SONGS OF WAR: SESAME STREET

October 17, 2013

Here is an interesting documentary following the Sesame Street composer, Christopher Cerf, as he tries to understand how and why music, including his own, is used to torture detainees in America’s Guantanamo Bay detention centre. The video features interviews with torture experts, a Guantanamo detainee, an ex Guantanamo prison guard, psychologists, musicologists, speaker designers and musicians.

“I’m not really so troubled that my songs got used, it’s the idea that they’re torturing people at all. And I really feel pretty strongly about that. It seems really incredible to me that America would be torturing prisoners at all, after all we’ve fought wars in the past against countries who do that to try to get them to stop doing it, so the idea that we would be doing it ourselves to save our own freedom is very ironic.” – Chris Cerf, composer.

Ex-Guantanamo prison guard, Chris Arendt, describes the setup as a dance-style PA that would often play two clashing songs at once on repeat at incredibly loud volumes with the prisoner in a stress position for hours on end in the cold with shackles, mittens, a hood and goggles to isolate them as much as possible and cause maximum stress. The idea was that whoever ‘saved’ them from the torture would be seen as a friend who the detainee would then co-operate with.

‘If I was to put (extremely loud music) on for just a few minutes, I’m pretty certain you would be saying “I can’t hear myself think” and that’s the precise point, because if you can’t hear yourself think, you can’t think. If you can’t think, you have no control over your senses. If you have no control over your senses, you are for all intents and purposes a completely vegetative person, and that’s the point. To put someone in an almost vegetative state where they are simply ready to say anything, comply with anything, only so the music can be turned down.” – Moazzem Begg, ex-detainee in Guantanamo and Bagram.

Moazzam Begg is a British citizen who moved to Pakistan with his family to build a school for girls. He was abducted from his home with a gun to his head and detained for three years before being released without charge or trial.

You can read an article by him, here – Guantanamo Remembered: A Personal Perspective

www.aljazeera.com

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