U.S. Used Sesame Street Music to Torture Guantánamo Prisoners
Friday, June 01, 2012
When Grammy and Emmy award winning songwriter Christopher Cerf composed songs for Sesame Street, little did he know that the very same music would be used decades later for dark purposes by the U.S. government.
As part of its torture program directed at detainees, the U.S. military and intelligence community forced individuals held at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Bagram in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay to listen to Sesame Street songs over and over again.
With headphones attached to their skulls, detainees were subjected to the loud children’s songs for hours and sometimes days without end. Another favorite of the torturers was the theme tune to Barney the Purple Dinosaur.
One former detainee described the music as “probably some of the worst torture” he and others faced. During the Korean War, American prisoners were subjected music torture by the Communist Chinese.
Cerf said he was stunned when he learned how his compositions were being used in the war on terror. He decided to find out why his songs were chosen and how they could “serve evil purposes.” The findings from his interviews with soldiers, psychologists and prisoners were incorporated into a special feature broadcast by Al Jazeera.
In October 2009 several musicians, including REM, Pearl Jam, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Jackson Browne, Billy Bragg, Michelle Branch, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Roseanne Cash and Bonnie Raitt, publically opposed the use of their music by U.S. interrogators and torturers.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Songs of War (Al Jazeera)
Video: Songs of War (Al Jazeera)
Using Music for Torture…Musicians Fight Back (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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