By Tony Russell

[Cringingly] "Excellency, pardon me for interrupting your morning session in the harem with the Playmates, but we have received an urgent communiqué from the American ambassador."

"No harm done, Abdul, we needed a break anyway. [Aside: "Girls, take ten."] What's this about a message from the American ambassador?"

"He wishes to lodge a formal protest about our treatment of American prisoners, Excellency."

[Astonished] "Whatever in the world for?"

[Apologetically] "He alleges that we are routinely torturing them, Excellency."

"In what ways?"

"He says that we have been forcing U.S. prisoners to kneel for hours on end, depriving them of sleep for days on end, forcing them to strip naked and masturbate in front of women, hooding them for long periods of time, feeding them bread and water, attaching wires to their genitals and shocking them, and subjecting them to near-asphyxiation. He alleges that a number of U.S. prisoners have died as a result of this treatment."

"Of course. What of it?"

"He claimed such treatment was a violation of the Geneva Convention."

"I hope you told him that I, as commander-in-chief, am empowered to make any decisions necessary for our nation's defense, and that included ignoring the Geneva Convention?"

"I told him, Your Excellency, though he scoffed at the notion. Then I told him that, in fact, none of the actions he mentioned could properly be considered 'torture.' I told him that him that for physical pain to amount to torture, it must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." "He heaped scorn on the definition. He said—begging your pardon, Excellency—that he knew torture when he saw it, that the definition was poppycock, and wondered where we ever came up with a definition that violated both common sense and civilized norms. He claimed that it was simply legal gobbledygook served up to justify inhumane treatment. He said we were—begging your pardon again, Excellency—nothing but war criminals, and he hoped to see us hanged."

"You told him, I hope, that we had a sound legal basis for our actions?" "I did, Your Excellency. I told him how much we had admired the interrogation techniques employed by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay. I said that, accordingly, we had taken our guidance, word for word, from the memo used to justify interrogation methods used by the U.S.—the one Mr. Bush requested from his legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales."

"And his response?"

"He was quiet for a moment, Excellency. Then he said, 'Excuse me. I see I am protesting in the wrong place.' And he left."

[Potentate laughs.] "Thanks for keeping me posted, Abdul. Okay, girls. Time to get back to work."

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