September was a very eventful month for the Kingdom. The main news was the Justice Against Sponsor of Terrorism Act (JASTA) bill approved overwhelmingly by both the US Senate and the Congress, following the override of President Barack Obama’s veto.
This caused alarm and consternation here in the Kingdom. The questions were many, but the primary one the made the rounds was why has there been such a setback?
Why did the lawmakers whose pictures appear on the front page of Saudi newspapers on their visits here and who are greeted by the naïve among us “our friends” suddenly abandon us!
All kinds of “why” were used. All kinds of possible responses were bandied about.
Experts, both within and without, were united in their opinion that the US had just shot itself in the foot with JASTA. And the elected representatives suddenly had second thoughts of their overkill with the override of Obama’s veto.
However, we all forgot that this is an election year in America and we have no say. The voting pattern was fashioned to acquire votes.
In addition, it was instigated by greed more by self-appointed lawyers for the victims of Sept. 11! In fact, some lawyers lobbied more than the families!!
The vote also revealed the utter failure of our diplomacy in Washington. Capitol Hill does not care for us. And like most Arabs we believe in personal relations with those in power and are oblivious to the importance of the “power brokers”. And that was the flaw.
Hiring public relation firms and individuals that even by American standards are shady has been the policy. I have time and time again cautioned against it.
What we needed to do was to go to the constituents of these lawmakers and explained our side ourselves.
We needed to build bridges. Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide. And we also have good stories to tell. But who was there to relay all the positivity.
People now are raising possible bogies that the JASTA law brings along with it. It could open a virtual Pandora’s box.
Especially when other nations claim reciprocity for America’s action during their days as a global policeman. Vietnam vets and the forces that committed atrocities in Iraq will have cause to fear.
Yes, we have many problems and they could fill pages. But these are related to us and we all are taking care of them.
This then makes me less surprised than many at the Congress action.
Greed by lawyers, naiveté on the part of the Americans, inaction, apathy and ineffectiveness on our part all contributed to this.
This should be an experience for us to be prepared with a counter measure for any eventuality in order to safeguard our interests while projecting a positive image globally.
— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena