Despite Trump's rhetoric, more troops diagnosed with brain injuries

Trump recently assured the public that "no Americans were harmed" in the Iranian missile attack. With each passing week, the claim looks worse.
Image: U.S. President Donald Trump greets members of the military as he arrives at Raleigh County Memorial Airport in Beaver, West Virginia, U.S.
U.S. President Donald Trump greets members of the military at Raleigh County Memorial Airport in Beaver, West Virginia, U.S., July 24, 2017.CARLOS BARRIA / Reuters
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By Steve Benen

Earlier this month, following an Iranian missile strike, Donald Trump assured the public that "no Americans were harmed" in the attack. A week later, the administration clarified that 11 U.S. servicemembers had been transported to two hospitals for treatment for brain injuries.

Soon after, that number was revised, climbing from 11 to 34. Yesterday, it was revised again, from 34 to 50.

A total of 50 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injury from this month's Iranian missile attack on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops, the Defense Department said Tuesday.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can include concussions. Of the 50 patients, 31 were treated in Iraq and have returned to duty, Army Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement.

NBC News' report added that Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson, explained that a lot of TBI symptoms develop late and manifest themselves over time.

As for Trump's "no Americans were harmed" assertion, the president -- who has an unfortunate history in this area, despite his own controversial record avoiding military service -- was recently pressed for some kind of explanation. The Republican told reporters that he'd heard that some of the servicemen and women had experienced "headaches," but he didn't "consider them very serious injuries."

The Veterans of Foreign Wars denounced Trump's dismissive attitude toward the troops' brain injuries and called for a presidential apology. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America soon followed with a similar message of its own.

To date, Trump has expressed no regrets for his reaction.

New York's Eric Levitz, meanwhile, did a nice job summarizing the larger political context, wondering what the public might expect to see under different partisan circumstances.

The president may have dismissed American troops’ potentially incurable brain injuries as mere “headaches” out of a narcissistic refusal to concede that his Iran policy had had any ill effects. But, to the extent that Trump’s willful ignorance about the seriousness of concussions has kept him from igniting another cycle of needless violence, it is probably for the best.

On the other hand, it is hard not to think about what would have happened to Barack Obama, had he dismissed the wounds of U.S. soldiers as not “very serious injuries, relative to other injuries that I’ve seen,” or to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had she referred to a potential Iranian attack on U.S. installations in the Middle East as “a little noise.”

That strikes me as more than fair.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog