I’ve tried very hard to care that Congress just overwhelmingly overrode a presidential veto and passed a law (the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” or JASTA) allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. I really have. I’ve read the stories about how angry the White House is because they fear the law will chill Riyadh’s cooperation on counter-terrorism, and I laughed in spite of myself. I read about how Riyadh is “rethinking” its alliance with the United States, and I laughed and said “huh, oh well,” again in spite of myself. Then I remembered the 28 pages from the Congressional 9/11 report, which showed that if the Saudis weren’t part of the problem (Mohamed Atta didn’t really have a Saudi handler) they also sure as hell weren’t part of the solution, and I thought “what fucking alliance?” still in spite of myself. I read how Congressional leaders are already worried about a law they just passed a couple of days ago, and are blaming the White House for not doing more to stop them from overriding the president’s veto, and that I have to admit stunned me, even coming from this, the absolutely worst Congress in American history:
But it still didn’t make me care.
It’s not that I don’t understand the real fear about this bill, that it will open Americans (and, eventually, everybody else) up to lawsuits all over the world–or, at least, in the many parts of it that Americans have helped to destroy. But I’m even having a hard time caring about that, a la Chris Hayes:
Still, on this latter point, if you really forced me to take a position, I would say we’re probably better off if everybody in the world isn’t constantly suing everybody else in the world. I guess I’m a bit conservative about changing international norms (which this bill may ultimately do), because the potential for unforeseen consequences bothers me. And changing international norms with respect to lawsuits does carry the potential for unforeseen consequences, particularly if the threat of lawsuits forces countries to disengage with one another completely. Engagement, on balance, is good, and less of it is usually bad. Disengagement heightens the potential for misunderstandings and increases the possibility that misunderstandings will snowball into crises. So yeah, Congress probably shouldn’t have passed this law or overridden the veto, and they probably should get to work rewriting it ASAP. But I’d feel more strongly about that if literally anybody involved in this story was in the least bit sympathetic.