Former Sen. Larry Pressler, defendant in a U.S. court on charges of terrorism in Vietnam, circa 1968. That is what could happen, thanks to Congress overriding President Obama's correct veto of the Saudi lawsuit bill.
The passage of legislation to allow Americans to sue Saudis is extremely popular today, but the other side of the coin is that foreigners can now sue U.S. citizens in certain categories.
Vietnam veterans such as myself are the most vulnerable.
Congress must pass new legislation to reverse the override of Obama's veto regarding America suing Saudi Arabia. As a Vietnam combat veteran, I could almost certainly be sued by the Vietnamese government or by a Vietnamese citizen. The Gulf War, Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans are more protected by constitutional congressional actions, but we Vietnam veterans will be raw targets if Americans can sue Saudi Arabia.
President Obama was absolutely correct, and the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Vietnam Veterans of America — I am a dues-paying member of all four — and all the other veterans groups were asleep at the switch during this veto override.
I plead with Congress to revote the veto override before members leaves town.
I am a lawyer, and I can assure you that this veto override will open up the opportunity for lawsuits against Americans who served all over the world, but especially in the Vietnam War, which was not authorized under our congressional War Powers Act. Vietnam veterans are the forgotten veterans, but they will be the main victims of that unnecessary veto override.
Many of us old veterans are going to spend our dying days defending lawsuits unless members of Congress reverse their actions. And the only legal way of doing that would be to introduce a new bill in both houses and pass it by voice vote — so no one has to face the apathetic public with what looks like a vote for Saudi Arabia — and have the president sign it. A voice vote in both houses could be engineered at this stage with very strong public pressure from the veterans groups.
What have I been paying my dues all these years for? Veterans organizations must really speak up or we will have a serious legal problem. Vietnam veterans never had a proper War Powers solution passed to make us legal.
Vietnam veterans will be sued unless Congress reverses itself immediately. The reversal can be engineered in this way: All the veterans groups speak up at the state and local levels. When Congress goes home, it would stay in session on a theoretically long quorum call and this would be brought up in both empty chambers in a voice vote. (We cannot expect members of Congress to make a recorded vote for anything that might be viewed as anti-9/11 victims.)
It can and must be done. In my 22 years in Congress, I have never seen such populist, xenophobic, fear-filled legislation.
Pressler is a former senator and member of Congress from South Dakota who lives in Washington, D.C. and is a lawyer, speaker and writer. He is dedicating much of his life to finding ways to save our democracy and has recently published a book entitled "Senator Pressler: An Independent Mission to Save Our Democracy."
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