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9/11: The burning buildings collapse amid huge plumes of smoke. (NYC Police Aviation Unit)

Bernie Sanders: US "Can't Be Blackmailed" by Saudi Arabia

9/11 family member: "It's stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens"

Common Dreams staff

The Saudi Arabian government has threatened to sell of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets should Congress pass a bi-partisan bill led by US Senator Chuck Schumer that could hold the kingdom responsible for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the New York Times reported Friday.

Of the 22 co-sponsors of the measure, known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, 12 are Republicans and 10 are Democrats. The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill's passage and the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon.

"I have said throughout this campaign we are not taking a hard enough look at Saudi Arabia and it's not only the people who came from Saudi Arabia and participated in 9/11. The evidence is pretty clear. Saudi Arabia is one of the most powerful and wealthiest families of the world. That's why they can threaten to withdraw hundreds of billions of dollars from our economy."
- Bernie Sanders
The administration, which argues the legislation will put Americans at legal risk overseas, has been lobbying so intently against the bill that some lawmakers and families of September 11 victims are infuriated.

In their view, the Obama administration has consistently sided with the kingdom and has thwarted their efforts to learn what they believe to be the truth about the role some Saudi officials have played in the terror plot.

"It's stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens," said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband died in the World Trade Center on September 11.

The U.S. needs to take a harder stance against Saudi Arabia, Senator Bernie Sanders said on Sunday in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” saying parts of the Saudi ruling family have funded the “extremely right-wing fundamentalist ideology” of Wahhabism in schools around the world. “Saudi Arabia is playing a very dangerous role in fomenting fundamentalism all over the world.”

Asked about reports that Saudi Arabia would sell American assets if Congress approves a bill allowing victims of 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi government, Sanders said the U.S. “can’t be blackmailed.”

Sanders said, "I have said throughout this campaign we are not taking a hard enough look at Saudi Arabia and it's not only the people who came from Saudi Arabia and participated in 9/11. The evidence is pretty clear. Saudi Arabia is one of the most powerful and wealthiest families of the world. That's why they can threaten to withdraw hundreds of billions of dollars from our economy. The evidence is quite clear that sections of that very large royal family have funded a Wahhabism; this extremely right-wing fundamentalist ideology, which is what ISIS is about, which is what Al Qaeda's about. There are schools all over this world that are -- where children are being educated in this anti- -- this horrific fundamentalist ideology."

On the legislation, Sanders told ABC, "Well, let me look at it. Let me look at it. I mean, I am not all that familiar with it as well. But I do believe Saudi Arabia is playing a very dangerous role in fomenting fundamentalism all over the world."

Earlier in the ABC show, Hillary Clinton had this exchange about the Schumer legislation:

CLINTON: I don't really know about that, George, I'd have to look into it. Obviously, we've got to make anyone who participates in or supports terrorism pay a price, and we also have to be aware of any consequences that might affect Americans, either military or civilian or our nation. So I'm not...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't know about this issue? It's been around for several years.

CLINTON: Well, I know there's been an issue about it for quite some time, I don't know about the specific legislation that you're referring to. But obviously, I'll look into it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. So -- but you're not prepared to say now whether you support it or oppose it?

CLINTON: I can't, I haven't studied it. Unlike some people -- I do try to learn what's at the core of any question before I offer an opinion, because you know it's not enough to say what's wrong, I think you've got a responsibility to say how you're going to fix it.


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