Whether it’s the US Congress, the White House or any other institution in the land, it’s pretty obvious that something’s not going over right. And this is an issue that, one way or another, will likely affect veterans directly.

But the issues here are a bit complex, so we’ll try to boil them down as much as possible without losing what’s important.


Victims and Families of the 9/11 Attacks

This is where it all begins. Those who lost their lives on the day that fundamentally transformed America deserve justice. That’s just what the Congress was shooting for with the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” or JASTA for short. JASTA was basically designed as a way to allow families of the victims from 9/11 to sue the government of Saudi Arabia in order to prove wrongdoing by members of their ruling family.


The US Congress

This bill has received a great deal of bipartisan support. In the House of Representatives as well as the Senate, the votes were overwhelmingly in favor of this bill.


The White House and State Department

The short version of this is that the world is a very complicated place and nothing exists in a vacuum. What this means in practical terms is that there are some potentially extreme unintended consequences of this legislation. A few cited are that it will make US companies and service members — both current and former — vulnerable to legal challenges and lawsuits no differently than the Saudi government is at present.

This is because of a concept called sovereign immunity, which is a legal doctrine that has existed for centuries that states that sovereign states cannot commit legal wrongdoing. This works in several different ways domestically, but on the world’s stage it acts like this — individual citizens cannot be prosecuted or sued for following instructions of the US government — like fighting a war or other minor martial act.

For this reason, the President opted to make use of his veto pen again. Thus, the Congress opted on Wednesday to override the President’s veto, making the bill officially a law.


The Veteran Equation

Now, at this point, it’s a matter of how far this could eventually go in terms of unintended consequences. House Speaker Paul Ryan is already working on legislation right now which would fix some of these unknowns to ensure that veterans abroad are not subject to legal actions or imprisonment. There are other actions, too, which could have such consequences — really in any part of the world where the US has operated without the consent of the international community. This could be anything from the invasion of Iraq to drone strikes in Syria that have resulted in civilian casualties.

Whereas the vast majority will be just fine (imagine someone even trying extraordinary rendition on American vets if you want a good laugh…), that doesn’t mean that their interests will be. Right now, we really have no idea of the potential depth nor ramifications of how this could affect our community.


Neither Here Nor There

It’s going to be a bumpy road moving forward, both in terms of people seeking justice and foreign policy abroad. On the one side, it’s important for victims to have their grievances redressed in an official manner and on the other, it’s essential for the US government to ensure its fealty to those who have sacrificed willingly on its behalf. Basically, it’s important that the government honor both sides of this — so that no one is simply left out in the cold.

As always, at Nine Line, we’re proud to support our First Responders, Firefighters and Police, especially considering the sacrifice so many made that fall morning so many years ago. We’re forever in their debt.