Obama Fears Backlash from Saudi 9/11 Bill — So What?

Congress delivers for 9/11 families. Photo credit: Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.
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Only an idiot would sign an order triggering a process that ends up with them in court. President Barack Obama is not an idiot and that is why he vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

The legislation, which allows victims of terror attacks on US soil to sue foreign governments, was very popular in Congress where lawmakers did not want to seem unpatriotic ahead of the election. That is why, to Obama’s great disappointment and consternation, Congress overrode the veto — and immediately showed buyer’s remorse.

Specifically, its purpose is as follows:

The purpose of this Act is to provide civil litigants with the broadest possible basis, consistent with the Constitution of the United States, to seek relief against persons, entities, and foreign countries, wherever acting and wherever they may be found, that have provided material support, directly or indirectly, to foreign organizations or persons that engage in terrorist activities against the United States.

What the legislators had apparently not considered, even though it was Obama’s main argument for not supporting the bill, were the unintended consequences of JASTA. Sure, allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia sounded like a great idea to lawmakers running for reelection.

Yet the law will also open up the United States, its military and intelligence services to the same kind of action abroad. That is something Obama wanted to avoid at all costs — and why the White House called the veto override the “single most embarrassing thing” the Senate has done in decades.

But why? Shouldn’t the United States conduct itself in a way that would prevent it from getting sued abroad? The president, who has access to more intelligence than anybody else, clearly didn’t think so.

If JASTA allows Saudi Arabia to be sued for whatever level of complicity in the 9/11 attacks a US court finds sufficient evidence of, just imagine what the United States government can be taken to court for.

There is already talk of Vietnam War veterans being particularly vulnerable to lawsuits. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Could Pakistanis whose wedding got blown up by a drone take Obama to court? Can one of the many torture victims sue to get the names of their guards, torturers, etc. and then seek compensation from them? Or what about GITMO prisoners who were released without ever being charged? Finally, what about any citizen of a country that was plunged into turmoil as a result of CIA actions?

Maybe an easier challenge would be to figure out who couldn’t sue the United States once this precedent has been established.

But we ask again: Would that really be such a bad thing, especially going forward? It could serve as a deterrent and maybe the United States, as well as the other big players on the world stage, would think twice about intervening in the affairs of other countries if the threat of personal accountability would hang over their heads.

The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images:  Mitch McConnell (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Paul Ryan (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Barack Obama (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), George W. Bush (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), Oval Office (White House / Wikimedia).

Related front page panorama photo credit: WhoWhatWhy

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26 responses to “Obama Fears Backlash from Saudi 9/11 Bill — So What?”

  1. SomeoneWatching says:

    Well, now what? I think his reaching out – aggressively – to Russia is a clear signal that he wants to shake things up in the foreign policy area. I don’t think he wants to bomb the hell out of people though.

  2. punkyboy says:

    Iraq is already onboard to sue US over misdirected 9/11 “war on terror.”

  3. (Comment by reader @koracincarol) POTUS is an intelligent man. no reason to veto this bill if it wasn’t the right thing to do. House & Senate should do their homework

  4. 0040 says:

    The purpose of this “legislation” is to generate bribes from our erstwhile allies to our senators, and Obama men who always “need” more money . This bill will never become law.

    • notlurking says:

      Hey fella it has indeed become law…..

    • 0040 says:

      A law that will never be enforced. Moneys will change hands and this baby will suffocated in the cloak rooms of congress/senate as many US laws are.

    • notlurking says:

      mmm…..so you admit it has become law……lol……

    • 0040 says:

      I believe it was vetoed by Obama.

    • notlurking says:

      You are right it was vetoed by the president, but there was enough votes in the senate and congress to override…….the sequence of the bill….Introduced–Passed Senate–Passed House–To President-Vetoed by President–Passed over veto…..bill is law of the land….

    • 0040 says:

      It will never be enforced unless the congress decides that Russia was responsible for the nuclear attack on Japan or 9/11, then maybe.

  5. EmT says:

    Obama put up a fight for symbolic reasons only. This law is no threat to anyone, especially the Saudis. I heard an astounding fact last week, that less than 2% of civil cases in the US are now heard by juries. The judiciary are so politicized that the chances of them allowing a case against the Saudis to proceed is highly unlikely. What the bluster is about is the potential embarrassment the media attention would bring (and it is only potential, because of media manipulations.) ICC litigators have tried to get cases against Bush, Cheney and Blair for years without success, and is it really realistic to think that any single country would try to take on Washington in the courts? Most states have put up huge barriers against class action cases, making them all but impossible. Washington and Westminster aren’t in any way worried about anything except PR and they are masters at spin, as we know. Riyadh doesn’t give much of a **** about PR anyway. So this media banter is all about making the low ranking military and police vets feel happy about the White House arguing for an obvious obstruction of justice. Notice how they keep ramming home that ordinary soldiers would be held accountable. Trick-le down blame. Works like a charm.

