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Overriding the veto "would show that Congress is putting the needs of U.S. citizens above the wishes of the repressive Saudi monarchy," said Medea Benjamin. (Photo: Ivan Velazco/flickr/cc)

Congress Votes to Override Obama's Veto of 'Long-Awaited' 9/11 Victims Bill

Bill would allow victims and families to sue nations over any roles their governments may have played in 9/11 attack

Nadia Prupis

Update (3:05 Eastern):

U.S. Congress has voted to override President Barack Obama's veto of the bill that would allow 9/11 victims to sue nations, including Saudi Arabia, for any role their governments may have played in the attack. The U.S. House of Representatives voted 348-77 to override on Wednesday.

This marks the first time Congress has rejected a veto in Obama's eight years in office.

Update (2:30 Eastern):

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted to override President Barack Obama's veto of the bill that would allow 9/11 victims to sue nations, including Saudi Arabia, for any role their governments may have played in the attack.

The Hill reports:

The 97-1 vote marks the first time the Senate has mustered enough support to overrule Obama’s veto pen.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was the sole vote to sustain Obama’s veto. Not a single Democrat came to the Senate floor before the vote to argue in favor of Obama’s position.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the veto next.

Norman Solomon, co-founder of the advocacy group RootsAction, told Common Dreams in response to the vote, "For 15 years, two presidents have tried to protect the Saudi dictatorship from scrutiny and accountability in the wake of 9/11. Painstaking public education and organizing from the grassroots since then have made possible what's happening now—a rebuke of that presidential protection that could extend to other aspects of the official U.S.-Saudi relationship."

"The override action on Capitol Hill is a breach of the containment wall that was built with flagrant hypocrisy, reinforced with massive arms sales and oiled with oil. This override should be a first step toward renunciation of the alliance between Washington and Riyadh," Solomon said. "But further progress will be far from automatic—in fact, the most powerful in Congress will do all they can to slam on the brakes. As always, it's up to activists to push relentlessly for policies of human rights and peace instead of the current ongoing U.S.-Saudi partnership for barbaric repressive militarism.

Earlier:

The U.S. Senate is poised on Wednesday to override President Barack Obama's veto of the bill that would allow 9/11 victims to sue nations, including Saudi Arabia, for any role they may have played in the attack.

Progressive voices are calling on lawmakers to override the veto and allow the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act to pass. While opponents say the bill would jeopardize America's relationship with Saudi Arabia and expose the U.S. to lawsuits from abroad, supporters argue that "nonviolent redress" is actually one of the most effective—and safest—courses of action.

"[B]locking nonviolent redress of grievances through courts puts us at risk of more terrorism. Imagine if Saudis could have sued for the removal of U.S. bases," the advocacy group RootsAction stated as part of a veto override campaign. "Courts are better than wars."

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace activist group CodePink, told Common Dreams on Wednesday that "Overriding the president's veto could provide long-awaited transparency and accountability; it is also a moral and ethical imperative for 9/11 families. It would show that Congress is putting the needs of U.S. citizens above the wishes of the repressive Saudi monarchy."

"It is shameful how cozy the U.S. government has been with the Saudi regime for decades, including selling it massive amounts of weapons and facilitating its shameful war in Yemen," Benjamin said. "This vote can start the much-needed process of distancing ourselves from this intolerant, theocratic, Wahhabist regime that provides the ideological foundation for terrorist groups worldwide."

Indeed, as activist and writer David Swanson posited at his blog earlier this month, the logic is simple: "If Saudi Arabia kills large numbers of people, every nonviolent tool at our disposal ought to be used to put an end to that, to deter its repetition, to seek restitution, and to work for reconciliation. And the exact same applies to the U.S. government."

In fact, at least one human rights group is already gearing up to take recourse against the American government. The Iraqi National Project, an organization that represents Iraqis killed or wounded by the U.S. military, said if the bill passes, "it constitutes a window of opportunity for millions of Iraqis who have lost their sons and daughters in military operations by U.S. military forces and U.S. contracted forces since the US invasion in 2003 to pursue compensation from the U.S. government for what they have endured."

The group cited U.S. operations like bombings of civilians and the arrest and torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison. "There are also tens of thousands of maimed and handicapped Iraqis as a result of this injustice," the group said. "Once the 9/11 bill becomes law, we will endeavor and assist on a strong effort towards the formation of special committees seated by top Iraqi lawyers and judges along with numerous international legal advisers."

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the veto later this week. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has indicated she would support an override.


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