Guantanamo Bay prisoners were reportedly tortured with the sounds of children’s Sesame Street songs, in an attempt to get them to talk.
Al Jazeera reports that Thomas Keenan, a human rights researcher, explained that:
“Prisoners were forced to put on headphones. They were attached to chairs, headphones were attached to their heads, and they were left alone just with the music for very long periods of time. Sometimes hours, even days on end, listening to repeated loud music.”
Christopher Cerf, the award-winning composer of the songs used to torture prisoners at both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, was shocked when Al Jazeera broke the news to him that his music was being exploited in such a way. He stated that:
“My first reaction was this just can’t possibly be true…Of course I didn’t really like the idea that I was helping break down prisoners, but it was much worse when I heard later that they were actually using the music in Guantanamo to actually do deep, long-term interrogations and obviously to inflict enough pain on prisoners so they would talk.”
The Huffington Post reports that other songs torturers have used on their victims have included Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Drowning Pool’s “Bodies,” both of which were used in the same way as Sesame Street at Guantanamo Bay.
The Sesame Street, which includes about 200 songs, which are meant to help children learn reading and writing skills, is apparently very effective, considering this is not the first time it was reportedly used for torture. Al Jazeera reports that Cerf went on to say:
“This is fascinating to me both because of the horror of music being perverted to serve evil purposes if you like, but I’m also interested in how that’s done. What is it about music that would make it work for that purpose?”
Cerf, since learning about the powerful effect music seems to have in interrogation work, produced a film entitled “Songs Of War,” in which he embarks on a journey to learn what makes music so powerful. Al Jazeera reports that in the process, he spoke to soldiers, psychologists, and prisoners who were tortured using his music. He also discovered during his travels that the military has been using music as a potent torture weapon for hundreds of years.
Check out the “Somgs of War,” by Al Jazeera and Christopher Cerf below: