"You have to come with us NOW, Mr. President," his detail chief barked as the detail picked him up from behind his desk and rushed him from out the side door, and down into the bowels of the White House. He'd been briefed the day after taking office on these procedures, and even gone through practice drills -- but knowing this wasn't a drill left the President ashen-faced when he arrived, a few minutes later, in the bomb-proof bunker deep underground.
The President glanced around to find General Carson, chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
"Mr. President, we have an imminent threat against New York City. A nuclear device. We believe it's credible."
"What's our plan?"
"We have a phone call from the head of ISIL. He wants to present terms. He says he will detonate the bomb unless he speaks directly with you."
The President paused, quickly reading the faces of his advisors, before reaching for the phone on the table before him. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs picked up another phone near him, as did the White House Chief of Staff.
"This is the President. Who is this?"
"This is the man who will destroy your great city, unless you agree to my demands, Mr. President."
"Surely you know we will try to stop you?"
"I know only that you would like to. As your general will explain, we have demonstrated that we do have a bomb in your great city; that for all your great wealth and technology, you do not know where it is; and that we are ready to detonate. If anyone comes too close to where the bomb is, we will detonate it. Of course, Mr. President, if you think you can stop us, feel free to hang up and proceed accordingly."
The President glanced at Carson and didn't like what he saw in his general's eyes.
"What are your demands?"
"Very simple, Mr. President. You will bow to the will of Allah and with you, your impenitent nation will bow."
"What do you mean?"
"What I said, Mr. President. You and the nation will bow down toward Mecca, toward Allah, confessing faith in him and his prophet (praise be upon him). The nation you call great will finally become great, as it announces its acceptance of the True Faith."
"That is impossible; I cannot do this."
"It is not impossible. You can easily do this. You can do it right now, repeating the words I give you."
"Even if I were to convert, as you wish, I cannot make the whole country do as I have done. Surely you know that?"
"I know nothing of the sort, Mr. President. We have had no trouble in making many infidels, many lost souls, find the truth. We simply point guns at them, and they kneel.
"You must declare martial law, Mr. President. Then, when you have firm control, you can begin eliminating all the barriers that stand in the way."
"And you demand I do all this before you will help us find the nuclear device in New York?"
"No, Mr. President. For now, I demand two things. First, your own submission -- which you will perform there, while one of your aides records it, which will be sent to me. And second, martial law imposed nationwide. Surely the peril of New York will give you grounds?
"For these two steps, I will spare New York. However, do you suppose New York is my only card to play? I have another. And if the rest does not come quickly enough, you will hear from me again.
"And lest you doubt me, ask your aides what just happened to the Washington Monument...about 10 seconds ago."
As the unnamed voice trailed off, the President heard several phones start ringing and a burst of chatter in the larger room outside the room in which he and his two top advisors were huddled. Something had indeed happened.
Straining to keep his voice calm, the President replied. "Will you please allow me to confer with my aides?"
"Of course, Mr. President. Allah is merciful and generous. I will wait."
As the President looked up, seeking out Cheryl Madison, his chief of staff, he saw General Carson stepping back from the door, where he'd been handed a message from outside. "The Washington Monument?" the President asked. Carson nodded. "Just blown up."
"Do we have any leads on this bomb? Do we know when it will go off?"
"No Sir. Before I would let him talk to you, we spent a lot of time on the phone with him. We were unable to trace the call--which means very sophisticated technology. For reasons it would take too long to explain right now, we are convinced he's not bluffing. And we have absolutely no leads."
"And if we refuse now?"
"I assume he will detonate. And then call back to talk about the second target."
"Without knowing how powerful a device it is, we don't know how many will die. But the situation on the Mall right now is bad; we probably lost several hundred there. From what this man said on the phone earlier, I'd say a million deaths is likely if we lose New York.
The President thought a moment before responding. "The choice seems obvious. Although there will be serious resistance to martial law, the casualties will be nowhere as bad as a nuke detonating in New York."
The Chief of Staff was aghast. "You can't be serious? You would give up our freedom, our constitution, everything -- that easily? You can't do this, Mr. President--"
The President nodded to General Carson, who in turn nodded to a pair of MPs who had discreetly entered. "Place Ms. Madison under arrest. Cheryl, when we're faced with grave danger, we can't afford absolute concepts of right and wrong. There have to be compromises for the sake of the greater good."
The White House Chief of Staff started to protest, but a hand was soon over her mouth as her wrists were restrained. When she had been escorted from the room, the President continued. "You have the order ready?"
"Yes Sir, Mr. President," Carson said, placing it in front of the President, who promptly signed it.
"Have that disseminated; then come back with your camera."
When the general returned a moment later, he began closing the blinds of the room as the President picked up the phone.
Remember, the defenders of our country using torture against suspected terrorists make this argument: that in order to prevent a worse horror, we must accept sacrificing our moral values for the greater good.