Congressional Democrats and Selective Justice

Obama suffers his first veto override.

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

President Obama suffered his first veto override when Congress voted overwhelmingly––91-1 in the Senate, 348-77 in the House–– to approve the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which will allow families of those killed on 911 to sue Saudi Arabia for the alleged support of the attackers by some Saudis. Senator Chuck Schumer, a stalwart Obama supporter, explained that “it was important in this case that the families of the victims of 911 be allowed to pursue justice, even if that pursuit causes some diplomatic discomforts.”

Would that Schumer and other Democrats had been as concerned for the families of the victims of Iran’s 36 years of terrorist murder. Those families have already won nine judgments amounting to $53 billion in damages. How come there wasn’t this Congressional unanimity and concern for the families’ “having their day in court” when Obama transferred $1.7 billion to Iran as part of his nuclear deal, and freed up billions more by removing sanctions on Iran? Why now are we getting so tough with Saudi Arabia––an illiberal regime up to its neck in promulgating jihadism, but nonetheless an important ally of the U.S.––at the same time we are giving away the nuclear farm to Iran, the world’s worst state “Sponsor of Terrorism”? Are the “diplomatic discomforts” of standing up to Iran prohibitive for Senator Schumer? Apparently, it’s easier to annoy Saudi Arabia than to prevent an infinitely worse and more dangerous regime from getting nuclear weapons.

Maybe that’s why I don’t recall many Democrats making their support for the Iran deal contingent on deducting those damages already won by American citizens from any financial gain Iran would get. Schumer’s statement last year explaining why he didn’t support the deal didn’t include a word about the damages Iran owes American citizens, even when he decried the $50 billion the mullahs ended up receiving for closing the deal. Given how much more money Iran has gotten just from all the business deals it has made with European and, shamefully, American companies like Boeing ($25 billion), paying off Iran’s debt to the families of the people it has murdered should have been a non-negotiable condition of negotiations, let alone any agreement.

This veto, then, appears to be a bit of election-year posturing. Yes, let the families sue Saudi Arabia and have their day in court. But Democrat Senators need to explain why this same standard of justice they are now so passionate about was nowhere to be found for the victims of terrorist attacks by Iran and its creature Hezbollah. Nor were the Senators as eager to collect the damages already awarded to the families in judgments from the following suits against Iran:

April 1983: 17 Americans killed by a truck bomb in Beirut.

October 1983: 241 American military personnel killed by another truck-bomb attack.

In the 1980s: Abduction and torture of two journalists, a priest, and three education administrators working in Beirut.

April 1995 and February 1996: five Americans killed by terrorists bombing buses in Israel.

June 1996: 19 Americans killed in the bombing of Khobar Towers military residence in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

July 1997: A U.S. citizen killed in the bombing of an outdoor market in Jerusalem.

August 1998: 12 Americans (and 212 Africans) killed in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

October 2000: 17 American sailors killed by the bombing attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.

September 11, 2001: 3000 Americans killed. The U.S. District Court found Iran and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei personally liable and awarded the plaintiffs $16 billion. As Ordo Kittrie of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy writes,

The court’s lengthy opinion included extensive evidence that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had provided “funding and/or training for terrorism operations targeting American citizens, including support for Hizballah and al Qaeda” and evidence that IRGC activities were controlled by Khamenei. The opinion also quoted from the 911 Commission report that “Iran furnished material and direct support” for travel for at least eight of the hijackers.

Yet compensating those victims of Iran’s terror was never seriously put on the table during the negotiations with Iran, and money in the control of the U.S. government was handed back to Iran, with interest, when the deal was finalized. The Democrats now so eager, in an election year, to loudly proclaim their concern for justice for the families victimized by terrorism were nowhere to be found when Obama was negotiating with Iran. But now an unsavory but strategically important ally will be led to the dock and held accountable for the behavior of some of its citizens, at the same time that a sworn enemy of this country––whose official government policy is “Death to America,” and whose government forces have killed Americans for nearly 40 years–– has had its adjudicated debt forgiven. Indeed, Iran has not just been let off the hook for those awards, but given billions of dollars with which to fund even more terrorist murder and to finance its nuclear weapons program.

And the Democrat Senators who now weep for the victims of 911? They were AWOL when last September they engineered the Senate’s virtual approval of Obama’s disastrous deal. Let the New York Times tell the tale:

Senate Democrats delivered a major victory to President Obama when they blocked a Republican resolution to reject a six-nation nuclear accord with Iran on Thursday, ensuring the landmark deal will take effect without a veto showdown between Congress and the White House. A procedural vote fell two short of the 60 needed to break a Democratic filibuster.

Achieving justice for the victims of terrorism wasn’t so high on the list then for Democrat Senators, only four of whom voted against the deal. Justice just wasn’t as important as ensuring that Obama got his “legacy” foreign policy achievement. Nor were this country’s security, the security of our regional allies, and stopping nuclear proliferation more pressing than stroking the president’s vanity.

But what the Democrats think will be a historic achievement will likely end up a disaster akin to the 1938 Munich conference. Indeed, its malign effects are already visible in the region, as Iran’s arrogance has been inflated by Obama’s capitulation. Listen to the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, who in September boasted, “We are so powerful that we can target all the vital interests of the enemies in the region from either inside or outside Iran with any desired intensity and power.” Its prestige enhanced by its diplomatic victory over the Great Satan, its coffers flush with the billions in bribes it extorted from Obama, Iran is now a more important power broker in the Middle East than is the U.S. Indeed, Obama has proved prescient the prediction of an Iranian ayatollah that the Iranian Revolution in 1979 was just “the start of the story. An Islamic and divine government, much like Iran and better, will be created” in other Muslim nations. That is a good description of today’s Iraq, the country on which we spent $2 trillion and nearly 4,500 Americans lives, all so it could be transformed into a client state of Iran.

So forgive me for not applauding the Democrats who voted to override Obama’s veto, even if the legislation is the right thing to do. They still are culpable for sacrificing the justice due to the victims of Iran’s terror on the altar of Obama’s foreign policy vanity project, the wages of which can be seen everywhere in an imploding Middle East. And they should be ashamed of forgetting that equal justice under the law is the bedrock of a free republic. Like the 15 public figures who helped engineer Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler, these Senators are the “guilty men.”