Was everybody on board about rendition — your policy of kidnapping terrorist suspects and flying them to places like Egypt, where they could be tortured?
You bet. The only problem there was John [Ashcroft, former attorney general]. He was always trying to get religious at the wrong times. You remember when that story came out about that Canadian fella we snatched up?
Maher Arar? The guy you kidnapped at JFK Airport and took to Syria?
Exactly. Well, the press got on us pretty good about that. I mean, it doesn't look good when you take some Canadian guy, throw a bag over his head, kidnap him and spend a year beating his ass in some basement in Syria. We call a meeting to figure out how to deal with it. We're going over the options, and when it comes John's turn to suggest what we should do, he asks us to start praying for the guy! "Let's all bring it in," he's saying. And he takes Andy's and Condi's hands and starts asking the Lord to help ease the pain suffered by the guy's family, blah blah blah. Well, you should have seen the look on Rummy's face. He about shat. You have to remember, this is John's people who fucked this up in the first place — the FBI shouldn't have flagged the guy, given how little they had on him. So technically this is John's fault that we're all eating this mess. So Rummy says, "Hey, John — how come when we fuck up, you find all kinds of answers here on the planet Earth, but when Justice fucks up, it's God's will?"
Colin Powell says you guys had a little accident while you were working out the whole waterboarding protocol.
Yeah. We were actually right here in this room when that happened. Dick is going over what we can and cannot do legally to prisoners. Rummy is asking if we can stick hot pokers in their ears. "That works," he says, "I've done it to my kids." Dick's like, "No, I don't think so, I think they'll get us for that. But we've got this thing the Army uses in training, they call it waterboarding, which will hold up in court." Dick explains that it was invented by the Spanish Inquisition, but it was also used a lot by the Khmer Rouge. Rummy's eyes light up: "Oh, the Khmer Rouge." He likes the Khmer Rouge, is always talking about their management model. I've never heard of it, so I say, "I want to see it. Can we see it?"
Dick shrugs. Just at that moment, one of our houseboys comes in bringing coffees and some Mylanta for Rummy on a silver tray. He's a Laotian kid named Manny, nice boy, has a lazy eye, a stutter and a big mole on his neck. Apparently some guys at State took him in after one of his family's oxen stepped on an old land mine and blew up his mom and two of his sisters in the bush somewhere. I make sure to give him five dollars every Christmas because of that. So Rummy says, "Hey, Manny, can you do me a favor? Can you lie on this table?" And Manny is like, "Y-y-y-yes, Secretary R-r-r-rumsfeld."
So we put him on the table and Dick holds a napkin over his eyes and then starts pouring big gulps of ice water out of a pitcher into his nose and mouth. "C-c-c-can't b-b-b-reathe!" Manny gasps, and Dick is like, "We know, Manny, that's why we're doing this. Just relax." Next, Don starts pouring hot coffee in his ears and eyes, and Manny screams, at which point Dick says, "No, Don, it's not about temperature or burning, it's all about drowning." Rummy nods, and we go back to pouring the water up his nose. Manny is kicking and screaming, and Dick finally starts getting mad. "You're making a lot of noise, Manny. You're going to have to calm down."
But Manny is still screaming and Rummy is shaking his head, like he's not sure it's really working. "I still say it would work better if you could apply some heat," he says. "Here, try this." So he takes out his lighter and uses it to set Manny's ears on fire. "There, look at that," he says. Manny is really flailing around now,dministration, but for me he's been a cross between Ted Bundy and Rommel. Thanks to him, I can't even take a walk on the Liberty University quad without people throwing shit at me.
But he handled things smoothly for your dad?
Hell, my dad barely went through two sticks of deodorant his entire presidency. He and Mommy spent all of 1989 in a cribbage game. I remember walking in the Residence once and being like, "Communism just collapsed." And they're like, "Just a minute, son."
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