Band Bills DOD $666,000 for Playing Its Music at GITMO
Policy + Politics

Band Bills DOD $666,000 for Playing Its Music at GITMO

Skinny Puppy

Listen to a few bars of Skinny Puppy’s Dig It, and you want to hide under the covers until it’s over. 

The nihilistic industrial metal band that harks from our gentle neighbor to the north is angry. Really angry. And it shows up in lyrics like,boils bitten haggard pick, vomit kicking out, razor slide, black eye shroud, brain bespattered, jaw retaliate begrudgingly…execute economic slave.”

Economic slave or not, the Skinny Puppies are not above exacting their pound of flesh from the U.S. government, which they have accused of stealing their music for immoral purposes.  

They are billing Uncle Sam the diabolical amount of $666,000 for blasting their music at inmates during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. 

A member of the Vancouver-based band said the group was disturbed to learn from a fan and former GITMO prison guard about how its music was being used.

Related: Will Obama Finally Close GITMO as Promised? 

"We never supported those types of scenarios," keyboardist cEvin Key said. "Because we make unsettling music, we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn't sit right with us.”

At first, the band planned to use an image of an invoice for the U.S. government as a design for its next album cover, but then they learned they could potentially bring a suit against the Department of Defense for using the music without permission.

"I am not only against the fact they're using our music to inflict damage on somebody else but they are doing it without anybody's permission," Key said in the interview. 

The Department of Defense told Politico that it had not received any such invoice, and a spokesperson said it wasn’t even clear how such “billing based on a hunch” might work. The spokesperson also said that the U.S. treats prisoners humanely. 

The use of loud music in detainee interrogations has been known for years and was most thoroughly exposed in a 2012 documentary by Al Jazeera, which found that prisoners in GITMO and Abu Ghraib were being subjected to loud music for prolonged periods of time. 

The music ranged from bands like Metallica and Nine Inch Nails to children’s songs from “Sesame Street.” According to the documentary, prisoners were strapped to chairs, with headphones attached to their ears, blasting loud music for hours or days on end. 

Related: Obama Renews Calls to Close GITMO 

Musicians from groups such as Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam and R.E.M, whose music has allegedly been used in interrogations, have supported efforts to close Guantanamo and learn more about what music was used as part of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” that critics and others have labeled torture.

The United Nations has classified the “sounding of loud music for prolonged periods” as a violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Clearly they’ve never been in the middle of a mosh pit to see the torture of the entire audience.

“We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice – to now learn that some of our friends’ music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific,” R.E.M. said in a 2009 statement. “It’s anti-American, period.”

The Pentagon, however, does not classify the tactic as torture and says, instead, that it’s used as a “disincentive.”

“It’s done in a measured way, in keeping with our obligation and commitment to treating detainees humanely,” DOD Spokesman Capt. John Kirby told Al Jazeera.  

A spokeswoman for the military’s Joint Task Force Guantánamo said in 2009 that loud music had not been used with prisoners since 2003.

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