Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) called the idea that the U.S. could not arm the right rebels in Syria to fight Bashir al-Assad “damned foolishness” in an interview with Charlie Rose Tuesday.
McCain has pushed for establishing a safe zone and supplying rebel forces with necessary weaponry.
He was especially frustrated with Gen. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two administration officials who once favored arming rebels but said they were skeptical because of growing Islamist influence.
“Well, doesn’t that mean it was a terrible tragic failure that we didn’t act then and get these weapons to the right people then?” McCain asked. “And of course it’s damned foolishness. Of course we can get the weapons to the right people. Of course if we set up a Benghazi in Syria, we can get them to the right people.”
McCain also again criticized President Obama’s red line with Syria, which he earlier said had been written with disappearing ink, saying it put U.S. credibility abroad in position to be questioned.
ROSE: It’s interesting. I want to go back to — I was reading this today. Both Panetta, Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus and others –
MCCAIN: And General Clapper. Director of National Intelligence.
ROSE: They all recommended something. Do we know what they recommended?
MCCAIN: They were recommending arming the rebels and you know what’s so bizarre is that both General [Martin] Dempsey and General [James] Clapper were saying we did recommend that a year ago, but now it’s too complicated. Well, doesn’t that mean it was a terrible tragic failure that we didn’t act then and get these weapons to the right people then? And of course it’s damned foolishness. Of course we can get the weapons to the right people. Of course if we set up a Benghazi in Syria, we can get them to the right people. Now the jihadists are the best fighters. Hell, they’ve fought all over the Middle East and they’re not afraid to die. But to somehow think we can’t get the weapons to the right people if we have a established place in Syria for this government. and, by the way, it’s a pretty damn good general we’ve got there now, too, working for the resistance.
ROSE: Do you think the president’s credibility is at stake here?
MCCAIN: Yeah, I think so but he never should have done that to start with, Charlie. It’s okay to use scud missiles and kill hundreds of people. It’s okay to use mortars and heavy artillery. It’s okay to use as an instrument, intimidation of gang rape and torture and murder, but that’s all okay. But it’s not okay to use chemical weapons? What’s that all about? That’s so repugnant it’s hard for me to talk about it without emotion because I’ve been to refugee camps and seen the people and what’s been done to them. We should haven’t done this ‘red line’ to start with and now as one of the commentators and I was only listening, I couldn’t tell which one — pointed out he probably didn’t intend for it to be a red line if it’s only small amounts. It puts him in a very — puts him in a position where American credibility will certainly be questioned. But I believe that incremental efforts will be non-productive and a reason, again, not to be involved.