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Torture: the soundtrack

My first reaction on reading the headline in this morning's Post was to roll my eyes and shake my head: "Torture songs spur a protest most vocal: Musicians call for release of records on Guantanamo detainee treatment."

The article went on to chronicle the angst and anguish of musicians, including R.E.M., Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails, upon learning that music -- in some cases their music -- had been played repeatedly and at horrendously high decibel levels to disorient terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. A clearly distressed Rosanne Cash told The Post's Joe Heim: "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." (My eyes are rolling even as I type this.)

Rosanne and crew filed Freedom of Information Act requests with some 10 U.S. agencies on Thursday, demanding all records pertaining to "the use of loud music during detention and/or as a technique to interrogate detainees at U.S.-operated prison facilities used in its War on Terror at Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan during 2002-the present." The FOIA specifically requests information about the Barney (the purple dinosaur) theme song, the Meow Mix jingle, the Sesame Street theme and the work of artists Limp Bizkit, James Taylor and Tupac Shakur. (Personally, the Barney theme song would not have to be blasted at ear-ripping decibels to drive me out of my mind.)

Where have these guys been? You'd think from the timing of their FOIA requests that they had been stashed strumming guitars in some secret prison. The musicians are right to be horrified by the mistreatment or torture of detainees and to use their fame and access to media to decry such abuse. But before spouting off on the world stage they should be informed. Loud music hasn't been used during interrogations or detentions since 2003, according to congressional investigations and declassified government documents. And, within days of taking office, President Obama banned the use of torture or enhanced interrogation techniques and ordered U.S. interrogators to abide by the Army Field Manual when questioning prisoners. The manual does not allow for the use of harmfully loud or prolonged music. These musicians are no doubt well meaning, but they come off as clueless and lame in filing this FOIA. The move smacks of a publicity stunt -- a headline grabbing, self-centered, goofy gimmick.

Still, I have to admit that if they get actual playlists from the government I'll be one of the hordes ferociously flipping through the documents. (Are Donnie & Marie on the list?) In the end, maybe it's not all bad, especially if this ploy helps to make a broader audience aware of the bizarre lengths to which the Bush administration went to squeeze information out of captives.

By Eva Rodriguez  | October 22, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Comments

Are the musicians owed royalties? Did the interrogators alter a digital version of a song? Can you say DMCA? The law, especially the DMCA, can provide some be pretty draconian remedies.

Posted by: Garak | October 22, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

PS: Every American parent I know has learned to blank out the Barney song. It has no effect on them. It is as if it does not exist. How do we know foreign parents have not also developed this mental toughness?

PPS: Did they play the 45 or LP versions?

PPPS: Do any of the detainees now claim Paul is dead?

Posted by: Garak | October 22, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, Bush 2 was not the only President who used music as torture. Bush 1 also used it in 1989 in the case of Panamanian General Manuel Noriega, who had taken refuge in the Embassy of the Holy See:

"Noriega fled during the invasion, and a manhunt ensued. He threatened that he would call for guerilla warfare if the Apostolic Nuncio did not give him refuge. He was discovered to be in the Apostolic Nunciature, the Holy See's embassy in Panama. U.S. troops set up a perimeter outside this building. The Nuncio and his staff attempted to compel Noriega to leave on his own accord.

During the resulting stand-off, U.S. forces bombarded the embassy with loud music played through boomboxes. According to the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the purpose of this was to prevent the use of parabolic microphones to eavesdrop on negotiations taking place within the embassy. [22] The noise exerted psychological pressure on not only Noriega but others in the building. Though the Vatican wished for Noriega to be expelled from the Nunciature as well, it complained to President George H.W. Bush because of the disruptive noise, and U.S. troops were ordered to stop. After a demonstration a few days later by thousands of Panamanians demanding he stand trial for human rights violations, Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990."

I thought it was inappropriate then, and I still think it is inappropriate. The word that comes to mind is "barbarian". I don't like my country to act like a barbarian.

