Democracy Now! takes a look at ‘preventable’ deaths at Fort Carson

Tonight’s episode of Democracy Now! discusses the “unprecedented number of deaths” — both suicides and homicides — at Fort Carson in Colorado following an Army report that record numbers of soldiers took their own lives last year.

Host Amy Goodman interviews Salon national correspondent Mark Benjamin, who, with Denver-based freelancer Michael de Yoanna, wrote last week’s must-read investigative series, which “uncovers the habitual mistreatment behind the preventable deaths” in the military.

Watch the 12-minute Democracy Now! segment here.

Here’s a portion of what Benjamin said on the show:

What’s interesting is that when we looked at these deaths — and again, there’s a lot of focus on the suicides in the Army because, as you may have mentioned, there were more suicides, more soldiers died of suicide in the month of January 2009 than died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there’s also these murders going on as well.

When we talked to the Army, basically what they did is they gave us a list of initiatives that they are undertaking to prevent suicide: You know, hiring more counselors, putting together hot lines, putting out memos that are so that people get better diagnosed.

But when you go to a place like Fort Carson and you hang out on the base and you meet with the soldiers and you walk the barracks and you go to the hospital and so on and so forth, they just don’t seem to be happening. I mean, these — they look good on paper. You know, when I interviewed the Army, the initiatives that they list sound terrific. They’re just not happening out in the field.

And as a result, you know, an unknown number of soldiers are involved in violence, are not getting treatment, they’re self-medicating, and they’re acting out against themselves and against innocent people.

Benjamin tells the story of a soldier’s mother who was handed a can of paint when the Army threatened to charge her son with destruction of government property after he wrote a suicide note on the wall. She painted over the note, but the Army still charged her son, who survived his suicide attempt.

Democracy Now! airs at 5:30 p.m. on KBDI-TV, Channel 12, in Denver and on numerous radio stations and public access stations across the state. The Fort Carson segment starts about 40 minutes into the show.

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