President George W. Bush said today he will veto a bill providing billions of dollars for the Defense Department because the Iraqi government is concerned that it could expose Iraqi assets in American banks to legal claims by victims of Saddam Hussein, The New York Times reports.
The Times reports that one pending lawsuit seeks $1 million or more, and the Bush administration says the Iraqi government cannot afford such losses. A presidential spokesman says a section in the law would permit plaintiffs’ lawyers to freeze Iraqi funds, and the White House will work with Congressional leaders to fix the bill when Congress resumes in January.
But the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) say they were taken by surprise today, the concerns should have been voiced earlier, and the veto could hurt Americans serving in the military.
In 2003, the Bush administration opposed a judgment against Iraq for torturing American prisoners of war in 1991, arguing that Bush had granted the country sovereign immunity for actions committed by the Saddam Hussein regime. Read the Legal Times story from 2003 here.