The Senate passed a bill this week that would let families of 9/11 victims sue the Saudi Arabian government, a measure opposed by President Obama and (of course) the Saudi government. For once, Senate Democrats are on the opposite side of the Obama administration, which has insisted that such legislation would harm the U.S.’s own claims to sovereign immunity.
Critics say America has nothing to worry about. “We’re not busy training people to blow up buildings and kill innocent civilians in other countries,” said Senator Chuck Schumer.
The bill comes as Obama contemplates releasing 28 pages of redacted content from the 9/11 commission report. Many say the missing pages show that the Saudi royal family was in contact with the hijackers while they were inside the U.S. Perhaps they even funded them. Some have said the compromised names are outside the actual Saudi government, but that’s a distinction that matters little. Over there, the lines between the public and private sectors are virtually nonexistent.
Sen. John Cornyn said the bill would tell the world that the U.S. “will combat terrorism with every tool we have available, and that the victims of terrorist attacks in our country should have every means at their disposal to seek justice.”
After the bill passed, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest downplayed expectations. “Given the concerns that we’ve expressed, it’s difficult to imagine the president signing this legislation,” Earnest said.
Sen. Schumer said that he believed there was enough support for the bill in the Senate to override Obama’s veto.
At the very least, we’re getting to the point where some longstanding myths about Saudi Arabia are being re-examined. The Saud’s are important strategic allies in the Middle East, to be sure, but we have ignored for too long the brand of Islam that has its origins in that country. This is the home of Wahhabism, a fundamental interpretation of Islam not much different from the brand followed by the Islamic State. We may have winked too soon at the fact that so many of the hijackers came out of Saudi Arabia.
Where fundamentalist Islam prospers, the seeds of distrust will grow. There should never come a time that we protect a terrorist state because it’s geopolitically convenient.