US-Iran conflict: More than 30 Iran strike soldiers diagnosed with traumatic brain damage after Trump downplayed injuries
'I heard they had headaches. No, I don't consider them very serious injuries, relative to other injuries that I've seen', president said Wednesday
The Pentagon has announced that 34 US service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries resulting from the Iranian missile attack on US forces in Iraq earlier this month, in spite of Donald Trump's downplaying of the wounds as "headaches".
The strike came following Mr Trump's decision to kill Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, and the US said at the time that no American personnel were injured. Since then, Mr Trump has acknowledged that the Americans had been injured, but downplayed their significance.
According to the Pentagon, eight of the service members were flown to the US from Germany for treatment, nine are still receiving treatment in Germany, 16 were treated in Iraq and have returned to duty and one was treated in Kuwait before being returned to Iraq.
The report comes just days after Mr Trump dismissed the injuries during a press conference in Davos, Switzerland, saying that the whole affair was "not very serious".
"I heard they had headaches," Mr Trump said. "No, I don't consider them very serious injuries, relative to other injuries that I've seen."
Those comments were swiftly criticised from veterans' groups, and by many who noted that Mr Trump himself avoided the Vietnam War draft after receiving a medical diagnosis for bone spurs.
"Don't just be outraged by #PresidentMayhem's latest asinine comments," wrote Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, on Twitter. "Take action to help vets facing" traumatic brain injuries.
The delay in reporting the injuries has been explained by the Pentagon as a function of the difficulties facing diagnosis of traumatic brain injuries, which can take time to become apparent.
On Wednesday, defence secretary Mark Esper deflected questions about the severity of the potential injuries, saying "this is mostly outpatient stuff" when asked by reporters.
"I'm not a doctor, I'm not the one evaluating them. Those are calls that will be made by the medical professionals on hand making those examinations," he said.