WASHINGTON (AP) — At first, President Donald Trump stated inaccurately that no U.S. troops were injured in the Iranian missile attack against them in Iraq. Then he prematurely minimized those injuries as doctors tried to determine how severe they were.
On Friday, the Pentagon said that in fact, 34 troops suffered traumatic brain injuries in the attack and half remain under medical observation in Germany or back in the U.S. more than two weeks later.
TRUMP, Jan. 8: “Good morning. 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. We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.” — statement delivered the morning after the Iranian missile attack on bases hosting U.S. troops in Iraq.
TRUMP, Jan. 9, as if in dialogue with an aide after the Iranian attack: “I said how many? How many died? How many were wounded? Sir, none. None. Pretty good warning system. None. How many were hurt? None, sir. So we didn’t do anything.” — Toledo, Ohio, rally, a day before the first wounded troops were evacuated from Iraq.
TRUMP, Wednesday: “I heard they had headaches and a couple of other things … and I can report it is not very serious. … No, I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen. … No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries, no.” — press conference in Davos, Switzerland.
THE FACTS: Trump had no basis for stating this week — after medical evacuations of wounded troops — that the injuries that surfaced were in the realm of mere headaches. And in the immediate aftermath of the attack, his categorical statement that no one was hurt soon proved wrong.
It took several days for the Pentagon to understand it had casualties requiring further treatment. Meantime Trump declared all troops safe and unhurt as recently as the night before the first wounded soldiers were evacuated from Iraq for more treatment and screening than could be done there.
Altogether, of the 34 service members diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, 17 were evacuated from Iraq to U.S. medical facilities in Germany, where nine remain while eight others have been transported to the U.S. for further observation or treatment, said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
One American taken to Kuwait for treatment has returned to duty in Iraq as have the 16 who were also diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and did not leave Iraq, he said.
The effects of traumatic brain injury can vary from short-term harm to life-long debilitation or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2014 alone, traumatic brain injuries resulted in about 288,000 hospitalizations and were related to nearly 57,000 deaths in the U.S.
In playing down the injuries in his press conference Wednesday, Trump said he has seen much worse when visiting wounded troops: “people with no legs and with no arms.”
Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
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