As part of the continuing saga of the evolving "truth" behind American troop injuries as a result of the Jan.8 Iranian ballistic missile attack on Ain al-Asad Air Base in Iraq, which by the Pentagon's (seemingly weekly) changing count now remains at 109 soldiers diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), President Trump has weighed in on the controversy.
In an interview with Fox Business early this week, the president doubled down on the remarks he made last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, when he dismissed the injuries as mere "headaches" which ultimately were "not very serious". Anger among veterans groups has grown, given reported injuries went from 0 to 11 to 34 to 64 to over a hundred within only about a month. This has put the president a bit more in the hot seat over the dismissive remarks. He was pressed by Fox's Trish Regan, and Trump responded:
"I don't think [the Iranians] were looking to do too much damage, because they knew what the consequences were going to be," Trump said. "I saw the missiles. We saw them going... They landed in a way that they didn't hit anybody."
He said that in not ordering a military response from that point, he "stopped something that would have been very devastating for" the Iranians.
"And then a couple of weeks later I started hearing about people having to do with trauma," Trump said, addressing the evolving casualty count. "Head trauma - that exists. But, you know, I viewed it a little bit differently than most, and I won't be changing my mind on that."
The president was also likely directing his remarks against the direct criticism of The Veterans of Foreign Wars, which previously said in a statement that it "expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks."
Satellite photos of Ain al-Asad base do show extensive damage — casting the president's claim that the missiles "landed in a way that didn't hit anybody" into possible doubt, given also the Pentagon now lists 109 with Traumatic Brain Injury.
I’m not an Iran expert. But I am a military analyst. When I see the impact points of Iran’s strike on Asad air base, I don’t see purely symbolic strikes designed to avoid casualties, as some have speculated. The strikes appear to target the base’s military capability. pic.twitter.com/lx4nOTyrO4— Dara Massicot (@MassDara) January 8, 2020
It was later confirmed that many of the wounded had to be medevacked out of Iraq to Germany for treatment and observation, and some among those were taken back to the United States for continued observation.
The earliest word two days after the time the president gave the Davos remarks was that 17 were said to be under medical observation. But the Pentagon has kept mum in terms of updating how many of the expanded list of those with head injuries actually were treated or had to stay in a hospital.
At this point no matter how high the head injury count from the blasts from the Jan.8 attack rises, it doesn't appear that Trump will back down from his initial downplaying comments. It seems he essentially admitted in the Fox interview that if concealing the true numbers of wounded with TBI would prevent an escalation toward a major war, then it's worth it.