Spoofs & Satire

Let’s Catch the Wave of Waterboarding!

In a recent White House press conference, Karen Hughes, undersecretary of public diplomacy and public affairs, unveiled an exciting new chapter in the war on terror.

“As you know, in my capacity as undersecretary of public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Department, my job is to promote the values of our country and confront the ideological support for terrorism across the globe. Since my very rewarding series of chats with Arab women and homemakers throughout the Middle East, and the success of my PRO-AMERICA! rapid response units, my office has been developing, with the full support of the president, an exciting new initiative—one that we’re sure will help to turn the tide against those who wish us harm. Thank you, Mr. President, for inviting me here today. We were hoping that Senators McCain, Warner, and Graham could also be with us, but apparently they’re running a little late.

“To give a little background to our proposal, let me remind you that, since its introduction to the winter games back in 1998, the then-relatively new sport of snowboarding has overcome the skepticism and pessimism of critics and has gone on to become a popular Olympic event. Who can forget this past winter at Turin, when Shaun White, Mr. ‘Flying Tomato,’ wowed the crowd and grabbed the gold in the half-pipe? Well, I stand here today to announce that this administration has submitted a plan to the Olympic committee, proposing another new but potentially even more exciting Olympic sport: waterboarding.

“For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this sport, let me briefly explain its basic features. In waterboarding, a person of very special interest is carefully strapped to an inclined board, with his head lower on the board than his feet, and dunked under water. This VSP is often dunked for longer and longer periods of time, which is where the real skill and endurance comes into play, and this often cannot be achieved without professional trainers. I can assure you that the trainers in our sport all have the extensive intelligence and military backgrounds that help instill discipline in our athletes. But the last thing I want to do here today is put the spotlight on the support staff; instead, let’s keep the focus on the athletes themselves, many of whom have transformed themselves from overweight, unshaven individuals into the trim and well-groomed competitors they are today.

Certainly, the many dedicated competitors in this new sport, many of whom are currently training at various undisclosed locations around the world, would disagree.“I can also assure you that our proposal has been carefully thought out, with special attention to even the finest details. We have not taken lightly the responsibilities of developing a new sport, especially one that will likely receive international attention. We have spent many days and even weeks outlining what we believe are the proper standards for evaluating this event. First, we think depth and time of submersion should be the primary criteria, but the number of times an athlete manages to be submerged is another important factor in judging. There were some who, in our initial discussions, thought that points also should be given for the quality of actionable information obtained during the sporting competition, but this suggestion is still under consideration with the appropriate Olympic officials.

“I might remind you that snowboarding may have its slalom, its half-pipe, but our sports advisers have developed waterboarding’s own competitive categories, such as the triple gasp, and the full-steam ahead. We believe that our application to the Olympic Committee will soon be accepted, in time for the necessary preparations leading to the 2008 Olympic competition in Beijing, China—a country, I understand, with its own unique waterboarding traditions.

“Finally, this initiative should go a long way toward silencing the critics of our efforts in the War on Terror. How could even the most negative nay-sayers possibly define healthy athletic training as ‘undue coercion,’ or accuse a legitimate Olympic event of being ‘torture’? Certainly, the many dedicated competitors in this new sport, many of whom are currently training at various undisclosed locations around the world, would disagree. I would argue that this sporting event will help us make friends in the Middle East—a region which, I can’t emphasize more strongly, typically doesn’t bring home Olympic medals. But now Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and so many other countries that I cannot name for security reasons can now achieve their Olympic dreams.

“It’s positively un-American to deny someone the possibility of Olympic glory. Do we really want to undermine our values in this way? While it’s true that uranium-tipped missiles and pre-emptive strikes do have their place in the War on Terror, it’s on the battlefield of ideas that we must ultimately prevail. So I ask you: If we can catch our enemies’ hearts with the magic of world-class athletic performance, won’t their minds surely follow? We here at the White House can’t think of a better way to overcome hatred than to offer the hope, the dream, of Olympic gold, even to those who wish to destroy our way of life.

“Now, are there any questions?”

Philip Graham is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, his latest being The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches From Lisbon. He is a co-founder of the literary/arts journal Ninth Letter and currently serves as the nonfiction editor. He teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and he can also play every musical instrument in the world extremely well in his mind. His seres of short essays on the craft of writing can be read at philipgraham.net. More by Philip Graham