Friday, December 19, 2008
Using Songs as Torture
Using Songs as Torture Riles Up Musicians
Performers Beginning Campaign Against Practice
By Andrew O Selsky, Associated Press
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - Blaring from a speaker behind a metal grate in his tiny cell in Iraq, the blistering rock from Nine Inch Nails hit Prisoner No. 200343 like a bludgeon.
"Stains like the blood on your teeth," Trent Reznor snarled over distorted guitars. "Bite. Chew."
The auditory assault went on for days, then weeks, then months at the US military detention center in Iraq. Twenty hours a day. AC/DC. Queen. Pantera. The prisoner, military contractor Donald Vance of Chicago, said he was soon suicidal.
The tactic has been used frequently in the US war on terror, with forces blaring loud music at hundreds of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the US military commander in Iraq, authorized it on September 14, 2003, "to create fear (and) disorient ... and prolong capture shock."
Now, the detainees aren't the only ones complaining. Musicians are banding together to demand that the US military stop using their songs as weapons.
A campaign being launched today has attracted groups including Massive Attack and musicians such as Tom Morello, who played with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave and is now solo. It will feature moments of silence during concerts and festivals, said Chloe Davies of the British law group Reprieve, which represents dozens of Guantanamo Bay detainees and is organizing the campaign.
At least Vance, who says he was jailed for reporting illegal arms sales, was used to rock music. For many detainees from Afghanistan, where music was prohibited under Taliban rule, interrogations by US forces marked their first exposure to the pounding rhythms.
The experience was overwhelming for many. Binyam Mohammed, now a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, said men held with him in the CIA's "Dark Prison" in Afghanistan wound up screaming and smashing their heads against walls, unable to endure more.
"There was loud music, (Eminem's) Slim Shady and Dr. Dre for 20 days. I heard this nonstop over and over," he told his attorney, Clive Stafford Smith.
The spokeswoman for Guantanamo's detention center, Navy Cmdr. Pauline Storum, wouldn't give details of when and how music has been used at the prison, but she said it isn't used today. She didn't respond when asked whether music might be used in the future.
FBI agents stationed at Guantanamo Bay reported numerous instances in which music was blasted at detainees, saying they were "told such tactics were common there."
According to an FBI memo, one interrogator at Guantanamo Bay bragged that he needed only four days to "break" someone by alternating 16 hours of music and lights with four hours of silence and darkness.
Ruhal Ahmed, a Briton who was captured in Afghanistan, describes excruciating sessions at Guantanamo Bay. He said his hands were shackled to his feet, which were shackled to the floor, forcing him into a painful squat for up to two days.
"You're in agony," Ahmed, who was released without charge in 2004, told Reprieve. Music compounded that because "before you could actually concentrate on something else, try to make yourself focus on some other things in your life that you did before and take that pain away."
Not all of the music is hard rock. Christopher Cerf, who wrote music for Sesame Street, said he was horrified to learn that songs from the children's TV show were used in interrogations.
Bob Singleton, whose song "I Love You" is beloved by preschool Barney fans, wrote in a newspaper column that any music can become unbearable if played loudly for long periods. "It's absolutely ludicrous," he wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
Some musicians, however, say they're proud that their music is used in interrogations. Those include bassist Stevie Benton, whose group Drowning Pool has performed in Iraq.
"People assume we should be offended that somebody in the military thinks our song is annoying enough that, played over and over, it can psychologically break someone down," he told Spin magazine. "I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack or something like that."
Vance, in Chicago, said the tactic can make innocent men go mad. According to a lawsuit he has filed, his jailers said he was being held because his employer was suspected of selling weapons to terrorists and insurgents.
He said he was locked in an over-cooled 9-by-9-foot cell that had a speaker with a metal grate over it. Two large speakers stood in the hallway outside. The music was almost constant, he said.
"There was a lot of Nine Inch Nails, including March of the Pigs," he said. "I couldn't tell you how many times I heard Queen's We Will Rock You."
He was released after 97 days. Two years later, he said, "I keep my home very quiet."
Source: Columbus Dispatch
posted 5:51 PM