McCain: ‘Angry and bitter’ Syrians need America’s help
April 28th, 2013
10:48 AM ET
10 years ago

McCain: ‘Angry and bitter’ Syrians need America’s help

(CNN) – The people of Syria, beleaguered by war and potentially being attacked by chemical weapons, are “angry and bitter” that the United States has not played a more leading role in ending the country’s conflict, Sen. John McCain said Sunday.

Long an advocate of a more pronounced American effort in Syria, McCain described the disappointment he saw while visiting a Syrian refugee camp in neighboring Jordan.

“This woman who was a schoolteacher said, ‘Sen. McCain, do you see these children here? They're going to take revenge on those people who refused to help them,’ ” McCain recalled on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They’re angry and bitter. And that legacy could last for a long time too, unless we assist them.”

Last week, the White House told lawmakers in a letter that intelligence analysts have concluded "with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin."

But the analysis was characterized as preliminary, with the White House saying the "chain of custody" of the chemicals was not clear and that intelligence analysts could not confirm the circumstances under which the sarin was used, including the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

President Barack Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a “red line” threshold for greater U.S. action in the country, which McCain argued was coming too late.

“For about two years this situation has deteriorated in a very alarming fashion, affected the surrounding countries, destabilized Lebanon, destabilized Jordan, and has had implications and repercussions throughout the region,” McCain said.

On Friday, Obama noted again that the use of chemical weapons in Syria “crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues.”

But he said the intelligence gathered on potential use of sarin was still too preliminary to be conclusive.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued that once a red line has been drawn it must be adhered to.

“I think putting aside the question of exactly what we do, once we announce there's a red line, if we don't take it seriously, we are discrediting ourselves in not just Syria, but Iran, North Korea, all around the world,” Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. “How much proof do you need?”

Nicholas Burns, a former undersecretary of state, said Obama was in a difficult situation.

“He was right to make those warnings in the last several months because use of chemical weapons is a war crime under the chemical weapons convention,” Burns said, also on CNN. “I think he's right to be prudent and cautious. We got in a situation in 2003 in Iraq and didn't have all our facts together and went to war in part on an erroneous basis. So he's right to be cautious.”

“But when you draw a line in the sand in the Middle East and you dare someone to cross it and they appear to have crossed it, there have been to be consequences,” he added. “And our credibility as a country is very important.”

Filed under: John McCain • Syria
soundoff (121 Responses)
  1. Hubbard

    If we are penny pinching on aid to disasters in our own country, why should we throw more money to another country in the Middle East. The USA needs to focus on things at home.

    April 28, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  2. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Then I guess you will have no problem volunteering Ray E. You feel free to take your gun and go help if you're so inclined. Just don't start sending others based on what YOU and Johnny Mac want.

    And while we're on the topic, I'm sure you'll be among this first to complain if we as a country DO help and things go badly.

    April 28, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  3. Doug Lynn

    McCain's worldview is key reason why we are in the horrible mess we are in. First, he thinks Americans have a responsibility to police the world. Foolishness. Christ did not call for the overthrow of Roman. Second, McCain is blind to slavery he and his big spending friends are bringing to Americans. The borrower is the slave of the lender. Washington wickedly steals from our savings with Fed created inflation or steals from our future by borrowing to satisfy their lust for power and adoration from voters.

    April 28, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. waukone

    How many people want to send our men & women into another war? I thought we were broke?

    April 28, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. Larry

    Smaller government and less SS and Medicare and other benefits to Americans but sure we should go in and fight another war that no one else in the world will life a finger to, money-wise or man-power-wise. Fine! Republicans...raise taxes on yourselves. I'm not paying another dime for your stupid reckless war-mongering and recklessness.

    April 28, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. CM

    Poor, poor John McCain. So inconsequential these days but hey yeah let's get ourselves into another war. It's not like we're even done with the Bush wars 10+ years later. Go back to AZ.

