Music Selections at the World-Famous Guantanamo Bay Beach Resort

UK-based historian Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison , has a piece up on counterpunch about the use of music in torture sessions at America's finest tax-dollar-funded Caribbean getaway:

There's an ambiguous undercurrent to the catchy pop smash that introduced a pig-tailed Britney Spears to the world in 1999 -- so much so that Jive Records changed the song's title to "… Baby One More Time" after executives feared that it would be perceived as condoning domestic violence.

It's a safe bet, however, that neither Britney nor songwriter Max Martin ever anticipated that this undercurrent would be picked up on by U.S. military personnel, when they were ordered to keep prisoners awake by blasting ear-splittingly loud music at them -- for days, weeks or even months on end -- at prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.

The message, as released Guantánamo prisoner Ruhal Ahmed explained in an interview earlier this year, was less significant than the relentless, inescapable noise. Describing how he experienced music torture "on many occasions," Ahmed said, "I can bear being beaten up, it's not a problem. Once you accept that you're going to go into the interrogation room and be beaten up, it's fine. You can prepare yourself mentally. But when you're being psychologically tortured, you can't." He added, however, that "from the end of 2003 they introduced the music and it became even worse. Before that, you could try and focus on something else. It makes you feel like you are going mad. You lose the plot and it's very scary to think that you might go crazy because of all the music, because of the loud noise, and because after a while you don't hear the lyrics at all, all you hear is heavy banging."

Despite this, the soldiers, who were largely left to their own devices when choosing what to play, frequently selected songs with blunt messages -- "Fuck Your God" by Deicide, for example, which is actually an anti-Christian rant, but one whose title would presumably cause consternation to believers in any religion -- even though, for prisoners not used to Western rock and rap music, the music itself was enough to cause them serious distress.

A History of Music Torture in the War on Terror: Hit Me Baby One More Time (Counterpunch, thanks Ned Sublette), and here's an alternate version of the same essay, with images, at Worthington's own blog.


  1. Strangely, executives also changed the title of another one of Spears’ more famous songs to “(Torture) Oops, I Did It Again”

  2. Oh my God… How disgusting. I’m starting to think that Western Pop Culture might actually be some kind of Satanic cancer on humanity…

  3. This is what Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails said on his official blog — — about his music being used to torture detainees:


    12.11.08: Regarding NIN music used at Guantanamo Bay for torture

    It’s difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you’ve put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture.

    If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued, with any potential monetary gains donated to human rights charities.

    Thank GOD this country has appeared to side with reason and we can put the Bush administration’s reign of power, greed, lawlessness and madness behind us.

    Trent Reznor

  4. Nazi’s marched to Wagner, and the US tortures people with NIN and Barney. It’s all fair use.

    If the artists don’t like it maybe they shouldn’t write such tortuous songs. I don’t see Fleetwood Mac on that list.

    And Trent Reznor being insulted by this is ridiculous. Grow a pair.

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