In episode 70 David talks to former soldier John Dowe whether the drug Mefloquine (see Episode 67’s interview with Dr. Remington Nevin) could have played a role in the so-called Somalia Affair. In 1993, the same year as the Battle of Mogadishu and Black Hawk Down, soldiers from the elite Canadian Airborne Regiment were also in a restless and violent part of Somalia. Frustrated with locals sneaking in to steal and sabotage, someone ordered them to start “roughing up” anyone they caught. One group of soldiers interpreted this as setting up a trap. When the searchlight was suddenly turned on the soldiers literally blew one Somali into pieces, and severely injured another. In a second incident, a Somali was captured and beaten to death by two other soldiers.
When photos were released, a public inquiry and criminal investigation were launched, resulting in one soldier trying to commit suicide, one being sentenced to five years, and several others disciplined. The head of the military was forced to resign due to the scandal, and his successor. The Minister of Defence also resigned. Most significantly of all the entire Canadian Airborne Regiment was disbanded.
John Dowe, like many others, has noticed severe personality changes after taking the weekly malaria drug Mefloquine, and he believes that this, along with other factors such as stress, alcohol, boredom and poor leadership, allowed this scandal to occur. In fact, when he walked into the bunker where the Somali was being beaten to death, one of the soldiers doing the beating came up to him and said that “This is not who I am, John”.