Obama, Donors Block Relief for Families of Beirut Bombing Victims

Obama, Donors Block Relief for Families of Beirut Bombing Victims

A high-powered Wall St. CEO and early, influential Obama supporter, Donald F. Donahue of the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), may be using his significant clout on behalf of the Obama administration and a questionable Iranian-linked strategic partner to stand in the way of American military families trying to recover billions of dollars to which they are legally entitled after being victimized by the infamous 1983 Iranian-sponsored bombing of a U.S. Marine Corp barracks in Beirut.

Since the 1983 bombing, there have been numerous court rulings siding with those victimized by state-sponsored terrorism, allowing them to sue foreign governments for damages. The estates of the Marines killed in Beirut were recently awarded $2.16 billion in damages by a Federal judgeLawyers have already attached nearly two billion dollars of Iran’s money, which sits frozen at Citibank in New York. 

The key question is, will that money simply flow back to Iran, will it do that as part of an Obama foreign policy initiative, or will it be handed over to the families who have sued and won a right to it being paid out as damages for the terrorism in 1983? Legislation currently working its way through Congress is just one more attempt to resolve the issue in favor of the families by simplifying their route to justice despite objections by Iran and the Executive branch. DTCC seems intent on weakening the legislation.

Understanding the connections and mutual interests of Obama, Clearstream and Donahue’s DTCC is key to understanding why representatives for the military families find current, pertinent facts and events so troubling and bizarre.

Defeating, or simply weakening, a widely-popular anticipated piece of legislation that now enjoys bi-partisan support could substantially benefit both DTCC and its recently acquired highly-controversial strategic partner, Luxemberg-based Clearstream–with established ties to Iran–while also proving very beneficial to Barack Obama’s fundraising in an election year. Consequently, advocates for the families share growing concerns over any possible collusion among the powerful parties with most to gain from preventing military families from collecting that to which they’re morally and legally entitled based upon both an act of Congress and a court ruling.

The relationship and similar goals of all three–DTCC, Clearstream and Obama–are causing military families to begin to doubt if justice will ever be served in their so far fruitless 30 year-long quest in the wake of a horrific act of terrorism which took the lives of family members.

In foreign policy terms, it’s believed that Obama and his State Department would prefer the flexibility of being able to allow the $2 billion plus in question to flow back to terrorist-supporting Iran as a fig leaf of sorts in Obama’s most recent appeasement campaign. A release of the funds back to Iran–whether overtly, or through a wink and a nod, potentially with the assistance of Clearstream–is thought to represent leverage for Obama’s State Department to use in the nuclear negotiation process, whether it ever became public knowledge, or not.

However, in addition to that, any potential meaningful legislation also presents an extremely difficult domestic political problem for Obama, given the timing. 2012 is an election year, and publicly taking on military families seeking only that to which they’ve been deemed legally entitled, as Obama and Holder at DOJ have done previously in 2009, presents Obama with a potential public relations disaster as he seeks a second term. Worse, were a combined bill to emerge from Congress, Obama would be forced to choose between the families of dead military members killed in an act of Iran-sponsored terrorism, and vetoing any legislation on behalf of an Iran he presently seems intent on appeasing through negotiations.

Consequently, any public statements or closed-door lobbying by DTCC, in reality opposing current legislation as it exists, while feigning support, would seem more designed to weaken, or derail Congressional efforts on the part of the military families involved, as opposed to being supportive, as DTCC claims to be. To the extent DTCC may be able to accomplish a weakening, or defeating of, current legislation, that would serve its interest, its partner’s interest, and Barack Obama’s interest–not those of the families of military personnelwho gave their lives as peacekeepers in 1983.

That seems to be playing out as Donahue, Obama, and significant portions of major media, are all but ignoring impassioned pleas for help on behalf of the victims. Beirut Families, an advocacy group supporting the military families terrorized by Iran, recently released a full statement addressed to DTCC CEO Donahue:

After so many years of fighting for justice against all odds, now that we seem to be in the home stretch in our efforts to collect the judgment, your company is working on Capitol Hill to keep that from happening. The American military service persons families who have suffered directly from Iran’s attack on America in 1983 find DTCC’s position on S. 2101 and H.R. 4070 downright unconscionable.

I am a suburban housewife and mom who lost my brother, Capt. Vincent Smith, in the 1983 bombing. The people in my group have similar backgrounds. We are not bankers. We are not globally connected businesspeople. We are simply Americans, whose lives have been forever changed by Iran’s wrath of terrorism directed against unarmed members of the U.S. military on a peacekeeping mission and as such, we cannot understand why DTCC is trying to undermine us.

While DTCC’s opposition to pending legislation is based upon what experts in and outside of government have termed “specious” claims, in recent years its has also significantly ramped up its lobbying efforts through a powerful DC-based lobbying firm, Patton Boggs, and cultivated a relationship with the Obama administration. 

DTCC CEO Donahue invested early in Obama, donating $2,300 to Barack Obama in January 2008 in the Democratic primary, followed by another $2,300 in September for the 2008 general election, based upon a search of FEC filings.

Donahue’s other political donations to Democrats are mostly insignificant as compared to his investment in Barack Obama.

Insiders with knowledge of events insist DTCC’s actual goal is to weaken any legislation by limiting it to smaller financial services firms, thereby itthem the freedom to transfer Iranian assets back to Iran, potentially with the help of their now strategic partner, Clearstream–and potentially with the overt, or tacit approval of the Obama administration.

Clearstream’s past is so clouded that, in November, Forbes actually castigated Citibank for simply doing business with it. Its past includes allegations of shifting Iranian assets so as to remain undetected, along with money laundering and tax evasion. Were someone interested in shifting Iranian assets, overtly or covertly, DTCC partner Clearstream would at least appear to be the firm to call:

By doing business with Clearstream, and through these transactions in particular, Citibank has exposed itself to an immense amount of risk. Citibank shareholders should ask whether the risk of handling these transactions was worth a potential $4 billion fine, let alone the damage that Citibankís reputation might incur as a result.

Unfortunately, as too often happens in Washington, anything akin to actual justice for the proverbial little guy either collides with powerful interests, or simply hits the wall of Washington politics as usual–only to be denied again and again.

For any wishing to support the families, the website for Beirut Families is Beirut Justice. They also maintain a Twitter feed for supporters interested in keeping abreast of new developments. In the end, it may yet take broad citizen support to move an adequate measure forward for Obama’s signature.

What current Commander-In-Chief Barack Obama may then do is anyone’s guess at this point.