Saturday, December 13, 2008

Stop the music torture, rock bands tell U.S. military

Rock musicians have joined British activists to demand US military interrogators stop using their songs as weapons to disorient terror suspects and other prisoners.

A campaign organised by UK law group Reprieve has brought together groups including Massive Attack and musicians such as Tom Morello, who played with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave and is now on a solo tour.

It will feature minutes of silence during concerts and festivals, said Chloe Davies of Reprieve, which represents dozens of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The tactic of auditory assaults has been common in the US war on terror, with forces systematically using loud music on hundreds of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez, the then US military commander in Iraq, authorised it on September 14 2003, “to create fear, disorient ... and prolong capture shock”.

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 bragged 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 captured in Afghanistan and later released without charge in 2004, described excruciating sessions at Guantanamo Bay in which his hands were shackled to his feet, which were shackled to the floor, forcing him into a painful squat for periods of up to two days.

Mr Ahmed told Reprieve the agony was compounded when music was introduced 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 makes you feel like you are going mad”.

For many detainees who grew up in Afghanistan – where music was banned under Taliban rule – interrogations by US forces marked their first exposure to the pounding rhythms, played at top volume.

Binyam Mohammed, now a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, said men held with him at 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 non-stop over and over,” he told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith.

“The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night for the months before I left. Plenty lost their minds.”

Rear Admiral David Thomas, the commander of Guantanamo’s detention centre, said the music treatment was not currently used at Guantanamo but added that he could not rule out its use in the future.

“I couldn’t speculate and I wouldn’t speculate but I can tell you it doesn’t happen here at Guantanamo and it hasn’t happened since I’ve been here,” Rear Admiral Thomas, who has been at Guantanamo for six months, said.

But not all of the music is hard rock. Christopher Cerf, who wrote music for Sesame Street, said he was horrified to learn songs from the children’s TV show were used in interrogations.

“I wouldn’t want my music to be a party to that,” he said.

Some musicians, however, are proud that their music is used in interrogations.

Bassist Stevie Benton, whose group Drowning Pool has performed in Iraq and recorded one of the interrogators’ favourites, Bodies, said: “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.

“I take it as an honour to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack or something like that.”

US military interrogators have often blasted music at detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. According to Reprieve, these are some of the songs they have used most frequently:

:: 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 US detention sites are Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Don McLean, Lil’ Kim, Limp Bizkit, Meat Loaf, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tupac Shakur.

(original article)