It’s an impossible thing. Time running backwards, water flowing uphill, cats and dogs mating… Congress passing legislation that an opponent of government even existing can be cool with…
Yes, you read that correctly.
See, there was a bill in the US congress recently — the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act — which would allow people harmed by acts of terrorism in the US to sue states they see as responsible for them in federal court, a goal obviously inspired by reports & long held suspicions about collusion between the 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi Arabian government. The bill passed both houses of congress, and Obama vetoed it Friday.
Well, today while I was at work, they overrode his veto. By huge margins even:
The House voted 348-77, well above the two-thirds majority needed. The final vote tally in the Senate was 97-1. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., cast the lone dissenting vote.
“In our polarized politics of today, this is pretty much close to a miraculous occurrence,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. Democrats and Republicans in both chambers agreed, he said, that the bill “gives the victims of the terrorist attack on our own soil an opportunity to seek the justice they deserve.”
So, despite my usual opposition to laws, here’s why I’m actually OK with this one. A certain, widely held doctrine of global law is called “sovereign immunity”, the gist of which is that people cannot sue the government of one nation in the court of another nation. The functional purpose of this is to hold governments blameless for what they do or facilitate away from their home bases. That bill, by becoming law against the will of the president, rips a gaping hole in that concept.
The fear of sovereign immunity being attacked, specifically of this triggering a Domino Effect of other nations allowing the same and thus opening up US government officials for transnational lawsuits by the victims of their wars, was actually brought up by opponents of the bill, both Obama himself as well as former Bush administration UN ambassador John Bolton:
“The United States relies on principles of immunity to prevent foreign litigants and foreign courts from second-guessing our counter-terrorism operations and other actions that we take every day,” he wrote.
Former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and former U.S. Attorney Michael Mukasey, both of whom served under President George W. Bush, have echoed similar concerns in recent weeks.
“An errant drone strike that kills non-combatants in Afghanistan could easily trigger lawsuits demanding that U.S. military or intelligence personnel be hauled into foreign courts,” Bolton and Mukasey wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this month. (emphasis mine)
To which I say: GOOD! Not only do I look forward to such happening as a result of cascading rips in the concept of sovereign immunity, I hope it even leads to the president catching lawsuits. I hope it means every bomb dropped, every missile launched, every bullet fired at people in other countries draws court cases around the world. I hope it leads to a day where current and former government officials can’t travel abroad without being constantly served if they so much as harmed a fly in another human being’s homeland.
I hope the global ruling class ends up at each others throats so hard after this snowballs that they cancel each other out.
When sovereign immunity dies, I hope to be there to defile its grave.