The public has learned a little bit about how governments handle those it considers terrorists or suspected terrorists since the horrendous attacks on 9/11. I suspect that most people would have guessed that “waterboarding” was some kind of new sport akin to surfing if they had heard the term a few years ago. We have since learned that it does indeed involve water, but is nowhere near as fun as surfing.
Although this is not the first time we are hearing that music is being used in some capacity against detainees of the U.S. military, we are learning a little bit about exactly what music they have been using in an apparent effort to soften up the detainees prior to interrogation.
Among the more sensible selections, if your goal is to drive someone crazy are Barney the dinosaur’s “I Love You,” which unfortunately I can still remember from some 15 or so years ago when my kids watched the program regularly. I, for one, would also not be pleased about being exposed Eminem’s “White America” repeatedly. Come to think of it, I’d much prefer to avoid hearing even a single song by Eminem. I am a classic rock fan, after all.
Speaking of classic rock, some very well-known classic rock hits have been deemed appropriate by the U.S. military as part of their sonic attack on the detainees. Australian hard rockers AC/DC, currently on tour here in the U.S., were favored by having two of their hits incorporated into the musical arsenal. Both “Hell’s Bells” and “Shoot To Thrill” have been used as well as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” and Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” which kind of makes sense from a patriotic standpoint if a significant number of the detainees even understand English.
At least some artists are not pleased about their material being used in this fashion, and with the backing of some artists, a new effort has been launched to stop the use of these tactics. The “Stop The Music Torture” drive was started by Reprieve, an organization that is described as a human rights charity, and has been involved with providing legal representations for inmates at Guantanamo Bay, where many detainees are being held.
The goal of “Stop The Music Torture” is to to exert pressure from the international community to halt the techniques used by U.S. forces in Guantanamo as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the techniques are also said to be in use.
Although some classic rock fans might be offended to learn that some legendary classic rock hits are considered suitable as implements of persuasion – some might say torture – in all seriousness, I think anyone can appreciate the probability that being subjected to the same music endlessly for long periods of time would become quite unpleasant, even if it was your favorite group or favorite song.
As singer-songwriter David Gray, who learned that his song “Babylon” was being used in this fashion put it, "That’s torture. It doesn’t matter what the music is – it could be Tchaikovsky’s finest, or it could be Barney the Dinosaur. It really doesn’t matter, it’s going to drive you completely nuts.”
Some detainees have indicated that the tactic has literally driven some of the others insane.
The commander at Guantanamo states that the tactics involving music are no longer being employed, although he declined to rule out using them at some point again in the future.