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Former Guantanamo Psychiatrist Promotes Dubious Drug Theory On Afghan Killings

Intrepid reporter Jeffrey Kaye has written an important follow-up story on the media’s campaign to link the antimalarial drug mefloquine to the massacre in Afghanistan last month. Kaye’s findings:

A tag team of two contributors to Time Magazine’s Battleland blog have misrepresented the facts concerning the possibility that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales may have been under the influence of the controversial antimalarial drug mefloquine (also known as Lariam) when he allegedly killed 17 men, women and children in two villages outside Kandahar last March.

Using false information; faulty interpretation of documents and innuendo; and in one case, withholding key disclosures regarding their background, these authors took a serious issue – the dangerous psychiatric and neurotoxic effects of mefloquine on some people and the history of the use of this drug by the military – and twisted it to further an agenda that just happened to match US interests in limiting speculation about the Kandahar massacre to Bales.

One of the two authors, Mark Benjamin, who years ago had written a number of articles on mefloquine’s terrible side-effects, published his article on Bales and mefloquine at Huffington Post.

The other author, a former top Army psychiatrist, Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, has written three articles for Time’s Battleland that have strongly suggested Bales’ alleged crime was linked to mefloquine use. She recently also gave an interview on the topic to Nina Shapiro at Seattle Weekly.

Ritchie’s background in certain aspects is not well known and certainly is surprising, given the mefloquine issue. Currently, she is chief clinical offer for the District of Columbia’s Department of Mental Health. But back in 2002, she was a Lieutenant Colonel Ritchie, program director for mental health policy for the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and consultant on suicidal detainees at Guantanamo. Interestingly, this was at the same time all incoming detainees were forced to take large treatment doses of mefloquine, even as she likely had access to their medical records.

Read the rest of Kaye’s report at Truthout.