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Reprinted from Sputnik
The significance of the congressional vote to overturn Obama's presidential veto blocking a civil legal action being brought against the Saudis in a US court by families of the victims of 9/11, over Riyadh's alleged role in the terrorist attack, cannot be overstated.
The decision by the US Congress to defy the President on this issue leaves Obama more isolated than he has ever been over his two terms in the office, and will do last damage to his legacy.
In essence Congress has delivered a strong rebuke to his administration on the issue, a rebuke which carries with it the suggestion that Obama had consciously decided to place more of a priority on shielding the country's Saudi ally from the exposure of any embarrassing or damaging revelations regarding their knowledge of or role in the 9/11 terrorist attack, than on upholding the right of the families to seek and receive justice.
But back to the Saudis and it is worth recalling that immediately after the attack took place, US aviation authorities quickly ordered the grounding of every commercial and non-military private aircraft in order to clear US airspace.
However special dispensation was given to private flights that allowed various Saudi nationals and other Saudi dignitaries, including relatives of Bin Laden, to depart the country. Then there is the fact, recently come to light with the publication of the hitherto classified 28 pages of the 9/11 commission report, of an indirect link between one of the hijackers and former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar. This is a man who enjoyed such close relations and friendship with the Bush family that he was known as Bandar Bush.
The relationship between Washington and Riyadh has effectively been put on trial as a result of this landmark congressional vote. That the Saudi regime is Washington's closest Arab ally, and a major customer of the US arms industry, while being underpinned by the ultra-sectarian and medieval Sunni religious doctrine of Wahhabism, this has long covered in hypocrisy the boast that the United States stands a pillar of democracy and human rights.
The Saudis are thought to be a major owner of US debt. Yet significantly, unlike other countries that hold substantial amounts of US debt -- i.e., China and Japan -- the US Treasury will not disclose precisely the amount of debt held by its Saudi ally. It is also a fact that the Saudi government has been putting significant resources into the creation of a vast PR and lobbying operation in Washington, designed to foment a positive media and political orientation towards Riyadh.
All in all, we are talking about a very murky relationship between both countries, one of mutual advantage economically, politically, and strategically. Perhaps this is why the Saudis have managed to escape undue pressure or media attention over 9/11.
To put it another way, imagine for a moment if 15 of the 19 hijackers had been Iranian or Syrian nationals. Does anyone seriously believe that neither the Iranian or Syrian governments would have been held responsible and made to pay a heavy price long before now?
The Saudi royal family has for decades proved successful in balancing the deeply sectarian and fundamentalist religious cultural values that are prevalent at home, values fiercely upheld and guarded by the country's Wahhabi religious establishment, with their close and friendly ties to the US and other Western countries. In truth it is a regime that has relied on US military protection in order to survive and maintain its status as a major player when it comes to the region's trajectory. The fact it has been able to engage in war crimes on a grand scale in Yemen with barely a peep in the Western media or from Western governments, this tells its own story.
The 9/11 families and a US Congress that dare not defy them, given the emblematic and iconic status of 9/11 within the country, have with this vote punctured this cozy relationship. For many it is something long overdue.
The story cannot end with the Saudis being put on trial for 9/11, though. How can it possibly end when the atrocious crime of 9/11 was the catalyst for the even more atrocious crime of the war on Iraq. In this regard, the people of Iraq would be more than justified in bringing a similar civil suit to bear against the US government for destroying not only a few buildings and killing a few thousand, but for destroying an entire country and killing untold thousands.
For justice to be truly just, there has to be enough to go round.