In Guantanamo for... Satire?

Fri Nov. 4, 2005 6:03 PM EST

Roughly one hundred prisoners in U.S. custody are sitting in undisclosed locations across Eastern Europe. There are hundreds more at Guantanamo Bay. There many more in Iraq and Afghanistan. There could be many others elsewhere. And no one really knows how many are guilty or innocent, because the administration and the military have continually refused to grant the vast majority of detainees anything resembling a trial.

From Tom Tomorrow comes this Newsday report about two innocent brothers who were lucky enough to be set free. As is often said to be the case, the pair thinks an old rival took advantage of the United States' "imprison first, ask questions later" mentality and turned them in to settle his grudge. Three years of detention followed. And for what nefarious act were the brothers repeatedly questioned? Read on:

Badr Zaman Badr and his brother Abdurrahim Muslim Dost relish writing a good joke that jabs a corrupt politician or distills the sufferings of fellow Afghans. Badr admires the political satires in "The Canterbury Tales" and "Gulliver's Travels," and Dost wrote some wicked lampoons in the 1990s, accusing Afghan mullahs of growing rich while preaching and organizing jihad. …

For months, grim interrogators grilled them over a satirical article Dost had written in 1998, when the Clinton administration offered a $5-million reward for Osama bin Laden. Dost responded that Afghans put up 5 million Afghanis—equivalent to $113—for the arrest of President Bill Clinton.

"It was a lampoon ... of the poor Afghan economy" under the Taliban, Badr recalled. The article carefully instructed Afghans how to identify Clinton if they stumbled upon him. "It said he was clean-shaven, had light-colored eyes and he had been seen involved in a scandal with Monica Lewinsky," Badr said.

The interrogators, some flown down from Washington, didn't get the joke, he said. "Again and again, they were asking questions about this article. We had to explain that this was a satire." He paused. "It was really pathetic."

Badr's right. The detentions, the lack of trails, the unbelievably poor work of the interrogators and analysts… it is really pathetic.