For the third time since Donald Trump announced that United States troops suffered no casualties in the January 8 Iranian rocket attacks on bases used by the American military in Iraq, the Pentagon has revised the number of service members who did, in fact, suffer traumatic brain injuries. According to a CNN report, the Defense Department now says that 16 more U.S. troops were diagnosed with such a condition in the attack, with many still being treated for those injuries nearly three weeks later.
Iran launched the rocket assault in retaliation for the Trump-ordered killing of top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani on January 3. The general, believed to be the mastermind of the country's strategy of waging proxy wars through affiliated militia groups in the Middle East, was slain in a U.S. drone strike.
Only last Thursday, the Pentagon said that 34 troops had suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in the Iranian ballistic missile strikes. That number was up from the 11 announced on January 16, or eight days after the attacks.
But according to the new report by CNN, the Defense Department issued a statement on Tuesday revising last week's total of TBIs to 50 "as of today," according to military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell. Of those, 31 have returned to active duty, while 19 remain in treatment at various locations for their condition.
The total of 50 injured soldiers might not even be the final tally, according to the Pentagon statement. CNN cited Defense Department officials who said that the count may increase again at some point. About 200 U.S. troops who were in the "blast zone" when the Iranian rockets hit have already been screened for symptoms of traumatic brain injuries.
When he was asked about the soldiers' condition last week, the president told reporters that he did not consider them to be serious, comparing the TBI symptoms to "headaches."
But according to retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, writing in a CNN op-ed, such symptoms can lead to "brain cell atrophy, accelerated age-related neurological degeneration, development of PTSD, Parkinsons and Alzheimer's disease."
In some cases, TBI symptoms can cause suicidal thoughts among troops affected by the injuries.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, a national veterans organization, has demanded that Trump apologize for comparing TBI to "headaches." National Commander William "Doc" Schmitz called on the president to help the Veterans of Foreign Wars in educating Americans of the "dangers TBI has on these heroes as they protect our great nation," as quoted by CNN.