By Laura Wood
On Sept. 28 another historical moment occurred during President Obama’s term. For the first time, Congress voted to override President Obama’s veto. The legislation that President Obama vetoed would allow families that were victim to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to sue the country of Saudi Arabia for its alleged involvement.
President Obama vetoed the bill under the belief that it would put U.S. military and officials at risk overseas. The broad wording of the bill additionally puts the U.S. in a position where they can be brought into lawsuits in foreign courts, which several Congress members and have vowed to remove from the bill later on.
Despite these potential negative consequences, Congress still chose to override the President’s veto believing that the victims of the 9/11 attacks had a right to pursue justice against Saudi Arabia.
Of the 19 men involved in the attacks, 15 were Saudi nationals, however Saudi Arabia denies giving any support to the terrorists. A U.S. investigation further concluded that the Saudi Arabian government was not funding the terrorist group that claimed responsibility, al-Qaida.
Only days after this legislation was enacted, the court case DeSimone v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia began. Stephanie Ross DeSimone, who is suing Saudi Arabia for wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress for her husband’s death in the attacks, is arguing that Saudi Arabia provided support to al-Qaida.
A United States Congress member, in response to Saudi Arabia’s request that this bill not be passed, stated that the kingdom should have “nothing to worry about” if the country truly had no involvement.
It is likely that as the United States’ citizens pursue justice for terrorist attacks on home soil, other countries will follow suit by bringing the U.S. to justice. Congress plans on re-writing the bill before countries, such as Syria and Pakistan, can file lawsuits for U.S. drone strikes that have caused tragedy on their soil. In a statement to CNN, President Obama said, “The concern that I’ve had has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia per se or my sympathy for 9/11 families, it has to do with me not wanting a situation in which we’re suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we’re doing all around the world, and suddenly finding ourselves subject to the private lawsuits in courts.”
Although some members of Congress showed concern over the bill’s wording, they still voted to override President Obama’s veto.
There is speculation that this may be because of upcoming elections and these Congress members not wanting to appear to be lax on their views on terrorism.
Without a careful review of the exact wording of the bill, Congress may have placed the United States in an incredibly difficult position that President Obama was trying to avoid by using his veto.
Laura Wood is the Treasurer of the Hofstra Democrats
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