Musicians (Finally) Say No To Music Torture
Well, that took a while. Nearly a year after George W. Bush’s Republican party was voted out of office, and at least five years after reports first surfaced that music was being used in “War on Terror” facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo as part of a package of “enhanced interrogation technique,” — which, in any world other than the reality-defying one inhabited by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, would have been defined as torture — several noted musicians have spoken out to condemn the practice.
As was reported widely yesterday, REM, Pearl Jam, Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, and other artists including Jackson Browne, Billy Bragg, Michelle Branch, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, Steve Earle, the Entrance Band, Joe Henry, Bonnie Raitt, Rise Against, and The Roots launched a formal protest against the use of music as torture.
In a statement, Tom Morello said, “Guantánamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured — from water boarding, to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts — playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the eardrums. Guantánamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used as a tactic against humanity sickens me — we need to end torture and close Guantánamo now.”
REM added, “We signed onto the campaign in complete support of President Obama and the military leaders who have called for an end to torture and to close Guantánamo. As long as Guantánamo stays open, America’s legacy around the world will continue to be the torture that went on there. We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice — to now learn that some of our friends’ music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific. It’s anti-American, period.”
In a phone call, Rosanne Cash told the Washington Post, “I think every musician should be involved. It seems so obvious. Music should never be used as torture.” Cash said she reacted with “absolute disgust” when she heard about it, adding, “It’s beyond the pale. It’s hard to even think about.”
The protest was timed to coincide with a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the National Security Archive, an independent research institute in Washington D.C., which is seeking the declassification of all records related to the use of music in interrogation practices. It also coincided with a recent call by veterans and retired Army generals to shut Guantánamo, and TV and radio ads, which were launched this week by the National Campaign to Close Guantánamo, led by Tom Andrews, a former congressman from Maine.
Nevertheless, with the exception of Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine), whose music was used for torture, and who has been complaining about it since 2004, and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), whose music was also used, and who expressed his outrage last year when he first heard about it, few musicians have taken the issue on board before now.
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