Thomas Gallatin / Sep. 27, 2016

Suing Saudi Arabia

Bipartisan support to override Obama’s veto is more political play than right decision.

After Barack Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), members of Congress were quick to respond in a surprisingly determined and bipartisan manner declaring that they would override the veto. Obama for his part made good on his threat to veto JASTA, suggesting that the law would only further unnerve an already shaky alliance with Saudi Arabia. JASTA would allow American families who have been directly affected by terrorism to sue state sponsors of terrorism for damages in federal court. There has been some debate as to just how much culpability the Saudi government bears in financing the 9/11 terrorists.

Obama defended his veto stating, “Removing sovereign immunity in U.S. courts from foreign governments that are not designated as state sponsors of terrorism, based solely on allegations that such foreign governments’ actions abroad had a connection to terrorism-related injuries on U.S. soil, threatens to undermine these longstanding principles that protect the United States, our forces, and our personnel.”

On Friday, Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, opposed overriding Obama’s veto. He wrote, “My primary concern is that this bill increases the risk posed to American military and intelligence personnel, diplomats and others serving our country around the world.” House Speaker Paul Ryan had a different concern, saying, “I worry about trial lawyers trying to get rich off of this. And I worry about precedent.” The European Union has also formally opposed the law.

It is undeniable that victims and the families of victims of terrorists are due justice. However, the primary question here concerns the means of obtaining that justice. Americans should be seeking to have justice accomplished through the means of our government, not to seek a way around the government via civil courts which will only muddy the waters for future international issues. With his disastrous foreign policy and routine abuse of power, Obama has rightfully earned the skepticism of conservatives. But as much trouble as we have believing it, he’s got a point here.

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