For some time now, I’ve been trying to find out where my son goes after choir practice. He simply refuses to tell me. He says it’s no business of mine where he goes after choir practice and it’s a free country.
Now it may be a free country, but if people start going just anywhere they like after choir practice, goodness knows whether we’ll have a country left to be free. I mean, he might be going to anarchist meetings or Islamic study groups. How do I know?
The thing is, if people don’t say where they’re going after choir practice, this country is at risk. So I have been applying a certain amount of pressure on my son to tell me where he’s going. To begin with I simply put a bag over his head and chained him to a radiator. But did that persuade him? Does the Pope eat kosher?
My wife had the gall to suggest that I might be going a bit too far. So I put a bag over her head and chained her to the radiator. But I still couldn’t persuade my son to tell me where he goes after choir practice.
I tried starving him, serving him only cold meals and shaving his facial hair off, keeping him in stress positions, not turning his light off, playing loud music outside his cell door – all the usual stuff that any concerned parent will do to find out where their child is going after choir practice. But it was all to no avail.
I hesitated to gravitate to harsher interrogation methods because, after all, he is my son. Then Donald Rumsfeld came to my rescue.
I read in the New York Times last week that a memo had been prepared for the defence secretary on March 6 2003. It laid down the strictest guidelines as to what is and what is not torture. Because, let’s face it, none of us want to actually torture our children, in case the police get to hear about it.
The March 6 memo, prepared for Mr Rumsfeld explained that what may look like torture is not really torture at all. It states that: if someone “knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith”.
What this means in understandable English is that if a parent, in his anxiety to know where his son goes after choir practice, does something that will cause severe pain to his son, it is only “torture” if the causing of that severe pain is his objective. If his objective is something else – such as finding out where his son goes after choir practice – then it is not torture.
Mr Rumsfeld’s memo goes on: “a defendant” (by which he means a concerned parent) “is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his control”.
Couldn’t be clearer. If your intention is to extract information, you cannot be accused of torture.
In fact, the report went further. It said, if a parent “has a good-faith belief [that] his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture”. So all you’ve got to do to avoid accusations of child abuse is to say that you didn’t think it would cause any lasting harm to the child. Easy peasy!
I currently have a lot of my son’s friends locked up in the garage, and I’m applying electrical charges to their genitals and sexually humiliating them in order to get them to tell me where my son goes after choir practice.
Dick Cheney’s counsel, David S Addington, says that’s just fine. William J Haynes, the US defence department’s general counsel, agrees it’s just fine. And so does the US air force general counsel, Mary Walker.
In fact, practically everybody in the US administration seems to think it’s just fine, except for the state department lawyer, William H Taft IV, who perversely claims that I might be opening the door to people applying electrical charges to my genitals and sexually humiliating me.
So I’m going to round up all the children in the neighbourhood, chain them and set dogs on them. I might accidentally kill one or two – but I won’t have intended to – and perhaps I’ll take some photos of my wife standing on the dead bodies, and then I’ll show the photos to the other kids, and finally, perhaps, I might get to find out where my son goes after choir practice. After all, I’ll only be doing what the US administration has been condoning since 9/11.
· Terry Jones is a writer, film director, actor and Python