Sometimes there is a disconnect between the brain and the heart, and while we may feel that one thing is the proper course, the brain reminds us that it just is not so. This post is about one such situation.
At issue is S.1535, Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), passed in the Senate yesterday and now headed to the House of Representatives as H.R.3143, that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. First, the rationale behind JASTA: 15 of the 19 hijackers of the 9/11 attacks were Saudis. Part of the job of the 9/11 commission in 2002 was to investigate how the hijackers were able to operate without alerting U.S. intelligence agencies. Though the commission’s report was released in 2004, some information was classified and remains so today, including 28 pages pertaining to the Saudi government’s involvement. Recently there has been a major push to declassify and release this information which could, if JASTA becomes law, result in private lawsuits filed in the U.S. courts against the government of Saudi Arabia.
Senators John Cornyn and Chuck Schumer introduced the legislation in 2013 and it enjoys bi-partisan support, though last month Senator Lindsey Graham temporarily blocked it based on concerns that it could backfire on the U.S. Their stated purpose with this bill is to send a message to all nations that they can and will pay a price if they harbor terrorists or in any way aid terrorism, and to afford justice to 9/11 victims. While many see this as a positive move, I see more harm than good that could come as a result of its passage into law.
President Obama has said he will veto the bill should it pass the House. The ramifications of this act becoming law could be widespread and have the potential for an economic domino effect. The Saudis hold hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. assets and have indicated that they would sell up to $750 billion in U.S. Treasury securities if the law were to pass. To do so would cause a severe blow to the U.S. economy, the Saudi economy, and would have the potential to de-stabilize the world economy.
Saudi Arabia is our ally and this legislation, if passed, would undoubtedly alienate Saudi Arabia and undermine a longstanding, albeit strained relationship with a critical U.S. ally in the Middle East. Additionally, Senator Graham’s concern is the possibility that it could open the door for foreigners to sue the U.S. government, accusing Washington of supporting terrorism. Senator Schumer disagrees with that argument, saying “We’re not busy training people to blow up buildings and kill innocent civilians in other countries.” I mostly agree with him, but … I would not want to see that door opened, especially in light of Trump’s claim that he will bomb terrorists and kill their families which, in itself, could easily be considered an act of terrorism.
The Senate unanimously passed the S.1535 yesterday. Senators Schumer and Cornyn are talking to leaders of both parties in the House in hopes of expediting the vote there. Paul Ryan has expressed concerns, surprisingly, as that puts him on the same side as President Obama on this one. If H.R.3143 passes but the president vetoes it, as he has said he will, Schumer and Cornyn believe they can muster enough votes in the Senate to override the veto.
In the end, even if this bill becomes law, it is likely to accomplish very little and potentially cause many more problems. The idea that it will provide justice to the victims of 9/11 and their families is ludicrous. I cannot see that anybody will derive any satisfaction from suing a foreign government for their failure to take proper counter-terrorism measures 15 years ago. The likelihood of monetary compensation is slim to none, and what good is it anyway … you cannot replace human life with cash. As far as sending a message goes … other nations in the Middle East will simply laugh at the notion. In short, what seemed like a good idea to the heart, does not seem like much of one to the brain. At least that is Filosofa’s Word.