Peter Dimock

Dear David Kallen,

            My name is Theo Fales. In the vision I had two years ago I came to the end of myself and found other people standing there—and knew that the present was a gift of time in which to sing a true history of equal historical selves. That’s why I’m writing you now—to request an interview. We were undergraduates together at Harvard though our paths never crossed. I was two years ahead of you.

            I need to speak with you. In December of 2004, you signed on behalf of the Office of Legal Counsel the document that contained a footnote that found the policies and acts of torture committed by the officials of the George W. Bush administration legal. Your signature made torture the official policy and accepted practice of my government.

            You did this after you directed Special Forces trainers to torture you. Rightly you did this in search of an experiential basis for the words of your legal finding. In the event, you named what they did to you as torture and immediately ordered the procedures stopped with a special hand signal your torturers had given you for that purpose.

            Then on December 30, 2004 you signed the official memorandum you were charged with drafting to replace the secret one of August 2002 that had been withdrawn after it was made public in the wake of the disclosure of the Abu Ghraib photographs. You allowed a note (footnote 8) to be inserted (did you craft it yourself?) that found all previous authorizations of torture to be legal under the standards your words and your experience gave you the art and ability to know.

            I need to speak with you in person because I do not know how to live this history. My complicity summons angels singing—I know that you and I are the same person. Somehow our entitlement to rule continues. Surely this is mystery in need of colloquy.

George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time

            I am requesting the touch of your words in the moving air (and the touch of your hand) in the hope that they will help me learn to live my complicity honorably. I send you this historical method in good faith.

            I believe we will soon have the opportunity to meet in person. In four months, on June 19th, both of us are scheduled to attend, as I understand the arrangements, the dedication ceremony and public opening of the new Charles Jason Frears Memorial American Music Archive and Performance Center on the New Carrollton campus of the University of Maryland.

            You did something braver than I will ever do. This method I am sending you takes a month (thirty or thirty-one days) to practice in its entirety. We both have the necessary time to prepare ourselves. I use the words my method brings me to create notes for another history. I trust you will agree that history is a discipline of action applied to events in time. You and I know enough to claim the original sovereignty—or, if necessary, a new one—of the authorized grace of a word’s reciprocity.

            I admire you more than I can say—for your bravery and for the formal, rigorous beauty of your legal art. You needed an experiential foundation for each word in the crucial legal phrase “the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental” in the Convention Against Torture signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the United States in 1994. There had been no rulings about these words in case law. If we become friends, I hope you will tell me if you were convinced that the administration you served needed to extract information from the living bodies of the captured and detained by more active means than previously had ever been permitted by the laws of war?

            When we meet in June, both having practiced at least some of the exercises prescribed by this method to the best of our abilities, I propose we discuss the appropriate speech to choose for the history we are now living in the New World.

George Anderson is published by Dalkey Archive Press, and is available for purchase here.

Background illustration by Marcela Gutiérrez