Iraqis Sue US For 2003 Invasion After JASTA Override

| by Zach Cohen
A U.S. soldier kicks down a door in Buhriz, IraqA U.S. soldier kicks down a door in Buhriz, Iraq

The Iraqi National Project, an Iraqi advocacy group, is preparing a lawsuit against the U.S. to recover damages related to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In a letter, the group cites "a window of opportunity" created by the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which allows U.S. citizens to sue Saudi Arabia and other sovereign nations over their involvement in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

It its letter, INP argues that if JASTA allows American citizens to sue foreign governments, it also opens the door for Iraqis "who have lost their sons and daughters in military operations by U.S. military forces" to sue the U.S. government "to pursue compensation... for what they have endured," reports the Washington Free Beacon.

The group alleges the U.S. acted on "sketchy information and very discriminatory methods," which led to injustices against the Iraqi people including, "bombings of civilians, arrests, torture."

President Barack Obama vetoed the bill, but the Senate voted 97-1 on Sept. 28 to override. NPR reports that the sole "no" vote was from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Vice presidential candidate Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont abstained from the vote.

Later that day, the House vote was 348-77, finalizing the override of the president's veto. It was the first time Congress successfully overturned one of Obama's vetoes. 

Critics of JASTA within the U.S. have pointed out that the act makes the government vulnerable to lawsuits like INP's.

In a statement, CIA Director John Brennan said: "The principle of sovereign immunity protects U.S. officials every day, and is rooted in reciprocity. If we fail to uphold this standard for other countries, we place our own nation's officials in danger. No country has more to lose from undermining that principle than the United States -- and few institutions would be at greater risk than CIA."

JASTA became law as a result of the veto override. Since then, The Hill reports that congressional leaders have expressed that they are open to changing the bill.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he wants to "make sure the 9/11 victims and their families have their day in court," but that "there may be some work to be done to protect our service members overseas from any kind of legal ensnarements that occur, any kind of retribution."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "it's worth further discussions, but it was certainly not something that was going to be fixed this week." 

In a letter written by 28 senators, most of whom voted for the override, expressed concern, and said they hope to "mitigate ... unintended consequences." White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the backpedaling "a case of rapid-onset buyer's remorse," and "an abject embarrassment."

Sources: Washington Free Beacon, NPR, The Hill / Photo credit: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall/Flickr via Mint Press News

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