The NY Times reviews an early copy of George Bush's memoir today, and cites a passage in which the president acknowledges that he directly condoned waterboarding in order to gain information about possible terrorist actions. While the poem below isn't "about" waterboarding, it considers the larger question of power and what the consequences of exercising such power might be for those who use it, and those who watch it in mediated form. The poem's title is taken from a response the Vice President offered in response to a question about extreme forms of interrogation, and the first line is a direct quote from the President, when asked whether Iraq was descending into a civil war.
Civil war this, civil war that.
It’s murder playing tit for tat,
no time to cull and dress our dead
before fresh chum arrives on ice.
The disembodied head’s rapt eyes
behold the lens we focus through,
suspense orchestrally induced,
thumbs poised to channel click when bored.
We don’t condone, but redefine;
outsource unpleasantness to friends.
One man’s torture is another’s
healing touch, glass half-empty filled
until breath bursts in mother tongue
extinct since cooler heads prevailed,
false witness rendered genuine
by professional immersion.