Originally published at Digital Journal
A heavy metal band whose music was used to torture prisoners — many of them innocent men and boys — at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba performed at an Independence Day party for troops stationed at the U.S. military base.
The Miami Herald reports Drowning Pool performed for troops at GITMO before July 4th fireworks on Tuesday. The band’s song “Bodies” was often blasted at detainees for hours on end, often in combination with other torture techniques, to psychologically “break” prisoners and keep them awake, sometimes for many days at a time. In a 2006 article in the music magazine Spin, many interrogators said “Bodies” was their go-to song for “psyching out enemies and captives.”
In late 2008, a Senate Armed Services Committee report detailed how “Bodies” was used to torture Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian accused of helping organize the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 175, the plane al-Qaeda terrorists crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. In a diary he kept while imprisoned at GITMO, Slahi wrote how he was dragged into a dark, dirty room, where “Bodies” was blasted into his ears, the lyrics “let the bodies hit the floor” tormenting him for hours:
I might never forget that song. At the same time, [someone] turned on some colored blinkers that hurt the eyes. “If you fucking fall asleep, I’m gonna hurt you,” he said. I had to listen to the song over and over until the next morning. I started praying. “Stop the fucking praying,” he said loudly. I was by this time really tired and terrified, and so I decided to pray in my heart.
While imprisoned at GITMO, Slahi was also brutally beaten, subjected to extreme heat and cold, sexually humiliated and terrorized with mock execution and threats to rape his mother, who he was told had been jailed as well. When it came time to try him before the notorious GITMO military court, from which several military prosecutors have resigned citing rigged trials and other shocking injustices, prosecutor Col. Stuart Crouch felt that he could not proceed. Despite having lost an old Marine buddy who also happened to be one of the United 175 pilots, the colonel noted that “Slahi’s incriminating statements — the core of the government’s case — had been taken through torture, rendering them inadmissible under U.S. and international law.” After 14 years of imprisonment without charge or trial, Slahi was released from GITMO on October 17, 2016.
In addition to “Bodies,” GITMO’s torture playlist included Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” Eminem’s “White America,” Deicide’s “Fuck Your God” and even Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the Bee Gees’ disco anthem “Stayin’ Alive.” Children’s songs, including the theme from Sesame Street and “I Love You” from Barney & Friends, were favorites. Television advertisements including the Meow Mix cat food jingle were sometimes even used.
While some artists have expressed outrage that their music was used to torture GITMO detainees — including many who former president George W. Bush, vice president Dick Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld allegedly knew were innocent, Drowning Pool bassist Stevie Benton told Spin he considered it an “honor.”
“People assume we should be offended that somebody in the military thinks our song is annoying enough that, played over and over, it can psychologically break someone down,” said Benton. “I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack or something like that.”
While U.S. military officials claimed the use of repetitive loud music had no long-lasting psychological effects on detainees, former GITMO prisoners vehemently disagree. “There was loud music, [Eminem’s] ‘Slim Shady’ and Dr. Dre for 20 days,” recalled Binyam Mohamed, who was jailed at GITMO from 2004 to 2009. “Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.” While some observers have doubted whether prolonged exposure to very loud music constitutes torture on its own, it is widely accepted by experts that the techniques employed at GITMO — in which multiple forms of abuse were simultaneously inflicted upon detainees — fit the definition of torture under international law.
A 480-page summary of a once-classified Senate Intelligence Committee report released in December 2014 detailed how CIA prisoners were subjected to horrific and even deadly torture and abuse, including days-long violent interrogations, the interrupted drowning technique known as waterboarding, being kept awake for more than a week, being forced to stand on broken legs and feet, having objects forced up their rectums and being exposed to lethally extreme cold.
Most of the “enhanced interrogation” tortures approved by the George W. Bush administration for use in its global war against terrorism, which included waterboarding, sleep, sensory and food deprivation, shackling in excruciating “stress positions,” the use of loud music and dogs to torment detainees, slamming into walls, solitary confinement, exposure to extreme heat or cold and sexual humiliation, are illegal under both domestic and international law. In addition to these approved techniques, U.S. military and intelligence personnel subjected terrorism detainees — many of them innocent men, women and children — to additional abuses, including homicide, rape, imprisonment of relatives as bargaining chips and brutal beatings.
When asked to comment on Dead Pool’s invitation to perform at the same base where the band’s music was used to torture prisoners, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) spokeswoman Col. Lisa Garcia told Huffington Post that “the link between past interrogations using music was not on the forefront on the planners’ minds,” and that the band’s performance was booked by the naval base’s recreation office and not the officials in charge of the prison there.