Peter Cavanaugh

Saudi Duty Time

It’s a duty they owe the free world.

It’s high time for Saudi Arabia’s Royal Family, a.k.a. “the government,” to step up and accept responsibility for their clandestine involvement in fueling radical Islamic terrorism in recent years and, as well, to provide significantly increased economic and military aid driven by dedicated Arab leadership in a unified international effort to crush ISIS at home and abroad.

Anything less perpetuates an unacceptable status quo.

President Obama traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this week to discuss counter-terrorism and regional security threats with Gulf state allies. Subjects under review are bolstering missile defense systems, dealing with escalating threats from cyber hacking and possibly a particularly thorny issue that has arisen with the Saudi regime over potential financial liability stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers.

Although generally ignored by a national media currently diverted into incessant, round the clock, blow by blow coverage of this election cycle’s pugilistic presidential primaries, it turns out that Congress is about to conclude consideration of bipartisan legislation that has the Saudis issuing ominous threats.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator John Cornyn (R- Texas) are co-sponsoring a slightly revised version of “JASTA” – the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.” This bill, under discussion for the last several years, would allow victims of terrorism to pursue foreign states and individual supporters of terrorism with direct financial damage claims in American courts. It would also prohibit the invocation of “sovereign immunity” as a defense against such liability, specifically when an American is killed on American soil.

This measure is now up for final approval in the Senate as S. 2040 and before the House as H.R. 3815. It stands in stark contrast to business as usual in this bitterly divided 114thCongress. Along with heavy support from Schumer and Cornyn, it enjoys backing from an unlikely coalition of liberal and conservative senators such as Al Franken (D-Minn) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). It passed though the Senate Judiciary Committee in January without a single dissent.

Last month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir delivered a message from the kingdom to Washington threatening to sell $750 billion (three quarters of a trillion dollars) in U.S. Treasury securities and other assets it holds in the United States if the bill is passed and signed into law by the President. The Obama administration is opposing “JASTA” in what can only be described as a matter of diplomatic pragmatism, believing it’s simply not practical to embarrass and antagonize a traditionally reliable and vitally strategic ally unless resorting to such is utterly unavoidable.

Although Saudi Arabia has long denied any involvement in condoning or supporting the nightmare of Sept. 11, it does seem reasonable to suggest after almost fifteen years that certain persons and/or elements in Saudi society were quite possibly major contributors to the debacle. Perhaps “probably” would be more precise. It’s not difficult believing there were and are those of wealthy means more than willing to enthusiastically fund terror elsewhere in the world as extortion insurance against having it strike at home. Throughout history, that’s how bullies get by.

Osama bin Laden was a Saudi. Of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers affiliated with al-Qaeda, 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. The others were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon.

Not one was from Iraq, a sovereign nation we invaded on March 20 of 2003 with a subsequent loss of thousands of American lives, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives (primarily civilians) and trillions of taxpayer dollars wasted at war.

One of the most sobering memories of The Iraq Conflict was a slogan emphatically referenced at the outset and often repeated since --- the proudly declarative, defiantly patriotic phrase: “We Will Not Forget!”

Has the time come to remember with proper response?

I’d give a rousing cheer.