Home / General / TruthOut: Gitmo Detainees Received “Pharmacological Water-boarding”

TruthOut: Gitmo Detainees Received “Pharmacological Water-boarding”


While the world continues to scour over the gossip goldmine that is CableGate, here is a genuinely important and disturbing story about DOD behavior in Guantanamo that just surfaced (through normal investigative reporting):

The Defense Department forced all “war on terror” detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison to take a high dosage of a controversial antimalarial drug, mefloquine, an act that an Army public health physician called “pharmacologic waterboarding.”

The US military administered the drug despite Pentagon knowledge that mefloquine caused severe neuropsychiatric side effects, including suicidal thoughts, hallucinations and anxiety. The drug was used on the prisoners whether they had malaria or not.

The revelation, which has not been previously reported, was buried in documents publicly released by the Defense Department (DoD) two years ago as part of the government’s investigation into the June 2006 deaths of three Guantanamo detainees.

Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, who was stationed at Guantanamo at the time of the suicides in 2006, and has presented evidence that demonstrates the three detainees could not have died by hanging themselves, noticed in the detainees’ medical files that they were given mefloquine. Hickman has been investigating the circumstances behind the detainees’ deaths for nearly four years.

TruthOut has the entire expose. It’s possible they’re overreaching and that this is a case of gross malpractice rather than intentional psychological torture. Many of the claims to the contrary are somewhat speculative, and unlike other forms of torture that the US acknowledged and carefully regulated under the euphemism ‘enhanced interrogation,’ DOD officials apparently are claiming this was all done in the inmates’ health interests. On the other hand, the questions raised here are serious enough that the Obama Administration ought to authorize an investigation to determine what was actually going on, and in the words of our former President, “I wouldn’t put it past ’em.”

I would also hope this story generates some serious attention to “>militaries’ use of psychotropic drugs, not only on detainees but also as a method of warfare. It is an area in which international humanitarian law has few or no specific regulations I am aware of (though this particular case might be considered torture under US law and if evidence surfaces that the government was keeping records of the adverse effects of the drugs, it could be considered a violation of rules against biological experiments on inmates). High time to take neurological as well as physical suffering seriously.

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