This video is called ‘A street demonstration in Washington, DC shedding light on detainees held in US military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba.’
From London daily The Morning Star:
The new torture
(Friday 27 April 2007)
IN FOCUS: Music as torture
BREAKING POINT: Prisoners in Guantanamo were allegedly forced to listen to Eminem at maximum volume for days on end.
MICHAL BONCZA investigates the disturbing US practice of playing deafening pop for hours on end as a modern method of torture.
In December 2005, Human Rights Watch noted that detainees released from Afghanistan’s secret prisons reported being forced to listen to music variously described as “infidel” or “Western” and invariably “unbearably loud.”
Earlier BBC dispatches from Afghanistan mentioned Metallica’s Enter Sandman being played at high volumes into ship containers filled with prisoners.
Benyam Mohammed, who lived in Britain, testified that prisoners at Guantanamo were forced to listen to Eminem’s Slim Shady and Dr Dre at maximum volume for days on end when he was released from the US prison in Cuba.
“Plenty lost their minds,” he claimed.
The New York Times described the interrogation unit at Baghdad International Airport as containing a small, windowless, black room where “rap or rock’n’roll music blared at deafening decibels.”
New York University music professor Susanne Cusick, who lists these in her paper Music as Torture, traces the technique of “no touch torture” or “stress and duress” to the post-World War II PsyOps research by the US special operations OSS, Canadian and British intelligence services. Yale, Cornell and McGill universities were involved.
Western intelligence agencies’ obsessive and laughable paranoia about having their own personnel “brainwashed” into becoming “communist assassins” was first visited on the public in 1962 with John Frankenheimer’s cold-war propaganda flick The Manchurian Candidate, which was remade in 2004.
These no doubt vivid but imaginary threats led directly to the development of counter-measures of which torture techniques were an integral part.
Their sole purpose is to imbue the detainee with a sense of powerlessness.
Sensory disorientation is used to induce “identity disintegration,” which could take the form of regression to infantile behaviour or even schizophrenia.
The British charity Reprieve reports that victims, on average, begin hallucinating after 40 minutes.
PsyOps Sergeant Mark Hadsell told Newsweek: “If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken. That’s when we come in and talk to them.”
Interestingly, Cusick quotes an unidentified US operative who was subjected in training to a 45-minute blast of the children’s song Barney, The Purple Dinosaur, I Love You. He admitted: “I never want to go through that again.”
A delivery of a sound which is culturally alien and often offensive, in many cases heavy metal and rap, compounded by the highest volume levels possible, “confirms the detainees’ defeat.”
As for the “no touch torture” not leaving physical marks, it is but a convenient myth.
Nosebleeds are a frequent consequence and 110 to 120 decibels – the typical level at a rock concert – can damage hearing in less than an hour and a half, researches claim.
A 110 decibel volume is over 200 times the safe level, according to Australia’s National Acoustic Labs.
Speaking to the Morning Star, Geneva-based Association pour la Prevention de la Torture (APT) director Mark Thomson said: ”Using these methods against people, causing them to break down, fits the internationally agreed legal definitions of torture.”
Both the US and Britain have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, prohibiting them from inflicting “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental.”
Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture director Eric Sottas told the Morning Star that he would very much support the idea of “an initiative aimed at getting the artists to use copyright provisions to stop their music being used in this way,” adding: “It could spread awareness to sectors not normally associated with such concerns.”
This begs a question. Do the artists realise that their music is used to dehumanise, inflict untold pain, humiliation and suffering on fellow human beings? And if so, do they care?
Metallica co-founder James Hetfield is proud that his tunes are culturally offensive to Iraqis.
In a radio interview, he said: “If the Iraqis aren’t used to freedom, then I’m glad to be part of their exposure” and laughed off the idea of music being torture.
Journalist David Mery, writing for the progressive online science and technology journal The Register, quoting Reprieve director and lawyer for Guantanamo detainees Clive Stafford Smith, says that “musicians use copyright law to hold the US government to account for its use of music to torture detainees.”
This is not as far-fetched as it seems. According to Mery, “musicians can use their moral rights … to object to the derogatory treatment of their work to prevent any similar further use and claim compensation for the damage to their honour and reputation.”
Therefore, Mery argues, “artists could work with their record companies to sue for copyright infringement and demand detailed information as to when and where their music has been played so that they can calculate how much royalties that they are owed.”
Any monies recovered should, in an ethical gesture of solidarity, be used to compensate victims or support campaigns against this particular form of torture.
Cusick finds mentions that the US army used music by Christina Aguilera, Eminem and Dr Dre.
Stafford Smith adds Aerosmith, Don McLean and Bruce Springsteen to this list.
Springsteen’s commitment to social justice is well documented.
He has, according to Stafford Smith, “the opportunity, with other musicians, to sue, under copyright law and not to have their music used by US government to torture ‘unlawful enemy combatants’.”
In an article ridiculing the money-grabbing record industry, CNNMoney’s Roger Parloff is advised by Columbia Law School professor Jane Ginsburg, “that the songwriters might contend that, if word gets out that their music is being used for these purposes, it might well have a deleterious effect on the commercial market for the music.”
Here, we have the clearest possible road map for action. All the ingredients for a major international campaign of education and pressure to end forever this debasing practice are present – the legal framework and individuals and organisations willing to act.
Record companies cannot afford to have universally condemned, repugnant practices associated with their products.
Their instinct for commercial self-preservation alone could bring them on board. That much was admitted when the Morning Star contacted one of the major record companies.
Now, has anybody out there got Springsteen’s ear? If so, do remind him of the “each fighting for the other” verse from Blood Brothers.
Eminem is also on record as opposing Bush’s war policies. So, work to do.
Anti communism monument in Washington: here.
- CIA secret torture prisons scandal (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Guantanamo Blog #2 (ndoiron30.wordpress.com)
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- Singer Esperanza Spalding against Guantánamo torture prison (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Twelve years of torture, illegality, and shame (worldbulletin.net)
- Torture in U.S. Custody: Why It Will Happen Again If We Don’t Address It Now (huffingtonpost.com)
- Afghan NATO allies’ private prison torture and extortion (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Close Guantanamo, United States generals say (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)