Republicans Pass the Buck on 9/11 Lawsuits

The Republican-led Congress has again put politics before country in voting to allow citizens to file lawsuit against Saudi Arabia in connection with the 9/11 attacks, forcing President Obama to veto the bill.

In a sane political environment, this sort of bill would have earned at most a few votes, as lawmakers would have carefully reviewed it and, after weighing its ramifications, voted it down. And those ramifications would be severe.

At home:

Saudi Arabia has already said that if the laws were changed in order to allow 9/11 victims and their families to sue the country, they would act to protect their assets, which could mean the rapid sale of the over $750 billion in assets held in this country by the Kingdom. A “forced” liquidation like this would be painful enough on its own, but it could prompt other countries with significant exposures to U.S.-based assets to do the same. China owns more than $1.25 trillion of debt issued by the United States government, and might not feel comfortable that their rival and debtor is changing the rules of the game.


Even ignoring the real threat of a disorderly liquidation of Saudi assets in the U.S., and the perceived threat that other countries might follow the Saudi’s lead, the main threat about passing such a law wouldn’t be those liquidations, but other countries following in our footsteps and reversing their own sovereign immunity laws.

Think of every family of every Afghan or Iraqi civilian who has been killed as a result of the invasions of their two countries. Think of Syrian citizens who have been killed by U.S.-backed rebels. Think of Vietnam, whom President Nixon promised to make reparations to as condition for ending the Vietnam War, which they are still waiting for. The list of countries who have suffered atrocities by groups backed by the United States is a long one, which could expose us to lawsuits from potentially millions of people.

The common argument for allowing 9/11 victims to file suit against the Kingdom is that, since 15 of the 9/11 highjackers were Saudi, and Al Qaeda itself was founded by a Saudi, Osama bin Laden (as well as Ayman Al Zawahiri, an Egyptian), the Kingdom should be accountable for those attacks, without giving any reason beyond speculation as to why that should be the case.

No smoking gun

Previously, talk about suing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the 9/11 attacks centered first on obtaining the 28 “missing” pages from the 9/11 Commission’s report, which were assumed to contain the smoking gun, linking government of Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 attacks. One would have thought that such talk would have stopped once the Obama administration declassified those pages, which failed to show the evidence that people pushing for a lawsuit hoped for.


In a sane world, the Republican-led Congress would have recognized all of this, and rejected “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act“. Instead, they’re feeding meat to their base, passing legislation they would never pass if any one of them sat in the White House, for the sole purpose of making Obama look bad by having to veto it.

This is not how any country should be governed, let alone a leading world power.

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