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Tuesday, 3 July 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Documents reveal Pentagon censorship of military suicides, trauma in Hollywood

Tom Secker

A 2016 study found that 20 US veterans kill themselves every day. Department of Defence (DOD )statistics show that the suicide rate among veterans is around twice the rate in the non-military population. An analysisin 2017 said that a suicide attempt in a military unit makes other attempts more likely, and that 20% of all the suicides in the US are by military veterans.

These brutal statistics testify to the futility of our post-9/11 wars, as well as the horrors inflicted on those employed to fight these wars on the ground.

What has never previously been reported is the extent to which the Pentagon’s entertainment liaison offices manipulate and censor films, TV shows and documentaries to try to downplay or erase the widespread problem of military PTSD and suicide.

Among the stories we discovered while writing our book National Security Cinema is that there was a raging argument on the set of Iron Man between writer/director Jon Favreau and DOD Hollywood liaison Phil Strub. Strub refused to let Favreau include a line where a military character says that he knows people who would ‘kill themselves for the opportunities he has’. Though the line was changed, this scene did not appear in the finished film.

Using documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, along with files from a newly-opened archive in Georgetown, I investigated the Pentagon’s approach to projects that feature or reference military PTSD and suicide. I found that the DOD has repeatedly censored and refused to support films, TV shows and documentaries that feature military suicide, and tends to only support those projects that make it look like the DOD is solving the problem.

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