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Tom Morello

Musicians Band Together to Protest Music Torture

December 11, 2008 02:54 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Groups and singers such as Massive Attack and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine have teamed up with a British charity to stop the U.S. military from using music as a torture device.

Artists Against Auditory Torture

The Zero Decibels project, or Zero dB, is being organized by the British legal group Reprieve, which represents Guantanamo detainees, and will include moments of silence during concerts and festivals.

The Associated Press reports that loud music has been used on detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, after U.S. military commander in Iraq Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, approved use of the tactic on Sept. 14, 2003 “to create fear, disorient … and prolong capture shock.” The use of loud music in interrogations, which Zero dB says is a widespread practice, is currently banned by the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights. Guantanamo authorities say the tactic is not currently used but would not comment about its past use, or about the possibility of its use again in the future.

The music treatment often exacerbates already horrific conditions at detention facilities, and drives some prisoners over the edge. Binyam Mohammed, a former prisoner at a CIA facility in Afghanistan, said he was subjected to loud music such as songs by rapper Eminem as well as sounds like ghostly laughter coming out of a speaker in his tiny cell. "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," he said to Reprieve.
According to Reprieve, some of the songs used by U.S. military interrogators include “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, the theme song from the children’s program “Barney and Friends,” and “Babylon” by David Gray.

Some artists were appalled to learn their songs were being used to aid torture, such as “Sesame Street” composer Christopher Cerf. But Stevie Benton, the bassist for Drowning Pool, said he doesn’t mind that one of the band’s songs, “Bodies,” is a favorite of interrogators. “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 said to 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.”

Background: American torture tactics

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to allow Guantanamo Bay inmates to challenge their captivity in federal court. Sept. 11 terrorism suspects argue that U.S. military interrogators used torture, such as “waterboarding,” which simulates the experience of drowning, to extract false confessions.

Related Topics: “Colorado Noise Polluters Sentenced to Annoying Music”

In November, it was reported that a judge in Fort Lupton, Colo., is using easy listening songs such as those from Barry Manilow to punish noise violators. Municipal judge Paul Sacco is sentencing city noise ordinance violators to one-hour sessions of forced music listening sessions that include selections from the Manilow catalog, songs released by PBS children’s television star Barney the Dinosaur, and “Only You,” a 1955 doo-wop hit by The Platters. “These people should have to listen to music they don’t like,” Sacco said, according to the Associated Press.

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