US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he did not consider the brain injuries suffered by 11 US service members in Iran’s recent attack on a base in Iraq to be serious, as the American military moved more troops out of the region for potential injuries.
“I heard they had headaches,” Trump said at a news conference in Davos, Switzerland. “No, I don’t consider them very serious injuries, relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.”
The comments of the president, who avoided the Vietnam War draft with a medical diagnosis of bone spurs, drew swift criticism from veterans’ groups.
“Don’t just be outraged by #PresidentMayhem’s latest asinine comments,” Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, wrote in a Twitter post. “Take action to help vets facing TBIs,” a reference to traumatic brain injury.
The deputy commander of the American-led military operation in Iraq said the Defense Department was putting the service members through medical examinations to see if the headaches and other complaints amounted to traumatic stress injuries. Some of the affected troops were mere feet away from where the Iranian missiles struck, although they were in protective bunkers, Defense Department officials said.
At a separate event earlier in the day, General Alex Grynkewich said that the number of service members being treated for possible TBIs is now “in the teens”—up from 11 who the Defense Department acknowledged last week had been transported out of the country to Landstuhl, Germany, and Kuwait for further evaluation. The facility in Iraq does not have MRI equipment.
Grynkewich denied that the White House or any other outside party directed the military to delay talking about the injuries, saying that “TBIs are very difficult to assess” and that commanders were not immediately aware that service members were showing such symptoms.
“In the wake of an attack you are looking for people with cuts and bruises, those sorts of things,” Grynkewich said. After conducting “follow-on assessments,” commanders decided “out of an abundance of caution” to apply concussion protocol, he said.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that no Americans were harmed in the Iranian missile strikes on Jan. 8, which came in retaliation for a US drone strike that martyred Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s top general. And Trump had said that outcome drove his decision not to retaliate further and risk a broader war with Iran.
Source: Foreign Policy