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Pentagon Stays Silent on Whether Suspect in Afghan Massacre Took Controversial Anti-Malaria Drug

Democracy Now!, March 27, 2012: As Staff. Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with murdering 17 Afghans, we speak with reporter Mark Benjamin, who revealed the Pentagon recently launched an emergency review of a controversial anti-malaria drug known to induce psychotic behavior. Mefloquine, also called Lariam, is used to protect soldiers from malaria, but has been known to have side effects including paranoia and hallucinations. It has been implicated in a number of suicides and homicides, including within U.S. military ranks. In 2009, the Army decreed that soldiers who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries should not be given the drug. But this month, just nine days after Bales’ shooting rampage, the Army issued an emergency decree calling for the review to be expedited. “The military announced that this drug should not be given to people who have brain problems like traumatic brain injuries,” Benjamin says. “What the military has discovered is that out on the battlefield, those rules aren’t being followed, and some soldiers who do have these kinds of problems are getting this drug.” The Pentagon says there’s no connection between its review of mefloquine and the murders, but it’s refused to confirm or deny whether Bales was given the drug. Benjamin reports for the Huffington Post that the Pentagon initially ordered the review of mefloquine in January.