Posted by: vonfleck | October 22, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

If the "Friends" theme song isn't on the list, I'll eat Nancy Pelosi's dirty botox needles

Posted by: Please_Fix_VAs_Roads | October 22, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Ever been in a store when a young man pulls up and decides to leave the car music on while he's inside? Full blast and all bass.

Posted by: curtb | October 22, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Having been to the Disney Orlando theme park I vote "It's a Small World" as the most effective as torture.

Posted by: sauerkraut | October 22, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

In the end, maybe it's not all bad, especially if this ploy helps to make a broader audience aware of the bizarre lengths to which the Bush administration went to squeeze information out of captives.


I expect the average person to be behind the curve but a journalist that makes a statement like the one above is a little bit of a concern. One would think before sticking her foot in her mouth she would have done the research but then again this is WaPo so it's not surprising. This is nothing new and has been used since the Vietnam war. It may have been used ever earlier I’m not sure. Rodriguez is a hack.

Posted by: askgees | October 22, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

In the future, we'll get much more from terrorists (assuming the President's make-nice with all things Muslim doesn't convince all of them to turn their swords into ploughshares) if we simply loop two or three Obama speeches 24/7. Doesn't even have to be loud.

They will all sputter like babies to get the sound turned off.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | October 22, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, Bush 2 was not the only President who used music as torture. Bush 1 also used it in 1989 in the case of Panamanian General Manuel Noriega, who had taken refuge in the Embassy of the Holy See:

"Noriega fled during the invasion, and a manhunt ensued. He threatened that he would call for guerilla warfare if the Apostolic Nuncio did not give him refuge. He was discovered to be in the Apostolic Nunciature, the Holy See's embassy in Panama. U.S. troops set up a perimeter outside this building. The Nuncio and his staff attempted to compel Noriega to leave on his own accord.

During the resulting stand-off, U.S. forces bombarded the embassy with loud music played through boomboxes. According to the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the purpose of this was to prevent the use of parabolic microphones to eavesdrop on negotiations taking place within the embassy. [22] The noise exerted psychological pressure on not only Noriega but others in the building. Though the Vatican wished for Noriega to be expelled from the Nunciature as well, it complained to President George H.W. Bush because of the disruptive noise, and U.S. troops were ordered to stop. After a demonstration a few days later by thousands of Panamanians demanding he stand trial for human rights violations, Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990."

I thought it was inappropriate then, and I still think it is inappropriate. The word that comes to mind is "barbarian". I don't like my country to act like a barbarian.


Posted by: vonfleck | October 22, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse


Hitler preformed surgery on people with out anesthesia, the Muslim extremists behead their enemies. The US uses water boarding (dunking them in a pool similar to what the average US teenager goes through each summer at the local swimming pool) The US military uses loud music and you use the word BARBARIAN. LOL The only word that comes to mind after reading your drivel is M0R0N.

Posted by: askgees | October 22, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I'll tell you what I would have chosen....

YO I'LL TELL YOU WANT WHAT I REALLY REALLY WANT
SO TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT WHAT YOU REALLY REALLY WANT
I WANNA (HUH) I WANNA (HUH) I WANNA (HUH) I WANNA (HUH)

Oh god make it end! Please! I tell you anything you really really want. Just tell me what you really really want to hear and stop singing about it!

Posted by: Gover | October 22, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

.........whomever you are.........

.........your mockery.............

.........of TORTURE...............

.........sickens me..............

Posted by: Utah2 | October 22, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

My kids did this to me a couple of weeks ago. I got them an iPod and since they don't have a lot of cash, there are only a few songs on it (all annoying teeny-bopper stuff). So we went on a trip and I got to listen to those same few songs over and over again for 8 hours. It was awful, lol. I swear I woke up in the middle of the night for weeks with that stuff going round and round in my head.

Posted by: ZZim | October 22, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Please does anyone remember 9-11, did those terrorist have any remorse on what they did to our fellow citizens, blare a little music its nothing more i hear when i drive down the road everyday. If it will help keep the country safe whatever needs to be done.

Posted by: smilie1 | October 22, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse


Q: Will any of these songs be played in the Bush Library as part of its upcoming exhibit/wing on Guantanimo, Abu Gharaib, and Bagram?

