Rock legends want to silence Guantanamo's torture tunes

IT IS mainly a collection of grinding power chords and caterwauling originally intended to produce feelings of euphoria and release.

But the list of some of popular music's biggest acts is a grim roll call of Guantanamo's Greatest Hits – the tunes used to prepare inmates for interrogation.

Bands and artists whose recordings have been used in controversial interrogation techniques by US forces yesterday backed a new campaign to end the practice.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The playlist of songs, designed to traumatise and destabilise prisoners psychologically, includes rock acts such as AC/DC, Aerosmith and Metallica.

Pop acts – and even children's music – have also been employed for contentious methods of interrogation.

Christopher Cerf, who wrote music for Sesame Street, said he was horrified to learn songs from the show were used.

The Stop The Music Torture drive is the brainchild of Reprieve, the human rights charity that provides legal representations for inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

The campaign aims to exert pressure from the international community to bring to an end the techniques used by US forces in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

It will also feature minutes of silence during concerts and festivals. Reprieve will also lobby musicians whose music is known to have been used in such situations, while the Musicians' Union is taking steps to mobilise support.

The singer-songwriter David Gray, whose track, Babylon, was used without his knowledge, said yesterday: "What we're talking about here is people in a darkened room, physically inhibited by handcuffs, bags over their heads and music blaring.

"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."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The music tactic has been common in the US "war on terror" since September 2003, with forces systematically using loud music on hundreds of detainees.

Binyam Mohammed, a prisoner at Guantanamo, said men held with him at the CIA's "Dark Prison" in Afghanistan wound up 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."

Mr Stafford-Smith, Reprieve's director, added: "The Bush administration likes to paint this as harmless, like a prisoner being given an iPod.

"But Binyam Mohammed put it best when I spoke with him in Guantanamo: 'Imagine you are given a choice,' he said. 'To lose your sight or lose your mind. While having your eyes gouged out would be horrendous, there is little doubt which you would choose'."

Rear Admiral David Thomas, the commander of Guantanamo's detention centre, said the treatment was not currently used, but he would not rule out its reintroduction.


The songs most frequently played to interrogate Guantanamo prisoners:

1. Enter Sandman – Metallica

2. Bodies – Drowning Pool

3. Shoot to Thrill – AC/DC

4. Hell's Bells – AC/DC

5. I Love You, from the Barney And Friends children's TV show

6. Born In The USA– Bruce Springsteen

7. We Are The Champions – Queen

8. Babylon – David Gray

9. White America – Eminem

10. Sesame Street – theme from the children's TV show

Related topics: