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Hullabaloo


Sunday, March 09, 2014

 
Very young guys making these decisions ...

by digby

Why shouldn't they have to at least pay for the privilege?
The US Army's use of Metallica's oeuvre as a tool in its interrogations in Iraq is well documented, but it opted for something a little more esoteric in Guantanamo Bay, according to one Canadian industrial metal band.

"We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people," founder cEvin Key told the Phoenix New Times. "We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions."

While Metallica politely asked the US military to stop using their music for the sleep deprivation of detainees, Skinny Puppy took it one step further.

"So we thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the US government for musical services," Key added. "Thus the concept of the [band's new] record title, Weapons."

Despite the band's aggressive sound, they said they had never envisioned their music being used in such a way.

Asked how he felt about their songs allegedly being used in the detention camp, Key replied: "Not too good. We never supported those types of scenarios. … Because we make unsettling music, we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn’t sit right with us."
It shouldn't ... (And they're not the first to object.)

But music is used widely in the war zone too --- to pump up the soldiers and demoralize the enemy. And weirdly, it's often the same music they use to torture prisoners. I'm reminded of this article from 2004:
As tanks geared up to trample Fallujah and American troops started circling the city, special operations officers rifled through their CD cases, searching for a sound track to spur the assault.

What would irk Iraqi insurgents more: Barking dogs or bluegrass? Screaming babies or shrieking feedback?

Heavy metal. The Army's latest weapon.

AC/DC. Loud. Louder!

Let's roll.

I won't take no prisoners, won't spare no lives

Nobody's putting up a fight

I got my bell, I'm gonna take you to hell

I'm gonna get you . . .


While the tanks flattened Fallujah this month, Hell's Bells bombarded the town. Speakers as big as footlockers blared from Humvees' gun turrets. Boom boxes blasted off soldiers' backpacks. As the troops stormed closer, the music got louder. The song changed; the message remained the same.

I'm gonna take you down - down, down, down

So don't you fool around

I'm gonna pull it, pull it, pull the trigger

Shoot to thrill, play to kill . . .

Louder. Turn it up. LOUDER!

Never mind that Iraqis didn't understand the words.

"It's not the music so much as the sound," said Ben Abel, spokesman for the Army's psychological operations command at Fort Bragg, N.C. "It's like throwing a smoke bomb. The aim is to disorient and confuse the enemy to gain a tactical advantage."

I'm like evil, I get under your skin

Just like a bomb that's ready to blow

'Cause I'm illegal, I got everything

That all you women might need to know

Hour after hour. For days on end.


"If you can bother the enemy through the night, it degrades their ability to fight," Abel explained. "Western music is not the Iraqis' thing. So our guys have been getting really creative in finding sounds they think would make the enemy upset.

"These harassment missions work especially well in urban settings like Fallujah," he said. "The sounds just keep reverberating off the walls."
[...]
Kuehl teaches information operations at Fort McNair's National Defense University in Washington, D.C. His classes are part of the Army's psychological operations, or PSYOPS, programs. He shows soldiers how to exploit information to gain power, how to get inside the enemy's head, how mental manipulation helps win wars.

"Almost anything you do that demonstrates your omnipotence or lack of fear helps break the enemy down," Kuehl said. "You have to understand your target audience, what makes them tick. You have to know that the same message could be received differently by different audiences."

Sometimes that's good. Heavy metal that tortures Iraqis' ears also can help homesick Americans. For a 19-year-old Marine who has been coiled in a tent for weeks, ready to strike, Metallica's Enter Sandman might be more inspiring than any officer's pep talk.

Dreams of war, dreams of liars

Dreams of dragon's fire

and of things that will bite

Sleep with one eye open

Gripping your pillow tight . . .

"Our soldiers like this music," Kuehl said. "So that's what they're going to blast."

Sometimes, though, the songs might have an unintended effect. They might motivate the enemy instead of upsetting him.

You have to be sure, Kuehl said, that you know whose ears you're assaulting.

We are the world
[...]
"With the increasing globalization of the world, we know that some Iraqis do listen to American music, even heavy metal, on the Internet, the radio and TV," Kuehl said. "Even during the height of the Taliban, they could get Western music or videos."

Although some insurgents might have been reeling in horror at the Metallica attacks, or abandoning their fortresses to fight the frightful noise, others might have been fist-pumping at the familiar riffs, getting just as revved up as the Americans.

Hush little baby, don't say a word

Never mind that noise you heard

It's just the beasts under your bed

In your closet, in your head . . .


Military experts agree about the historic use of music to pump up the troops. But stories differ about the origins of its use as a weapon.

In December 1989, while Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega was holed up in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City, U.S. soldiers shot heavy metal music at his compound 'round the clock. Some say the songs were set off to muffle negotiations between the general and his adversaries - a "music barrier" against eavesdropping reporters.

Others say the music was played to perk up the Marines. That it annoyed the general was at first a bonus. Then a breakthrough.

"I always heard that some soldier got tired of listening to the same stuff, so he popped in an AC/DC tape and turned it up loud," said Abel, the Army spokesman at Fort Bragg. "Then Noriega commented that the rock 'n' roll was bothering him. Once the guys found that out, they cranked it up even more."

Led Zeppelin. Jimi Hendrix. "Anything weird or kind of strange," Abel said. "Howling laughter. Cackling cries."

Aaah aaah aaaaah ah! Aaah aaah aaaaah ah!

Come We come from the land of the ice and snow,

From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.

The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands . . .

"Since the Noriega incident, you've been seeing an increased use of loudspeakers," Abel said. "The Army has invested a lot of money into getting speakers that are smaller and more durable, so the men can carry them on their backs."

Under pressure, Abel estimated that 30 loudspeakers swooped into Fallujah this month - bolted to gun turrets, strapped to soldiers. Speakers on the Humvees can pump Metallica's sledgehammer riffs across miles, he said.

Exit, light

Enter, night

Take my hand

We're off to never-never land . . .


The Army doesn't issue an official list of songs to play during an attack, Abel said. "These guys have their own mini disc players, with their own music, plus hundreds of downloaded sounds. It's kind of a personal preference how they choose the songs," he said.

"We've got very young guys making these decisions."
That's reassuring, don't you think?







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