Q2: Were any women in Iraqi jails raped to this "soundtrack"?

Posted by: vforvendetta | October 22, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I guess mom was right after all. It's not music it's just mind numbing noise.

If i was one of these alleged "musicians" I wouldn't be protesting too loudly lest the public find out how bad their "music" really is.

Maybe the music industry is really destroying society with sounds that are meant to do psychological damage to it's listeners.

Kinda sounds that way to me.

Posted by: trulys | October 22, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Ooh, isn't it just the funniest and most witty thing that Americans can torture people? Oh, ha ha. Whether through music, or waterboarding, or solitary confinement, oh ha ha.
Don't we all just think it is one big joke. Not only a joke, however, we LOVE IT. We LOVE hurting others in the name of all those people we could give a crap about really.
Think we shouldn't give any money or health care to our veterans who have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan....well, YEAH! We give them as little as we can possibly give them and turn our attention to the joy of torturing our "enemies".....OH YEAH, YEAH, YEAH!!!

Posted by: cms1 | October 22, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

"the bizarre lengths to which the Bush administration went to" - uh, music was played during the Waco standoff while Clinton was President, but hey, don't let facts get in the way of your story.

Posted by: justanotherguy | October 22, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

........."music had been played repeatedly and at horrendously high decibel levels to disorient terorrism 'suspects' in U.S. custody."

..........operative word, 'suspects'.

..........how many human beings were innocent and being tortured then or now?

..........I was a torture victim myself.

Posted by: Utah2 | October 22, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what Rosanne Cash is so upset about. I could listen to "I Walk The Line" until the cows came home. The others have guilty consciences.

Posted by: brandonesque | October 22, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Think we could get the terrorists to sign a treaty that says instead of pulling out fingernails, cutting off heads, etc., they would only subject our captured soldiers to repeated playings of the Sesame Street themesong?

Posted by: LivinginthePromisedLand | October 22, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Too bad the somali terrorists/ pirates President Obama ordered shot through the head aren't listening to Barney or the horror of Bruce Springsteen right now. Pretty sure they'd prefer the BeeGees to bullets.

Posted by: rom12921 | October 22, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Looks like no stone was unturned in regards to torture - going from physical to psychological pain.

In regards to the use of music, it appears that the Sesame Street song has been used pretty consistently.

I could empathize with the detainees as I can remember quite distinctly when the theme song of sesame street stopped being entertaining during my childhood to being a form of punishment as I progressed into adulthood

Posted by: Kingofkings1 | October 22, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me or does anyone else find it odd that a Washington Post writer thinks torture is funny?

Posted by: CardFan | October 23, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

It's not so much about a musician's songs being used for torture -- it's about how sick this entire torture saga is in today's modern USA.

The fact that we can read such trite, unfeeling banter about such an immoral act in an American newspaper is stunningly sad, and all it does is make me want to actively campaign against any politician that even so much as hinted at an approval of the use of torture and drive them out of politics forever.

Regardless, only a complete baboon thinks torture works, and as we have seen and heard from the CIA -- they got little if any worthwhile information from any of the torture victims -- while we prostituted our ideals and literally sh|t on our constitution.

The fact that we actually have citizens complaining that something they crafted with soul and feeling is being used to torture people is sickening enough, but what is even more sickening is how a soulless, ugly, misanthropic, basically talentless, bleach-haired hag like Rodriguez gets to wax whimsical over the top of something so vile in a US national newspaper.

This entire raft of neo-con flotsam trash needs to be shoved out of American society muy pronto -- eh Ms. Rodriguez?

.

Posted by: Frank57 | October 23, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Why are career musicians being trashed by Eva Rodriguez for not wanting their music associated with illegal torture in the past, present, or future?
How are 'musicians' any different as a group than a vocal 'conservative' group who do not want their tax money used- past, present, and future- for (legal) reproductive services, such as birth control pills or abortions?
So the only good 'angst and anguish' is what Eva?
'Rolling your eyes' must be blocking you from clear level-headed thinking.

