Why JASTA is unjustified

The United States Congress has passed the “Justice Against State Sponsors of Terrorism” bill. (File photo: AFP)

The United States Congress has spent time on the “Justice Against State Sponsors of Terrorism” bill which was passed, vetoed by the president and passed again by Congress. A moment should be taken to account for what we know about this bill. It’s authors and supporters specifically state that it is aimed at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Closer inspection of it will see this to not be so. The bill is primarily in existence today for the insistently held belief among many that the September 11 attacks were sponsored by the Kingdom and were carried out with direct material support from citizens and officials to enable those terrorist attacks. Much time has passed since that fateful day that changed the world forever. A September 11 Commission was formed with the intent of providing a summary of what happened and how the terrorist acts were able to occur. It did not find a direct, or indirect, role of the Kingdom as an enabler or a state sponsor of those attacks. Recently 28 pages were released from a US Senate Report that were expected by some to further show implication of Saudi Arabia in the attacks. Those 28 pages also did not find a direct, or indirect, role of the Kingdom as an enabler of, or a state sponsor of those attacks. With the benefit of time and hindsight there has still not been anything credible that shows prior knowledge of, enabling of, or state sponsored support of the terrorist actions taken on that day. If for discussion’s sake the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a state sponsor of terrorism then obvious questions arise regarding this role. What interests was it trying to achieve in enabling the September 11 attacks and what outstanding issues existed at the time between Washington and Riyadh that would make it a need for the Kingdom to resort to such acts to address them?

Among many reasons why this bill is just not in anyone’s interest is that the United States itself is also a target, not just the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In effect, what the bill does is eliminate sovereign immunity among Nation-States and their officials. So the United States as well could be a target of a similar measure from another country. In theory why shouldn’t an Iraqi be able to lodge a complaint against the United States in Baghdad? And by extension would not those countries of Europe, the Middle East, and beyond to Central Asia who provided logistical and intelligence support in Washington’s war on terror also be complicit in terrorist acts in this theoretical case? Would this also make them state sponsors of terrorism? What would keep other Nation-States from trying to bring United States officials, soldiers and intelligence operatives into their own courts for interpretations of their version of this line of thinking? Perhaps a deeper look into actual and direct state sponsorship of terrorism would be beneficial for discussions sake.

Iran is listed by the US State Department as the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Since 1979 Iran has kidnapped American citizens, killed military personnel from the 1980s onwards, supported terrorist groups that are the knife’s edge for implementing it’s nefarious interests while supplying them with lethal weapons, indirectly carried out terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, actively sought a foreign policy of destabilizing American allies throughout the region, violated international treaties regarding the testing of ballistic missiles, all while running a secret and illegal nuclear program

If the purpose of “Justice Against State Sponsors of Terrorism” bill is to achieve justice for those who have been killed, maimed or traumatized by state sponsors of terrorism then why is this bill not aimed at Iran? For all of the above listed facts Iran has received international legitimacy for what was an illegal nuclear program, $150 billion dollars, access to improving existing cruise and ballistic missile technologies along with a direct path to obtaining a nuclear bomb.

There have been rights of recourse for victims of state sponsored terrorism. They are called courts of law. The infrastructure exists today and has existed for some time. This is why it seems reasonable to ask what really made the United States Congress feel compelled to pass the “Justice Against State sponsors of Terrorism” bill now. The state sponsored terrorist attack in Lockerbie, Scotland against Pan-Am Flight 103 was brought into court, the victims’ families were provided a legal forum to lodge a suit, and provided a settlement when guilt was determined beyond a reasonable doubt with the guilty parties even having right to multiple sentencing appeals as well. The Dumfries & Galloway Constabulary along with The FBI directed the investigation. Scotland provided the forum for suit. In 2003, Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi accepted responsibility and paid compensation to the victims’ families. For the Iranian state-sponsored attacks at Khobar Towers, an indictment was issued in the United States District Court for the Eastern District where the culprits were charged with murder, conspiracy, along with other charges related to the attacks. On December 22, 2006, a ruling was passed down stating that Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for the terrorist attacks on the Khobar Towers.

The point is that there is an existing infrastructure that can address charging, admission of evidence and assessment of guilt or innocence when state sponsors of terrorism deploy their trade. The conventional wisdom surrounding this bill is that it is aimed at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia only. If there is to be a suit brought against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia it should be emphatically stated again that there has still not been any credible evidence that shows prior knowledge of, enabling of, direct or indirect state sponsored support of the terrorist actions taken on that day. To directly lodge suit for the sole aim of financial compensation is to imply responsibility and guilt without any supporting evidence, or for that matter seeing the facts as they are courtesy of investigations already conducted by the United States Government over the past decade. If this is to be so then it should be made abundantly clear that Congress gave Iran better treatment than its long time strategic partner in Riyadh by allowing Tehran a signed nuclear deal.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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