Thursday, September 29, 2016

How does suing Saudi Arabia for 9/11 achieve anything?

In a more or less unprecedented rebuke to President Obama, both Democrats and Republicans have voted, almost unanimously, to override his presidential veto of a bill to allow the families of victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia in the US courts. And I can't help thinking that the president may have been right.
Mr. Obama's main concern was that Saudi Arabia, like it or not, is a major ally of the US in the "war against terror". The Saudis provide a significant amount of information to the US counter-terrorism efforts, something Obama would know a lot more about than litigators, families of victims, or even other regular senators. Litigation of the sort anticipated by the bill will almost certainly antagonize Saudi Arabia, and may well have a negative impact on that relationship.
But that is not the only consideration here. Yes, 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the 9/11 actions were Saudis, but I don't see how that gives anyone the right to take the country itself to court. I am not an expert in international law, but this was not a state-sponsored action, and surely a state cannot be held responsible for the actions of individual citizens? That way, madness lies.
In addition to that, I have to wonder just what the families and the litigators hope to achieve from any court cases. I'm sure they would talk in terms of "closure", a concept I am not sure I totally understand. Any court case would probably go on interminably, repeatedly dredging up bad memories, and, it seems to me, would be very unlikely to come to any definite resolution. Are they looking for financial damages of some sort? An apology? I genuinely do not understand what can be gained from the process.

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