Torture is not 'funny'

Posted by: Gracefulboomer | October 23, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Torture can be a ghastly horror with lifelong side effects of unspeakable pain and human anguish. Following my heart surgery my wife hid the remote control and I was forced to watch THE VIEW, OPRAH!, and daytime soap operas!! I can no longer converse with normal human beings or buy generic brands and continue to hear the babble and jingles. I later put crazy glue on the toilet seat for my wife and moved the tv to the bathroon with 24 hr. NFL channel and she's becoming more of a man than I am. Is THIS what our nation has become?

Posted by: mtntexas | October 24, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Oh please. Much of the "music" of these "arists" already qualifies as torture without any Gitmo involvement whatsoever. Lord help me! I am turning into my parents.

Posted by: JCinTX | October 26, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

mmm, does this mean that these artists are admitting that their music is so bad as to constitute torture?

Anyway, seriously, we can't even play music loudly? what a complete weenie nation we are becoming.

Posted by: awalker1972 | October 27, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I mean we could play GLEN BECK RANTS all day long or RUSH's greatest idiotic rants

How about some fancy flute playing by SARAH PAlin? along with a vidio of some fancy pagent walkin

PLAY whatever DICK CHENEY listened to - or how about the GROUP of POLITCOS that RUMSFELD listened to THEY WERE AWFUL

Posted by: kare1 | October 27, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

....I think I might have prefered, "Oakie
From Miskowkie" (sp?) during my week-long TORTURE IN THE COUNTY JAIL.

..but I could not listen to music for about ten years thereafter.

..I was and am innocent I was over-dosed intentionally at the hands' of the law;

..crippled (priorly two year's b-4) police brutality..with absolutely no sleep for the duration WHILE THEY CHANTED, 'LOOK AT THE PHYSCO - TURN IT UP - (THE T.V.) - AND THEN THEY DID....MY EARS WERE BLEEDING BY THE TIME I FLOATED OUT OF THAT CUBICLE INTO MAIN STREET I WAS SO OVER-MEDICATED ON PURPOSE.

...a constant thundering like a heard of elephants' noise because of Memorial Day weekend and the gun-swinging immediately- released drunks by the dozens. I was in shock in dier need of medical attention.

..right there innocently on the floor, a little, sick crying woman of whom the jailers completely ignored for three straight days of hygiene, etc.

..constant bright light in my eyes, for the week on the cold cement on my painfully screaming spinal cord.

..a fifteen-year trumped-up sentence looming...as my initial federal case was looming already against them....my spine wickedly wrenched again and again.

..they kept it up on purpose seven times over for false arrests for years.

..kidnap of six children.

..conspired attempted murder.

..farce, farce, as the Allred/Shurtleff conspiracy lingered onward for eight grueling years. They cannot shut me up.

..Jamie Allred, Jr. covered his Mom's weed production year by year with his highway trooper car parked out front, yep, right here in good 'ole RICH mormon country.

..once again and always innocent...sick...beaten, weak, 144 straight hours of no sleep on the lockdown grate..wondering what had I done to deserve this.

..We cannot let them get away with this.

..Jamie Allred, Jr.'s named disappeared from the federally filed lawsuit, up until now that is.

.. He sat on my legs as the children ran screaming in terror and clinging to their Aunt Wendy's trees, a s.w.a.t. team angry mob took us all...with absolutely no authority/no warning.

..Child Protection Services, operative word, DIVISION of so-called family services had sent the seven of us home that afternoon to wait for a phone call..the call never came...the angry mob did.

It is human trafficking; my incest memories of Jamie's step-dad, Jim Warr, had surfaced from my infancy. Jamie tried to kill me in retaliation as he literally celebrated my false imprisonment.

I want my $2.5 Default Judgement awarded me 02-28-02 in S.L.C., UT.

It is covered with purjury/obstruction/one-hundred inter-woven JOHN DOES/and etc. laughing in the Face of American's Justice System.

Elorriaga vs. Tooele County (Google)

Posted by: Utah2 | October 27, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

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