The Guardian reported that “Thirty-four U.S. soldiers have been diagnosed with concussion or traumatic brain injury from an 8 January Iranian missile attack on their base in Iraq, the Pentagon has revealed.” Injuries such as these show the insidious and subtle ways in which war ruins lives. Its destructive reach extends beyond the battlefield and continues when arms are laid down. These American servicemen represent the latest high-profile hidden casualties of war.
Trump downplayed the severity of the injuries according to the Guardian, he stated “I heard that they had headaches. And a couple of other things. But I would say, and I can report, it is not very serious.” This is both hugely insulting and foolish. Downplaying the severity of these forms of injuries leaves nations filled with mentally damaged veterans who face stigma over treatment for injuries purported to be minor. Michael Kaplen, the chair of the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council said, “to equate traumatic brain injuries as just a headache is insulting and disrespectful”.
If going to send our young men and women into war, the least we could do is respect and treat their injuries. Veterans group Veterans of Foreign Wars stated Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) was a “serious injury and one that cannot be taken lightly”. These forms of injury hamper rehabilitation and impact on the already sky-high suicide rate among veterans.
The L.A Times reports that “disability awards for PTSD have grown nearly fivefold over the last 13 years”. While this clearly indicates a growth of support, it also indicates a problem. The Military Times reports that “The total number of suicides among veterans has increased four of the last five years… Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than Americans who never served in the military”. There is a very real link between suicide and brain injury, as Reuters explains “People who have traumatic brain injuries may be nearly twice as likely to die by suicide”. These injuries have serious consequences for a section of society that is already vulnerable to suicide. The injuries Trump has downplayed exacerbate a epidemic killer of veterans.
These are people who have experienced the horrors of war, so it seems that we ought to be doing everything to ensure they can recover and reintegrate. Messages such as those espoused by Trump insult veterans and hide the cost of war. If we are going to war, we need to squarely face what it costs. Those 34 soldiers have been injured because of Trump’s decisions, he ought to have the courage to face the consequences of his warmongering.