    April 28, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. ronjayaz

    PLeze, pleze, retire Mr. Senator. Yor an ardent dissenter against torturing prisoners as U were once one yorself, but didnt sending our "men" off to war rub off on U so that U'd be an ardent anti-war senator? Only insane Americans wud want to get further involved in the ME. We've been done, senator, well done, BBQd!

    April 28, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  8. Jewels

    I'm so tired of McCain's rants. Enough with his passion for engaging in yet another war. Haven't we had enough? Hasn't America also paid consequences for trying to intervene? I don't get his constant need to go to war, time and time again.

    April 28, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  9. Anon

    1. America's too broke
    2. America and Israel are the one who helped create 70% of the disasters there.

    April 28, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  10. Melissa

    I'm a democrat. Honestly? We have enough problems to deal with HERE, let the Syrians deal with their own problems. If they want freedom from oppressors, they will have to take it themselves.

    April 28, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  11. Gary

    I just don't get him. For a man who spent so much time in a prison camp in Vietnam you would think he would be less of a war monger... People are murdered, enslaved, wars brew, and civil unrest are still in so many places throughout the world... Sometimes it comes off as so arrogant to think we can fix all.

    April 28, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  12. Andy

    We certainly don't want another extremist Muslim country in Middle east. Tell John McCain to mind his own business & stay out of politics. Can't we learn from our mistakes made in Iran, Iraq, Egypt, etc.?
    How many more young American's do we want to sacrifice in the name of democracy & money greed?

    April 28, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  13. drlayman

    The Obama administration is conducting itself with understandable restraint and using appropriate diligence in analyzing the Syrian situation, and subsequently, what actions to take. There's a lot at stake!

    April 28, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  14. KenneyP from Colorado

    If the involved. Did Senator McCain forget that the US is 16 trillion dollars in debt?

    How can he explain to the American people that we must furlough ourselves while giving away money to a country that will never like us.

    Republicans seem to always want to rush to war. This madness has to stop!

    April 28, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. John Jay

    People that argue that the opposition is full of Muslim extremists forget that the reason they are there is because no one else would really help. The timidity of the US to engage when there is obvious human rights needs is going to damn us in future interactions with the middle east and any country that rightfully believes we are more bark than bite. At this point that school teacher is probably right. We have created an entire generation that will bear ill-will towards our country due to our unwillingness to help them as their own government killed them with helicopters and chemical weapons.

    April 28, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  16. Jon

    We're trillions in debt from "helping" so many other country's like Iraq and Afghanistan, and look at what we have to show for our blood and money. McCain Halliburton's new ally seeing that Cheney isn't there anymore?

    April 28, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  17. Gant

    Let it burn in their bitter tears. America was on board with the Arab Spring until the "new" Arab country's people burned our embassies over a stinking film. I think that woke everyone up as to that delusion. Your fate is now your own thanks to your Arab neighbors.

    April 28, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. Tom

    GOP : raising taxes on the wealthy is wrong but sending some kids to their deaths in some middle eastern hole for nothing is fine ... we have had enough of Bush and Obama's wars

    April 28, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  19. SoCal

    Senator is getting old. He kinda forgot that he was elected to do what people in Arizona and in the US need and expect him to do. Not what syrians want him to do...... otherwise he needs to go to syria and get elected there....

    April 28, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  20. dean

    McCain is always ready to go to war. From the time I served in combat in Vietnam to todays conflicts around the world the U.S still is making poor decisions based on political and economic grounds. This is one we need to proceed very carefully with lots of partner nations without putting any boots on the ground.

    April 28, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  21. DumbasRocks [R]s

    Grandpa McCain is 'angry and bitter'. Yup, that about sums it up. He's been that way ever since he had to sell his soul to the rightwing underbelly of the [R] party, to get his ticket punched to run for Pres. back in 2008. The poor man is a uselss hack now....i.e. a maninstream [R] politician.

    April 28, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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