Home/Daniel Larison/Report: 34 U.S. Troops Were Injured by Ballistic Missile Attack

Report: 34 U.S. Troops Were Injured by Ballistic Missile Attack

President Donald J. Trump speaks with reporters during a briefing with military leadership members Wednesday, December 26, 2018, at the Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The Pentagon has said that 34 troops suffered brain injuries in the ballistic missile attack on Al-Asad air base two weeks ago:

The Pentagon said Friday that 34 U.S. service members were diagnosed with varying degrees of brain injuries after the Iranian ballistic missile attack in Iraq this month, upping the number of service members understood to be injured by explosions.

The issue has proven controversial because President Trump said the morning after the attack that no U.S. troops were harmed in the Jan. 8 attack, launched in retaliation for the United States killing Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad. Defense officials have said the injury information was not relayed to Washington until after the fact because no service members suffered loss of life, limb or eyesight.

Whether the president learned of these injuries later on or not, he has made a point of minimizing their significance in recent days. Two days ago, he dismissed the injuries as “headaches,” which is a hell of a cavalier way to describe brain injuries. At best, he has misled the public about the number and seriousness of the injuries even after he learned about them. That would be bad enough by itself, but the president is responsible for much more than that.

There are some other important points to take away from this latest report. First, the Iranian retaliatory strike in response to the Soleimani assassination was much more serious than the government originally told us. The administration wants us to think that the costs of their recklessness are lower than they are. We are extremely lucky that no one was killed in the attack, but it should still outrage us that these troops were put at risk in this way. These troops suffered these injuries as a result of a reckless and illegal decision that the president made.

Half of the injured troops were badly hurt enough to require additional medical care in Germany or here in the U.S.:

Eight service members who were removed from Iraq for additional treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany have returned to the United States for more medical care, while nine other service members remain in Germany, Hoffman said. The remaining 17 who were diagnosed with concussions, a mild form of TBI, have been returned to duty, he said.

Deciding to use force against another government is a grave matter, and it should never be done capriciously or simply because the president feels like doing it. All of the evidence available to date shows that the president broke the law by ordering the assassination, he did it for the wrong reasons, and almost three dozen Americans were hurt as a result. Since then, the president has tried to minimize and trivialize these injuries as much as possible. Adam Mount summed it up best:

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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