WASHINGTON – The biggest fight in Washington right now is over a bill that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, and it is unlike any other political battle in memory in at least one unique and dramatic way.
It pits the strangest of bedfellows against each other, with a combination of Republicans and Democrats on either side.
Among Democrats supporting the bill are presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and Sens. Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer. They are joined by such Republicans as presidential candidate Sens. Ted Cruz, John Cornyn and former Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Among those opposing the bill are President Obama and Republicans including House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan, Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr.
As it happens, President Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia Wednesday for a 24-hour visit, but one highly controversial topic unlikely to have come up was a key related issue: whether to finally release 28 pages of classified documents from the 9/11 Commission report that many strongly suspect implicate the kingdom’s government in helping plan and execute the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.
One reason is that Obama apparently hasn’t even read those pages, telling CBS News on Monday, “I have a sense of what’s in there.”
Someone who has read the entire report is Bachmann, who also served on the House Intelligence Committee. She told WND she viewed the documents in the classified setting.
Bachmann cannot comment on what is in the still-classified 28 pages, but what she did say could explain why the information has not been made public by Obama, and before him, President George W, Bush.
“Established Saudi involvement backing the terrorist act would profoundly alter the geopolitical world stage,” she told WND.
That points to what is likely the strongest reason for Obama not to have brought up the 28 pages during a visit in which he hoped to patch relations. Discussing possible Saudi complicity in the deadliest attack on American soil would not be the message the president wanted to deliver to a regime observers says is livid over his nuclear deal with Iran, which the kingdom considers an existential threat.
The Saudis were also said to be furious with Obama over his recent comment that they and the Iranians should “share the neighborhood.”
Additionally, the Saudis are fuming over the bill that would allow Americans to sue the regime, threatening to withdraw $750 billion in assets in America if it becomes law.
Obama has vowed to veto the bill if it is passed, but he is opposed by virtually every other Democratic leader and senator. The president has said it could expose Americans to lawsuits abroad and damage relations with the Saudis. Bill-sponsor Cornyn disagreed, saying, “This is really narrow provision, which only has to do with terrorist attacks on our own soil.”
Relatives of 9/11 victims wrote Obama to say they were “greatly distressed” by his opposition to the bill. They also urged him to release the 28 redacted pages from the 9/11 Commission report. Reid and many other Democrats, including ones who served on the 9/11 Commission, also support the release.
Knowing that Bachmann could not divulge what she has read in the report, WND asked her what U.S. policy should be if the Saudis were eventually implicated in the 9/11 attacks.
“If an aggressor nation backed an unprovoked act of war against America or our citizens, the United States must respond in such a way that the aggressor nation, or terror actors will think twice about trying the acts again,” she replied.
“The point is to make the perpetrator regret their actions and then disable the enemies ability to strike again. The U.S. should not announce its plan; it should act forcefully with every means at our disposal, financial, diplomatic, militarily, with or without our allies. That is what a sane superpower seeking to continue its survival would do.”
Bachmann said it was also very important to note that Saudi Arabia and Qatar finance 80 percent of the mosques in America and train the imams who lead them, “often with the most dangerous Islamic Shariah law-based ideologies.”
Therefore, she added, “it would seem elementary that the U.S. government would prohibit foreign financing and disallow speech, which in effect encourages incitement against our people and our nation, speech which advocates the overthrow of our government, which Shariah commands.”
The former congresswoman also observed that the First Amendment does not protect speech that calls for violence or the overthrow of our form of government, “as Islamic Shariah, and many of these imams do.”
The saga of the law and terrorism took another twist on Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that families of terrorism victims could sue and collect damages from Iran.
The court let stand a 2012 law that lets victims of the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon (that courts have linked to Iranian sponsorship), collect damages from nearly $2 billion in frozen Iranian bank funds.
Iran had complained that Congress, by passing the law, had violated the Constitution by intruding upon the authority of federal courts, but the Supreme Court rejected that argument.
And, in this case, the Obama administration sided with the families of the victims, as did many Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
Why did the Obama administration side with the families of victims of Iran, but not with families of what may be victims of Saudi Arabia?
WND posed the question to Bachmann, who not only gained foreign-policy expertise during her stint on the House Intelligence Committee, but is an attorney with two law degrees.
She cautioned that she was just speculating on the Obama administration’s reasoning.
“They tread lightly with Saudi Arabia. Guilt has not yet been publicly established of Saudi support for the 9/11 acts of terrorism. If guilt is established, then the administration may be forced to act in response to public outrage. Perhaps Obama is thinking, ‘Let sleeping dogs lie,’ I don’t know.”
She noted another possible consideration.
“The political choices for the Obama administration, in my opinion, will outweigh their concerns over the legal standard.”
Bachmann also observed a key difference in the terrorist attack in Beiruit that killed 241 service members overseas, and the massacre of 2,977 Americans, mostly civilians, on U.S. soil.
“9/11 was a defining moment in recent American history.”
And that’s when she made the observation that may soon prophetic, because Obama said on Monday that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is reviewing the 28 redacted pages of the 9/11 Commission Report. If he decides there are no national security reasons preventing the president from releasing the pages, it could change everything.
As Bachmann said, “Established Saudi involvement backing the terrorist act would profoundly alter the geopolitical world stage.”