    • SadinWA says:

      The latter is absolutely true. The ruling class direct things to happen and the low level employees carrying out the orders, hang. Did you see Mr. Pagliano show up to the Congressional hearings? Hell, no. Poor soul likes to breathe.

  6. Judyz says:

    I hate to be a spoiler here, but President Obama strongly favors the TPP and the other free trade deals that have opened us up to lawsuits by corporations. Right now we’re being sued, not in any US court but through ISDS stacked with 3 corporate lawyers. He’s not worried about corporations suing us, just people whose family members we’ve murdered. Personally I think this is a good thing. We need to disentangle ourselves from the Saudis who are funding terrorists. Only reason we’re allied with them is their oil. Let’s work harder to get ourselves off the damned oil then we can stop the damned wars which let’s face it are all about oil and not any thing otherwise these days, unless they’ve really disconnected themselves from what’s happening on this planet. Oil corporations and defense contractors are fueling the wars because it keeps the money rolling in.

    • SadinWA says:

      This won’t happen. The oil dollar is too huge to the 200 or so families that control the vast majority of the world’s wealth. Ford is going to suffocate because of impossible ‘green’ standards imposed upon them ON TOP OF other, contradictory orders for build-out. That means more loss of jobs here, but you can bet we will get no further in our ‘freedom’ from foreign oil. But who cares? 9 million more people are on foodstamps in the last 8 years. Since the goal is to create a serf class, more people need to depend upon the Fed, anyway.

  7. logicrules says:

    They are mad at Obama because he didn’t explain the bill they wanted to rush through to them.

  8. whatwaysup says:

    Speaker Daniel Sheehan, a public interest attorney renowned for litigating several high-profile cases involving various state crimes against democracy, offers real insights into the barriers coming to any legal challenge to the creatioNIST ‘thermal expansion’ agnotology.

  9. CommonCents says:

    Obama & Hillary could not even negotiate a ” Status of forces” agreement with the wimpy new Iraqi government! He just wanted to bail anyway.

    • KarenJ says:

      While those negotiations were going on, possibly for years, that would leave American forces in Iraq vulnerable to imprisonment, trial and punishment. Another can of worms best not opened.

  10. empiricist2 says:

    My first thought was that the Saudis would come back and implicate certain people in the US (possibly at very high levels) for 9/11 by providing CIA jetliners for training, access to the towers for planting demolitions (bldg. 7 the most obvious one), military exercise schedules, airport access, etc It was clearly intended to get us into the war on terror business.

  11. James says:

    Great article. What are they so afraid of if we are doing the right thing?
    Lots of Agent Orange victims out there btw.

  12. CommonCents says:

    Since when does Obama worry about unintended consequences? Certainly not when he prematurely pulled too many troops out of Iraq and let instability and ISIS flourish. Looks like he never took a history class and considered why we have maintained a presence in Germany & Japan to keep the peace since world War II. That let Europe and Japan rebuild from total deviation in just a couple of decades.

    • James says:

      70 years is a long time to be Germany and Japan and South Korea’s occupying military, no? Hell 15 year occupation in Afghanistan is long enough.
      ISIS and other mercenaries (funny how Al Qaeda morphed like that…) have more to do with covert funding and arming than US troop levels imho. We’ve been using these “rebel” groups for a long time. Afghanistan, check. Iraq, check. Libya, check. Syria…

    • disillusionist says:

      George W. Bush decided on the withdrawal date from Iraq and signed an agreement to do so, not president Obama.

    • Mr D says:

      I love how you lot just switch accountability to the people you don’t like. Bush was responsible for that, not Obama.

  13. SomeoneWatching says:

    My conclusion, after many years of researching the “deep state”, is that they consider themselves absolutely above the law – and Obama’s veto proves he intended to keep things that way.

    So, if the threat of lawsuits makes the US obey foreign laws, that’s definitely a good thing.

    • KarenJ says:

      Sure, going forward, that’s a good thing – unless our next president is courtesy of the 45% of Americans who foolishly think Donald Trump is a leader who obeys laws, domestic and foreign, and doesn’t fly off the handle at perceived slights.

      We’d have more than enough problems with potential lawsuits from past US foreign incursions through the past 5 presidencies at least. Trump makes it exponentially worse.