Not just 'headaches': 34 US troops diagnosed with brain injuries

Trump made a lot of untrue claims about the Iranian missile strike, but it's the "no Americans were harmed" line that he should most regret.
President Trump Delivers Statement On Iranian Missile Attacks On U.S.-Iraqi Bases
President Donald Trump speaks about the situation in Iran after an airstrike on Jan. 8, 2020.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file
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By Steve Benen

Two weeks ago, in retaliation for the U.S. airstrike that killed Gen. Qassim Soleimani, Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi air bases housing U.S. forces. As we've discussed, the next morning, Donald Trump delivered a strange speech, littered with unnecessary falsehoods, though the president stressed an important bottom line.

"I'm pleased to inform you, the American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime," Trump said near the outset of his remarks. "We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases."

It now seems obvious those claims weren't true. NBC News reported last week that 11 service members were transported to two hospitals for treatment for concussions following the strike. As of today, that number has tripled.

Thirty-four U.S. service members were diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injuries following Iranian airstrikes on the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq earlier this month, the Pentagon's chief spokesman said Friday. [...]

Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon spokesman, confirmed on Friday that eight of the U.S. service members who received diagnoses were transported to a hospital in Germany and then taken back to the U.S., where they will receive treatment at the Walter Reed Medical Center. He said another nine were still in Germany.

Sixteen of the service members who were diagnosed with brain injuries were back on active duty in Iraq, and one person was taken to Kuwait, Hoffman told reporters.

As it turns out, we know why the president boasted that "no Americans were harmed" when, in reality, some Americans were harmed: Trump told reporters this week that he'd heard that some of the servicemen and women had experienced "headaches," but he added, "I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I've seen."

Just so we're all clear, there's a qualitative difference between troops with "headaches" and troops who require hospitalization for brain injuries in the wake of a missile attack. Indeed, the U.S. military has a very specific message to troops who suffer brain injuries, and the president managed to completely contradict that message with his careless remarks.

Complicating matters, this wasn't the first time Trump made unfortunate comments about American troops with injuries. A month before Election Day in 2016, the then-candidate said "strong" servicemen and women "can handle" combat without suffering from PTSD or needing mental-health treatment.

Trump, in case anyone's forgotten, avoided military service during the Vietnam War, though he said he “felt” like he’d served in the military because his parents sent him to a military-themed boarding school as a teenager. The Republican went so far as to boast that his expensive prep school gave him “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”

MORE: Today's Maddowblog