SHOULD U. S. CITIZENS BE ABLE TO SUE SAUDI ARABIA?

The “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” is expected to reach the Senate Floor very soon.  It has considerable bipartisan support, and was easily approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  President Barack Obama, however, has vowed to Veto it.

On September 11, 2001, of the 19 terrorists who flew airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the one that was brought down by passengers in a Pennsylvania field, fifteen were from Saudi Arabia.  This legislation, commonly referred to as the “Saudi Bill”, would enable interested U. S. persons to sue nations that finance terrorism for restitution against those foreign governments.

It is important to note that, along somewhat similar lines, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that families of U. S. servicemen may make claims of nearly two billion dollars (cumulatively) from seized assets of the Government of Iran for the 241 servicemen who were killed in the Beirut Marine barracks, in 1983.  Iran is a known financier of terrorism, and more specifically, provides backing to both Hamas and Hezbollah.  How does the bombing in Beirut compare, or differ, from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and other targets on 9/11?

The Marine barracks bombing had been traced to Hezbollah and, indirectly to Iran, which backs it. Although Saudi Arabia, by embracing Wahhabism, perhaps the most ultra conservative movement within Sunni Islam, might have established the environment for terrorism, that doesn’t necessarily indicate that Saudi Arabia itself was directly complicit in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

President Obama warned that, by enabling U. S. citizens to sue foreign governments directly for offenses carried out by their citizens might, in turn, result in citizens of other countries suing the U. S. Government. These issues have been raised, time and again, after American forces and contractors have committed various atrocities, and even military actions that have caused death and destruction among civilians in countries our military was fighting in.  Such a scenario might just cause any sort of foreign affairs dialogue to become meaningless.

As always, during a Presidential Election year, there is the possibility that the so-called Saudi Bill might lead to some form of political pandering; but, given the bipartisan support, that certainly does’t appear to be the case.   The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, well-intentioned though it might be, fails to differentiate between nations that are known benefactors of terrorism, and those that are not.  Under our Rule of Law, there is a big difference!

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