Pompeo declines to apologize for Trump’s downplaying of service members’ brain injuries

More than 100 US service members have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries in the wake of the Iranian missile attack on the al Asad military base in Iraq, according to a US official with knowledge of the latest information.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday declined to apologize on President Donald Trump’s behalf for his comments downplaying the seriousness of traumatic brain injuries suffered by US service members in a January Iranian missile attack on a military base in Iraq.

The heated exchange occurred during Pompeo’s two-hour hearing Friday on Iran before the House Armed Services Committee.

“Mr. Secretary, do you want to take the opportunity — it’s a yes or no question — do you want to take the opportunity here today to apologize to those service members for trivializing their injuries?” Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, asked.

Pompeo replied that he had never trivialized any injuries, so Sherman asked if he would like to apologize on behalf of the administration in which he serves.

In late January, Trump downplayed the severity of the injuries to US service members who were being treated for concussion symptoms from the Iranian attack as “headaches.”

“We take seriously every American service member’s life. It’s why we’ve taken the very policies in Iran that we have,” Pompeo said Friday.

The Pentagon and the President had initially said no service members were injured or killed in the Iranian missile attack, which was retaliation for the January 2 US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

About two weeks later, US Central Command said that 11 service members were treated for concussion symptoms from the attack.

That number of diagnosed cases continued to climb week after week. Concussions are not always apparent immediately after they’ve been suffered.

In early February, the Pentagon confirmed that more than 100 service members had been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries and that nearly 70% had returned to duty.

Approximately 200 people who were in the blast zone at the time of the attack were screened for symptoms.