Torture At Guantanamo


Tom Morello, REM, The Roots

Musicians Standing Against Torture

On the question of so-called torture, we don't do torture. We never have. It's not something that this administration subscribes to.
Vice President Dick Cheney, 2008

Despite what Dick Cheney would have us believe, the torture of detainees at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere has been well documented.  Even Susan Crawford, the Bush Administration’s top official for reviewing practices at Guantanamo has admitted that torture happened there.

Among the types of torture condoned and practiced by the Bush Administration was the use of music in ways the artists themselves never intended. Spin Magazine has reported that "the military is attempting to break down Muslim prisoners by bombarding them with ear-splitting rap and metal," and now the musicians are fighting back. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine - both of whose music we know was used to torture - and the nearly 20 musicians listed below have endorsed our campaign to Close Gitmo Now and our effort seeking the declassification of government documents on music-related abuses.

The use of music as no-touch torture at Guantanamo is nothing new. In fact, most of the abuses we've become far too familiar with - hooding detainees, stress positions, sexual humiliation, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, light and dark, sound and silence - are part of a comprehensive arsenal of techniques first institutionalized in the CIA's cryptically named KUBARK manual from 1963. Human Rights First revealed in their 2006 report "No blood, No foul" how music was used in psychologically breaking detainees as part of the Bush/Cheney "War on Terror." The pseudonymously named Nick, a former prison guard at the Forward Operating Base Tiger near al-Qaim, Iraq described:

    So, typical first time interrogation consisted of some kind of heavy metal music really loud, strobe light, lot of yelled questions and stuff like that, until they finally would break down and cry and say "I don't know anything, I don't know anything!" ... He's on his knees, usually a rifle pointed at him, strobe light going, music going, whatever. Then the guys sitting at the desk asking him questions directly. It was always yelling at that point-you had to, in order to hear [over the music].

Outraged over these tactics and the thought that their music might have been used to torture has compelled a growing list of artists to act. Encouraged by the the unequivocal call to end torture and close Guantanamo by President Obama and respected military leaders like former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, they've courageously spoken out.

Join them by signing the open letter to Congress.

Musicians Speaking Out

Tom Morello

Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine

“Guantanamo 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. Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine.  The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me – we need to end torture and close Guantanamo now."




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 Guantanamo. As long as Guantanamo 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.




The Roots

The Roots

When we found out that music was being used as part of the torture going on at Guantanamo, shackling and beating people - we were angry.  Just as we wouldn’t be caught dead allowing Dick Cheney to use our music for his campaigns, you can be damn sure, we wouldn’t allow him to use it to torture other human beings.  Congress needs to shut Guantanamo down.


Rise Against

Tim McIlrath, Rise Against

Guantanamo Bay has been synonymous with torture and inhumanity since its inception.  Coupled with its complete ineffectiveness, the shameful legacy it will leave behind in American history is something Americans will have to deal with forever. Let us be the generation that erases this symbol of injustice and fear-mongering from the map so that we can begin to learn from our mistakes.


Rosanne Cash

Rosanne Cash

I think every musician should be involved. It seems so obvious. Music should never be used as torture. It's beyond the pale. It's hard to even think about.







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