President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry say that allowing family members of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its complicity in that crime would set a terrible precedent that would open the United States up to lawsuits from abroad.
Wonderful! Let the lawsuits rain down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream!
Suing Saudis over 9/11 will only set a precedent if it succeeds, which is to say if there is evidence of Saudi complicity. We know that there is, according to former Senator Bob Graham and others who have read 28 pages censored from a U.S. Senate report. Pressure is building in Congress both to reveal those 28 pages and to allow lawsuits. And yet another Senate bill gaining support would block further U.S. arming of Saudi Arabia.
The precedent of allowing international victims to sue those complicit in murder would not place you, dear reader, or I at risk of any lawsuits. It would, however, put numerous top U.S. officials and former officials at risk of suits from many corners of the globe, including from the seven nations that President Obama has bragged about bombing: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya. It’s not as if any of these wars is legal under Kellogg-Briand or the U.N. Charter.
Combined with the possible precedent of allowing victims of U.S. domestic gun violence to sue gun manufacturers, the possibility could emerge for countless parents, children, and siblings of U.S. killings in countless countries to begin suing Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, etc.
Even just the precedent of allowing suits against Saudi Arabia could have far-reaching consequences before expanding it to other countries. Imagine if Yemenis could sue Saudis for the current slaughter from the air? If they could, then what about Boeing? And what about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who allowed Boeing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia after Boeing gave her family foundation $900,000 and Saudi Arabia gave over $10 million?
In her last ditch effort at the presidency, Clinton has joined Senator Bernie Sanders in claiming that she supports allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia — something she is highly unlikely to take any other steps to advance.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell off $750 billion worth of U.S. properties. (No word on whether Hillary Clinton is listed among those properties.) I say let the sales commence! Let the U.S. government take three-quarter’s of one-year’s military spending, buy those properties, and give them to the public or use them to compensate the people of Yemen. Or freeze those assets now without buying them, and give them to the U.S. and Yemeni people.
Of course, Obama and Kerry may be raising the notion of a precedent for suing the U.S. mostly as cover for the fact that they are showing greater loyalty to the Saudi royalty than to 9/11 victims. The U.S. public needs only the slightest excuse to avoid recognizing where its rulers true loyalties lie. Italy has convicted CIA agents of kidnapping to torture, and never sought their extradition. Pakistani courts have already ruled against U.S. drone murders, and the U.S. has failed to so much as yawn in response. The U.S. has refused to join the International Criminal Court, and claims a unique status outside the rule of law — a rogue status for which it would urge sanctions on any other nation claiming something similar while possessing too much oil or not enough U.S. weaponry.
Still, precedents can be set politically and legally, even against the will of one of the parties involved. For U.S. foreign policy to be compelled to treat 9/11 as the crime that it was, a crime committed by certain individuals, could mean a few important things: (1) a serious investigation of 9/11, (2) rejection of the idea that 9/11 was part of a war launched by the entire world, or the Muslim portion of the world, and in which the United States is entitled to seek revenge thousands of times over and without limits in time or space, (3) greater understanding that U.S. terrorism, just like 9/11 but on a larger scale, is criminal activity for which particular individuals can be held accountable.
What could answer the deepest needs of the 9/11 victims and family members could also answer many needs of U.S. victims in Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, etc., and that is a truth and reconciliation commission. Getting to that will be accomplished by precedents and changes in thinking in our culture, not by any particular legal development. Such a procedure would be a success if afterwards the U.S. and Saudi and other governments began paying reparations in the form of humanitarian aid, costing them far less than they are now putting into wars, but doing a world of good for people rather than the criminal harm being done right now and for years past.
This article was written by David Swanson for American Herald Tribune on Apr. 18, 2016. David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie.