Tom's Corner - Second thoughts well warranted on veto override

Tom's Corner

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Congressional leaders are now having second thoughts about their override a few days ago of a bill vetoed by President Barack Obama.

The bill is called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, and would allow those harmed by the attacks on 9/11 to sue the government of Saudi Arabia--long suspected of aiding the terrorists on that awful day.

Tonight in his corner, our Tom Van Howe says second thoughts are in order, because the bill could also pave the way for people in other countries who've been harmed by the United States to start suing us.


The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, commonly referred to as JASTA, sounds so good on the surface.

After all, the Saudi Arabian government might have actually helped facilitate the 9/11 attacks. Most of the terrorists on that day were Saudi. Osama bin Laden was a Saudi.

There is no smoking gun to support the claim--but it would allow victims to go after who they believe were the perpetrators of the crime. Within days of the congressional override of the president's veto, one New York woman already filed suit accusing the Saudi kingdom of knowledge and material support. Which may or may not be true.

Also enticing to those who seek compensation is the fact that the Saudi kingdom has up to a trillion dollars in assets in the United States. But the bill doesn't open a door to any confiscation of money to pay. Here's the rub: while most Americans perceive their country to be just, fair, forthright, and brave, there are many citizens of other countries who see us as brutal, unthinking, and uncaring thugs.

There is already a lobby group called the Arab Project in Iraq, that would like to sue us for violations by our armed forces during the invasion of Iraq. Some of the accusations include the deaths of civilian targets and the torture and mistreatment of scores of individuals. Not to mention the countless drone strikes that have caused so much "collateral damage."

It remains to be seen what a world court would think of the way we locked up so many people for so many years in Guantanamo without any of them ever being charged with a crime.

Speaker Paul Ryan now says the bill may no longer protect the rights of our service members abroad.

According to a number of legal researchers, JASTA may by widely interpreted by other countries as a violation of international law and an invitation to legal retaliation.

What makes this whole thing so frustrating is the complete lack of research and understanding by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, before they so overwhelmingly voted to pass it in the first place.

In the spring, after JASTA first cleared the Senate, President Obama warned the bill was loaded with unintended consequences. Then the House ignored the protests of the president and voted for it as well. Then, despite Obama's promise to veto it, a compromise bill cleared both the Senate and the House. It was vetoed, and Congress voted to override the veto. And only now are our congressional leaders taking note that Obama was apparently right all along. The bill is loaded with unintended consequences.

But as always, there has to be a scapegoat. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted for the bill repeatedly, including the override, blames it all on Obama. The president, he said, was at fault for not engaging lawmakers sooner on the long-term ramifications of the bill.

Maybe, instead of trying endlessly to besmirch the president's legacy, McConnell could have listened to Obama last spring. In lieu of that, maybe he could have done a little research on his own. He did neither.

While it may offend many still grieving victims of 9/11, it's not too late to rescind the bill with another, this time more informed, roll call.

It's his call.

In this corner, I'm Tom Van Howe.

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