We were injured in the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, and we want justice from Iran

For a generation, too many of the injured U.S. service member survivors of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and their families have suffered in near silence, barely remembered but forever wounded and damaged.

The toll of the past 25 years for us and so many others has been excruciating: life-changing physical injuries, post-traumatic stress, constant anxiety, nightmares and far too many damaged and broken relationships.

The 5,000-pound truck bomb detonated at the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran killed 19 U.S. airmen and injured more than 400 others. We served there on a peacekeeping mission, charged with monitoring Iraqi compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia killed 19 U.S. service members.

The terrorist attack quickly was traced to Iran, a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism, and its agents in the Hezbollah militant group. While Iran drifted in out of geopolitical relevance for the next two decades, we never gave up on seeking justice.

A lawsuit against Iran

In 2019, our group of 14 injured U.S. Air Force members and 21 family members brought a federal court lawsuit against Iran under the terrorism exception to the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

The defendants were the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security.

In July 2020, the court ruled that the Iranian defendants directed and provided material support to Hezbollah terrorists who attacked Khobar Towers. The judgment against Iran included $132 million for pain and suffering and hundreds of millions in prejudgment interest.

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We recently learned that the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism fund likely would pay a portion of the damage award. The USVSST fund had been created to compensate American victims of acts of international terrorism with funds obtained from fines and forfeitures levied against companies caught illegally laundering money for sanctioned countries and persons.

An Air Force veteran, Clayton Zook was injured in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

An Air Force veteran, Clayton Zook was injured in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

But even with a judgment against Iran in hand, our fight was – and is – far from over.

The USVSST fund recently announced that there will be insufficient funds to authorize additional payments to terrorism victims by January. The Trump administration decreased the Department of Justice prosecutions of Office of Foreign Assets Control violations, which resulted in the USVSST fund having limited assets for near-term distribution to victims.

An Air Force veteran, Christopher Nagel was injured in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

An Air Force veteran, Christopher Nagel was injured in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

This was terribly disappointing – especially since our lawyers had helped obtain legislative changes that increased the funds that qualify for deposit into the USVSST fund and extending its sustainability until 2039.

Forgotten victims of global terror

The recent 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack was a painful reminder that our families feel like we are among the forgotten victims of global terrorism. Politicians may support us at memorial services and in meetings on Capitol Hill, and then do nothing – because they can’t or won’t help.

Iran, meanwhile, demands an ascendant geopolitical role, but still will not account for its actions at Khobar Towers.

Make no mistake about it, however, we will continue to seek to hold the government of Iran accountable for the attack on us as long as is necessary. We simply want our Congress and president to do the same – and honor their commitments to U.S. terrorism victims.

9/11: The enemy is us: After 9/11, we turned on each other. And missed the true danger.

Because Iran so grievously injured us, caused endless medical complications and expenses, and stole from us our abilities to fully work, love and live, we still want justice. The massive Khobar Towers explosion took so much from our minds and bodies on the day in 1996 – and still does every day and night. For that, we want the world to remember the evil that Iran did. And we want our nation’s leaders to help force Iran to pay the high price it should, as ordered by the court.

Air Force veterans Christopher Nagel and Clayton Zook suffered injuries in the Khobar Towers bombing.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: United States should honor commitment to Khobar Towers bombing victims

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