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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Aural Bamboo Shoots

Bands Complain About Their Songs Being Used in Torture

Eminem has always been relatively tortuous to my ears over the years but turning the channel or finding an alternative has always remedied the condition. Political detainees and prisoners in US run detention sites are not enjoying the same luxury. According to British organisation Reprieve, US military interrogators play tracks by artists such as Metallica, AC/DC, Eminem, Bruce Springsteen and even Britney Spears at deafening volume to detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Prominent rock bands such as Massive Attack, Rage Against the Machine and Elbow have joined forces with a legal charity to campaign against the use of music as a instrument of torture.

The music is blasted relentlessly in a bid to "break" prisoners, according to Reprieve, which says the practice continues despite a ban on the use of loud music in interrogations by the United Nations and European Court of Human Rights.

Using loud music "to create fear and disorient detainee(s) and prolong capture shock" was among a host of interrogation tactics authorised by then commander in Iraq Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez in a memo dated September 14, 2003.

Reprieve, which represents 33 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, teamed up with high-profile musicians to launch its Zero decibels project, Zero dB, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The campaign urges supporters to help bring to an end the "brutal practice of music torture". It will feature minutes of silence during concerts and festivals while a petition will call on governments and the UN to uphold their obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.

Musicians backing the initiative include Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, who at a recent concert suggested taking revenge on President George W. Bush by putting him in a cell and blasting his own band’s music at him.

According to Reprieve, some of the music used by interrogators is written for children. Christopher Cerf, who wrote music for Sesame Street, told the Associated Press he was horrified to learn songs from the children's show were used in interrogations. "I wouldn't want my music to be a party to that."

Binyam Mohamed, a Guantanamo inmate and former London resident, told Reprieve he suffered months of torture at the hands of CIA operatives while in a secret prison.

"There was loud music, (Eminem's) SlimShady and Dr. Dre for 20 days. I heard this nonstop over and over," he said. "The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night for the months before I left. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming
their heads off."

The U.S. military believes it's a non-violent way to create fear and disorient those behind attacks on its soldiers and other innocent people. But musicians are horrified that their work is being used for such a purpose and they've started an online petition demanding it be stopped.

Other supporters of the campaign include Mercury Prize winners Elbow, The Magic Numbers, James Lavelle of UNKLE, comedian Bill Bailey and The Musicians' Union, which represents more than 30,000 musicians.

Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith said: "The Bush Administration likes to paint this as harmless, like a prisoner being given an iPod.
"But Binyam Mohamed put it best when I spoke with him in Guantanamo Bay: 'Imagine you are given a choice,' he said. 'To lose your sight or lose your mind. While having your eyes gouged out would be horrendous, there is little doubt which you would choose.'"
Most Frequently Played 'Torture' Songs played to detainees by US military interrogators in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, according to Reprieve:

Enter Sandman - Metallica
Bodies - Drowning Pool
Shoot to Thrill - AC/DC
Hell's Bells - AC/DC
I Love You - from the "Barney and Friends" children's TV show.
Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
Babylon - David Gray
White America - Eminem
Sesame Street - theme song from the children's TV show.

Other bands and artists whose music has been frequently played at U.S. detention sites: Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Don McLean, Lil' Kim, Limp Bizkit, Meat Loaf, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tupac Shakur.


amityb said...

This is so disturbing. And it makes me very upset that my own government (via the ineffectual clowns at the FCC) can set standards of decency in music and the arts yet have it in their authority to take our music and use it as a weapon against detainees. Unbelievable.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

And yet, some band was quoted on CBC as saying that they were proud to be doing their part to "keep America safe" or some such nonsense. But I can't remember who it was.

Sean Wraight said...

AMITY- It was very disheartening to read of these tactics. Hardly new, I suppose but as an artist I could not imagine the horrific realization that one's music could be used so nefariously. Sad, sad, sad...

BARBARA- I had initially heard the report on CBC as well. I can not imagine a band of any repute considering such an activity a badge of honour.