These AC/DC Songs Have Been Used For Torture

When AC/DC first materialized in 1973, it is unlikely that any of its members could have predicted that their music would be used as a tool of psychological torture. Yet from the early 1990s onward that is exactly what happened. One of the first documented cases of this came during the U.S. invasion of Panama, also known as "Operation Just Cause." 

According to History, by the late 1980s Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega's relationship with the U.S. had crumbled due to his illegal activities involving money laundering, drug-trafficking, and working as a double agent. The U.S. indicted Noriega on charges stemming from the allegations, but he did not give up quietly. Instead, he "annulled" an election that would have ousted him as Panama's president. 

Noriega had not officially declared war, but then-president George H. Bush argued that the hostility shown by the Panamanian Self Defense Force to U.S. military and civilians was so extreme that it (among other things) constituted a de-facto declaration of war, per The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA).

The subsequent conflict lasted around a month between December of 1989 and January of 1990, and toward the end, Noriega sought refuge in the Vatican's embassy. Legally unable to remove him, U.S. forces chose to make his stay as unbearable as possible by playing loud music from various rock bands, thus violating a UN policy against playing loud music as part of an interrogation — something Amnesty International considers a type of torture per the BBC

Hell's Bells was used to break resolve

AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" was one of the songs used to blast out the dictator, according to Metalhead Zone. The National Security Archive reports that "You Shook Me All Night Long" was another. Noriega only lasted three days before he surrendered himself, per The Vintage News.

The justifications for Operation Just Cause were in many ways considered a precursor to the much larger Gulf War in 1991 and invasion of Iraq in 2003 according to NACLA. When the latter conflict came, the song "Hell's Bells" continued to be a part of the U.S. arsenal. In 2004 the song bounced off of the walls of Fallujah and into the ears of Iraqi insurgents with the intended effect of disorienting them, the St. Petersburg Times reported (via the Killeen Daily Herald). 

Combatants who were captured alive by the U.S. were not necessarily guaranteed a reprieve however. At interrogation sites and prisons like Guantanamo Bay, that song and others including AC/DC's "Shoot to Thrill" were among the implements used to acquire information from inmates, The Guardian reported. This militant and non-consensual use of their art has not gone unnoticed by the band, whose members have openly condemned the practice.