In one last desperate attempt to embarrass the president, Congress yesterday passed a remarkably foolish piece of legislation, one which they immediately backed away because of its inherent dangers. And although it’s almost always a safe bet to blame this sort of thing on the anti-Obama Republicans, the Democrats can share the dunce cap this time; in fact, theirs should be taller and have a propeller spinning at the top.
This new 9/11 law (JASTA—Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act) allows victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. Courts—or more specifically, “to file a civil suit against a sovereign nation.” We might as well sue Mars. The Saudi government already denied responsibility for or collusion in 9/11, and the U.S. has officially backed up that claim.
Believe me, I’m not in the least dismissing the pain and suffering of all the victims who lost spouses and children and parents and friends on that awful day—and I’m not sure how objective I would be were I one of them. But a law this harebrained is unlikely to accomplish anything positive for them or anyone else, other than those proffering legal advice: they may earn a buck or two. Worse, it threatens our servicemen and our national security, for other governments can effect similar legislation, not out of revenge, but out of self-preservation. America has thousands of servicemen overseas who could be hauled into court on the most frivolous charges by nations who wish to “sue America.”
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, an ardent supporter of this law, has already expressed concern for the the possibility of the United States being brought to another nation’s court for drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or even for our strong support of Israel. If that nation were to attack an enemy and inflict damage or death and it is later found that we assisted or even supplied weapons, are we liable to suits from the aggrieved victim?
Granted, it’s an election year, and denying anything to the victims of 9/11 is not going to garner any votes or any sympathy. Maybe the president knew that, and since he isn’t running for anything, felt confident in doing the right thing. And yes, all this may, in the end, be much ado about nothing; but to hear all the leaders of both parties scurrying around looking to make changes before the ink is even dry makes me think it’s more than nothing. Congress’s endless groveling for votes is never pleasant to behold, but usually it isn’t this embarrassing, or dangerous.