Trump faces pushback from veterans for minimizing troop head injuries

Trump said "no Americans were harmed" in a recent attack because he saw traumatic-brain injuries as "headaches." Many veterans aren't pleased.
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By Steve Benen

Following the recent Iranian missile strike, which targeted U.S. forces in Iraq, Donald Trump assured the public that "no Americans were harmed" in the attack. Weeks later, we learned that 34 U.S. servicemembers were diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injuries following the Iranian strike, and many of them were transported to out-of-theater hospitals for treatment.

Pressed for some kind of explanation, the president -- who has an unfortunate history in this area, despite his own controversial record avoiding military service -- 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 comments were not well received by some in the veterans' community. The Washington Post reported over the weekend:

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the oldest major U.S. veterans group, appears to be the first large veterans organization to publicly chastise the president for dismissing the injuries as "headaches" and "not very serious."

Trump "minimized these troops' injuries," VFW National Commander-in-Chief William "Doc" Schmitz said in a statement Friday, after a Pentagon announcement that the number of injured troops had risen to 34.

Schmitz added that the VFW "expects an apology from the president to our servicemen and women for his misguided remarks."

The Post also spoke to Jeremy Butler, chief executive of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who said traumatic brain injury is "the signature injury coming out of" those two conflicts. Butler added, "We were definitely troubled and disappointed to read and hear about the president's comments. I think an apology is the first step that's needed here."

There's no reason to assume we'll ever hear any expressions of presidential regret -- Trump hasn't apologized for other offensive rhetoric targeting American prisoners of war or Gold Star families -- and the Republican can take some comfort in the fact that his partisan allies remain eager to cover for him.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton defended President Trump for saying soldiers who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq had "headaches," arguing the president was simply "describing" their injuries.

"He's not dismissing their injuries. He's describing their injuries," said the Arkansas senator, an Army veteran who served in Iraq. "If they are, in fact, if all these injuries are not serious, if they're all on the less serious side of the scale than the severe traumatic side of the scale, the president is just describing what happened there. He was not dismissing them."

I guess from the far-right senator's perspective, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are just too sensitive?

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