt to persuade the lawmaker, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, to accept a less broad legislative bar against inhumane treatment. - Washington Post, 10/25/05

"Listen to me, John, listen. I don't think you're listening to me. Are you listening to me, John? Pay attention to me, John. Come on, listen."

"I hear ya, I hear ya."

"Well, why won't you say yes, then, John? Why won't you say yes? It's a good proposal, a real good proposal. I like it, the president likes it, Rummy likes it, come on, John, what's not to like?"

"Oh, Dick, what am I supposed to say? I'm tired of talking about the subject. I just don't think anybody should be torturing our prisoners, that's all."

"And I agree, John, one hundred percent. But these aren't prisoners, John, they're detainees. Big difference. Big, big difference, I gotta tell you. That's a good argument, isn't it John? A heck of an argument, wouldn't you say?"

"Dick, that is a piece of crap argument and you know it. The United States of America should never be in the torture business."

"The United States of America should never be in the torture business. Neener, neener, neener. Listen to mister hot shot war hero talk. I'll bet you would have never talked to the North Vietnamese if they hadn't given you a couple of bamboo shoot manicures, would you?"

"I never did talk to the North Vietnamese, Dick."

"So, you say, John-boy, so you say. Listen, all I'm trying to explain is that sometimes it's necessary to whack a guy in the balls with a lead pipe. Is that so wrong?"

"Yes it is, Dick. And by the way, what the hell is going on with your head?"

"My head? What do you mean?"

"I don't know... it just looks enormous."

"Oh, that... Experimental drugs, that's all. Heh, heh, I'll bet you thought I was going to say something about my big brain. Anyway, let me throw a theoretical at you. Say we have this terrorist mastermind in captivity..."

"What's his name?"

"We'll call him Allah al-Garzala. And we find out, through the chatter, that there's a massive nuclear bomb somewhere in New York City, the nice part of town, and it's set to go off in two hours. And al-Garzala is the only person who can tell us where the bomb is and how to defuse it... Are you telling me that you wouldn't let our CIA guys poke him in the eye with a sharp stick?"

"Listen, Dick, I'm not going to take this straw man of yours and..."

"It's not a straw man, goddamit, it's an insane terrorist! It's Allah al-Garzala and he's getting ready to blow up New York!"

"Okay, okay. Why do you think poking him in the eye with a sharp stick would make him talk?"

"Because it's got turpentine on the tip of it, goddamit, and he's screaming at the top of his lungs, 'AIIYEE, my eye, it's burning, it's burning, AHHRRR!', and our guys are sitting there saying 'I'll bet a little Visine would help you out', and he says 'Anything! Anything! Just stop this infernal burning!', and we get the location and the code and millions of Americans are save from a fiery death."


"So, what is it, John? You on board? You on board with me, buddy? You going to help me save America from al-Garzala?"

"You know... your head really does look enormous."


2005, Mark Hoback