The Honorable Paul D. Ryan Speaker of the House of Representatives H-232 U.S. Capitol Building Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Speaker:
Last week, the House and Senate successfully voted to override President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). In the first successful override of the Obama Administration, Congress did what President Obama failed to do: give 9/11 families the ability to seek justice against foreign governments that sponsor terrorism.
Our colleagues, Congressman Stephen Lynch and Congressman Thomas Massie, and I worked for over four years to declassify the 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry into the September 11 attacks. Those pages link Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 attacks by detailing substantial financial support from Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan and his wife to individuals linked to the 9/11 hijackers.
Our vote to override President Obama’s veto was a victorious moment for 9/11 families and justice. However, I was disappointed to read shortly after the vote that some in leadership are suggesting a modification or "weakening" of JASTA. This would be a huge mistake. JASTA is a carefully crafted bill that is the result of many years of hard work and negotiation by a vast majority of Congress. If leadership wanted changes in the bill, it should have been addressed prior to the override.
Additionally, Members of Congress are elected to represent their constituents, not so-called "allies" in foreign states. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to engage in a massive lobbying campaign against JASTA, and we must not fall for it. I IMPLORE YOU TO STAND UP FOR 9/11 FAMILIES AND RESIST CALLS TO MODIFY JASTA.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.
Walter B. Jones Member of Congress North Carolina, 3rd District, Republican
I’ve reviewed Oliver Stone’s movie Snowden elsewhere, and it’s well worth seeing just as a movie. But of course the issues brought up by Snowden the man, and Snowden the movie, are more complex than fit into two hours.
I had this hit home in a recent discussion with a friend who keeps insisting he has nothing to hide in his emails, phone calls, social media, etc., so why should he care if the NSA looks at all that?
True, as was slavery in the U.S., the Holocaust under Nazi Germany, Apartheid in South Africa and so forth. Laws serve higher purposes. They can be manipulated for evil. That’s why we need checks and balances to protect us.
Pressed on the civilian death toll of Syrian airstrikes against populated areas, and whether he saw those as equivalent to US airstrikes against populated areas, Johnson mockingly declared “no of course not – we’re so much better than all that. We’re so much better when in Afghanistan, we bomb the hospital and 60 people are killed in the hospital.”
Johnson is referring to last year’s Kunduz airstrikes, in which a US warplane repeatedly and deliberately bombed a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital near Kunduz, Afghanistan, in what officials later characterized as “a mistake.” The Syrian government has recently been heavily criticized for airstrikes around Aleppo which hit hospitals.
Johnson further went after Hillary Clinton for overly interventionist instincts, noting that a number of civilians have been killed in US airstrikes in Syria as well, and saying that Clinton shares some of the responsibility for those deaths.
While charges of “moral equivalence” against antiwar candidates are a recurring theme in US elections, they have tended in the past to center around at least moderately different methods of killing civilians, like arguing suicide bombings to be “worse” than airstrikes. In this case, however, it’s difficult to avoid equating the two incidents, since they both involve remarkably similar aircraft dropping remarkably similar ordinance on hospitals run by international aid groups.
Johnson also said it would be important to know what sort of “deals” the Obama Administration promised to other nations to join the coalition bombing Syria, though he conceded he was at a disadvantage on that point as, unlike his opponents, he was not given classified briefings on the matter.
Anyone hoping for a sign of change in US foreign policy was surely disappointed by last night’s vice presidential candidate debate. Both Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence made their foreign agenda clear: war. From a no fly zone in Syria to punishing “aggressive” Russia, the only disagreement was how on who could be the most warlike. In today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report we look at the vice presidency as an institution. It is more important than the “bucket of warm spit” as claimed by former US Vice President John Nance Garner. Eight US presidents have died in office, their vice presidents taking over for them. Significant figures like Theodore Roosevelt, LBJ, Harry Truman. What does it say that the two major party vice presidential candidates are so alike?
Should the United States reject the “first use” of nuclear weapons? That question was put to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during their first debate. Colonel (retired) Andrew Bacevich asks us to take their answers seriously in his latest insightful essay at TomDispatch.com, which I urge you to read here in full.
Trump was asked to respond first, and his rambling answer, I thought, showed the evidence of someone who had crammed for a test. He was desperate to show he knew something – anything – about America’s nuclear forces (here some may recall how Trump obviously knew little about America’s nuclear triad during the Republican primary debates). So Trump rambled on about obsolete B-52s flown by the sons and grandsons of previous pilots, a non sequitur since the B-52 has been continuously upgraded with new engines, advanced avionics, the latest in high-tech weaponry, and despite their age they’re still more than capable of doing the job. But somebody must have told Trump to use the B-52’s age as a talking point, and he was determined to get it in.
Bank Melli, one of Iran’s largest state-controlled banks, was already a tenant in 1998 when Trump purchased the General Motors Building, above, in Manhattan, but he kept them on for another five years, until 2003.