* It gets better by the day. You really can’t make this s#*t up; the proof is in the pudding:Â The Gitmo Myth and the Torture Canard.
By Claudia Parsons
NEW YORK (Reuters) â€“Â Human rights activistsÂ seeking a ban on the use of loud music to exert psychological pressure on detainees in U.S. custody are appealing toÂ Bruce SpringsteenÂ and Eminem to join their campaign against music as torture.
The campaign called the Zero dB project, standing for zero decibels, was launched at the end of last year by British legal charity Reprieve, which represents dozens of prisoners held at the U.S. military prison atÂ Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
- Making sure every Islamic terrorist gets to stay:Â
- BunglawussiÂ Appeal againstÂ deportation
It has already signed up British artists includingÂ David Gray,Â Dizzee RascalÂ andÂ Massive AttackÂ and is now setting its sights onÂ American musicians, said Chloe Davies, a representative ofÂ ReprieveÂ and Zero dB.
At a recent “Music and Torture” conference near New York, Davies described the experience of several former detainees including Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian who moved toÂ BritainÂ as a teenager. He was released fromÂ GuantanamoÂ in February after nearly seven years in U.S. and Moroccan custody.
During interrogations inÂ Morocco, Mohamed reported being physically tortured, including having his penis repeatedly cut with a scalpel, yet he said what he found hardest was having loud music blasted at him in the dark for days on end.
“After a while, I felt pretty much dead, I didn’t feel I existed at all,” Davies quoted Mohamed as saying.
Another former detainee, Rhuhel Ahmed, thought initially it was a joke when his captors played rapperÂ Eminem‘s music, Davies said.
“But after so long, when he started to hallucinate, he said he got why they were doing it,” she said, quoting Ahmed as saying, “The music torture stripped away the last sanctuary you had in your mind.”
Davies said Ahmed, who was released from Guantanamo in 2004, had been trying to contact Eminem directly to explain what he went through, but “he’s not taking Rhuhel’s calls.”
“The big people likeÂ Bruce Springsteen, who we thought would care because he’s quite political, we’re still trying to reach him,” Davies said. “It’s just so hard to get through the walls of managers.”
Representatives for Eminem and Springsteen did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.
POSSIBLE LEGAL ACTION
Davies said Reprieve was also discussing with U.S. lawyers possible legal action that musicians may take against the U.S. government to claim compensation for copyright infringement. She said musicianÂ Trent ReznorÂ ofÂ Nine Inch NailsÂ was among those interested in pursuing legal action.
According to Reprieve, music that has been used ranges from heavy metal such as AC/DC,Â AerosmithÂ andÂ MetallicaÂ to the theme tune from the children’s show “Sesame Street.”
DetaineesÂ also reported the use of songs with overtly American titles, such as Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” and Don McLean’s “American Pie,” or with sexual content, such asÂ Christina Aguilera‘s “Dirrty.”
In one of his first acts after taking office in January, U.S.Â President Barack ObamaÂ said he would close Guantanamo and ordered detainees to be held in conditions that comply with theÂ Geneva ConventionsÂ on the humane treatment of prisoners.
Thomas Keenan, director of theÂ Human Rights ProjectÂ atÂ Bard College, which organized Friday’s conference, said it was still important to push for explicit U.S. government recognition that music can amount to torture, and a ban on its use as such.
He said the U.S. Army Field Manual, which lays out how to treat detainees, does not specifically address the use of music, which has a long history of being used to exert psychological pressure by theÂ U.S. military.
The most famous instance was in 1989 when U.S. forces blasted military dictatorÂ Manuel NoriegaÂ withÂ loud rock musicÂ when he was holed up in the Vatican Embassy in Panama.
Keenan said it was hard to define what amounted to torture, but it was vital to address the issue.
“There’s a tendency to think ‘The world has changed, now we’re not doing that any more, it’s a thing of the past,'” Keenan told Reuters. “That worries me.”
“What’s needed is a debate … a terrible debate on the benefits of torture, with or without music,” Keenan said. “We need to repudiate it explicitly.”