Families of 9/11 victims beseech presidential hopefuls in Iowa: Hold Saudi Arabia accountable

Kevin Baskins
Des Moines Register
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The Iowa State Fair draws more than presidential candidates; it also attracts those wishing to influence them. In the case of family members representing victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, what they want from White House candidates is justice.

Members of the 9/11 Families United and the 9/11 Justice organizations, representing families of 9/11 victims, held a news conference Saturday on the steps of the Iowa Capitol to garner attention from presidential candidates campaigning at the State Fair.

Specifically, the groups want the United States to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for the terrorist attacks. On their websites, the groups cite Federal Bureau of Investigation documents released by President Joe Biden’s administration that show direct links from the terrorists to Saudi government operatives.

Terry Sholty Strada of 9/11 Families United said the families of victims in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks came to Iowa Saturday "seeking a champion" among the presidential candidates who will disclose more government information about Saudi Arabia's role in the attacks.

The two groups are promoting passage of a bipartisan bill before Congress sponsored by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, called the Ensuring Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. Proponents say passage of the bill is key to correcting “incorrect misinterpretations” of an earlier law passed in 2016.

“We’ve been fighting 22 years for justice, accountability and closure for the loss of our loved ones," said Brett Eagleson, president of 9/11 Justice, whose father, John Bruce Eagleson, was killed in the tower attacks. "Administration after administration have made promises that they would help the 9/11 community have justice and closure. To this day, we have yet to a have a single president, a single administration, honor those commitments and honor promises that they’ve made to us.”

He added, “So we are coming to Iowa to look for a champion, to look for a candidate who will truly stand with the 9/11 community and have the courage and guts to hold the kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable for its role in 9/11."

Eagleson said family members of 9/11 victims are still seeking FBI documents to bolster their case concerning Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the attacks, adding that much of the information released so far has been redacted.

When it comes to the lack of holding Saudi Arabia accountable, Eagleson said “there is blame to go around.”

“Administration after administration, we’ve been failed," Eagleson said. "We’ve been punched in the gut and stabbed in the back and we’ve had enough. Twenty-two years is far too long for anybody to wait when it comes to murder, when it comes to the single most devastating attack in U.S. history.”

Terry Sholty Strada, national chair of 9/11 Families United, recalled the last fateful phone call from her late husband, Tom, who was trapped on the 104th floor of one of the towers.

“It was a devastating phone call to receive that was both a curse and a blessing," Strada said. "A blessing that he was able to reach me and a curse that I will have to spend the rest of my life hearing the screams and the agony that was going on all around him while the carpet was burning beneath their feet and people were jumping to their deaths.”

Strada said the families of 9/11 victims deserve to know who all was responsible for the attacks and hold them accountable.

Disclosing “every possible detail” leading up to the attacks is not only important for seeking justice but also for creating better national policy to protect our homeland and its people, Strada said.

“But here’s the hard brutal truth: We have never had a president or administration that has put knowing the whole truth about Sept. 11th ahead of protecting our diplomatic relations with a foreign nation that is responsible for the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and that is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Strada said.

Strada said a case is pending in New York to hold the Saudi government accountable for the attacks, but the families of victims are still looking for “a champion” among the presidential candidates who will support them in their quest for justice.

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