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. Ralph_in_FL

    Obviously, he still understands no part of "too broke to keep playing World Cop."

    April 28, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  2. Mandor

    Johnny MC hasn't seen a single armed conflict in the last 30 years that he didn't want America to go to war over.

    THAT, far more than Sarah Palin, is why i was delighted when he lost his bid for the presidency.

    April 28, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Patines

    We don't need another war!!!

    April 28, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  4. ST

    McCain, you can start recruiting. Romney has five men, I am not sure how many you have yourself, there are those you call young blood of GOP. Put them together and send them to Syria. They will give them help you mentioned is needed.

    April 28, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  5. joe

    The Syrian opposition is mainly made up of muslim extremists who do not have and never will have any interest in democracy or in allying with the US and the West. There are Al Qaeda groups already involved. Once they are in power, they will be impossible to deal with and will be a worse threat to Middle East peace than Assad has ever been. It is not in our best interest to help them topple Assad. There are no good solutions here and Obama has been smart enough to see that and to hold back from getting us involved. McCain is either totally clueless (a distinct possibility) or he wants Obama to do something wrong that he can blame him for later on (another distinct possibility).

    April 28, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. warmonger

    Unfortunately, America runs well when the industrial war complex is geared up. Every 10 odd years, we have to "create" a war situation to keep our economy going. Take your pick...Syria, Iran, North Korea are all next in line...

    April 28, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  7. Ray E. (Georgia)

    For the uninformed.
    There is always someone that complains when the U.S. helps people in other Nations. The latest is the Afganastan/IIraq problem. Some who can't see past the end of their nose now bash President Bush. It is a Damned if you do and damned if you don't. The idiot brigade on here will complain either way. If Bush had done nothing, such as his predicessser, and we were attacked again they would be complaining because he done nothing. Get a life people and figure it out that the World is a Dangerous place and sometimes you have to do something even if it's wrong.

    April 28, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. Shawn Irwin

    Yea, just like Iraq and Afghanistan needed our "help".

    April 28, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. Bill Richardson

    Quite frankly, I am tired of us sending our men and women into harms way to save these people who cannot seem to manage themselves. Then, after we save them, they turn their backs on us until they need us again. THAT is BS!! We need to adopt a policy of total control. If we come and save your country, then WE take over the country for twenty years. If you don't care for those terms, then save yourselves.

    April 28, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. Stormy

    I think we're doing things the right way. The world wants to complain when the US gets involved....let the rot for a while amongst their own humanity and see how they feel about that for a while. They hate the US when we help, and they hate us when we don't. In other words...we have been helping the world with absolutely no appreciation for it for the last 50 years. Let them take care of their own for a while and i bet the world gains a new appreciation.

    April 28, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. us_1776

    Syria is not so simple.

    On one side you have brutal murderous dictator.

    On the other side you have radical Islamists.

    Hard to chose who is better.


    April 28, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  12. DarqueSide

    When in recent history has McCain NOT been angry and bitter? I, for one, would prefer we NOT get tangled up in another war!

    April 28, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. Name Uche Agonsi

    I thought American must have learnt its lessons after its casualties in Iraq, Aghfan, the recession, & serious opposition against more wars by majority of Americans. For God's sake US DOES NOT need another war, unless supported by the UN. This red, green, blue , lines mapping should be avoided to save unnecessarily mistakes. The lives of any US soldier & his family is as precious, more than those of these Repub politicians who would loath helping poor Americans to the bloodshedding Moslems.

    April 28, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  14. Name j-dogg

    I don't understand why the syrian are mad and bitter at the US......seems to me that they should be mad and bitter at the ARAB LEAGUE for not doing nothing!!! We are too broke to get involved in another middle east conflict.

    April 28, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  15. jodyhall77

    As a conservative I don't understand why republicans like McCain want to be so quick to get involved with this. I don't want what happened in Egypt to happen in Syria. For all we know at this point it was the rebels who used chemical weapons against Assad. People like McCain are why we need term limits.

    April 28, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  16. Jules

    warmonger – our current economic situation would prove you false that wars keep the economy going. We had two wars going and it drove us right into the toilet economically. That's an old tired theory that war is good for the economy.

    April 28, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  17. christian vega

    The Congo needs our help, millions have perished there, but it is a conflict that receives little if any coverage. The reality is that, contrary to popular beliefs, we are not in the business of creating democracies. If that were our main value we would not be allied and pump millions of dollars into despotic and tyrannical nations like Saudi Arabia. We care about stability. We were happy to support Mubarak dictatorship until we saw that it was no longer to our advantage. Syria is a mixed bag, and rightly so. Many ethnic and religious minorities fear life without Assad because no one is willing to go out on a limb to trust Sunni Islamic fanatics to rule over them.

    April 28, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  18. jeff

    McCain loves war and would put america in wars all over the world if he had his way....of course weapons manufactures are some of mccains biggest financial supportes...hey even dick cheney got a 20million bonus from haliburton in excahnge for starting the irag war where haliburton charged 86$ per bottle of water.

    April 28, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  19. No Mac cain.

    Our credibility has been shot after the invasion of Iraq for one. We are too broke after Iraq for another.

    Syrian people should take responsibility for them selves and not be bitter and angry with us but at them selves. The biggest conflicts in the world are right in the middle east and it is time that part of the world takes responsibility for it's self instead of blaming every one else. Our country may of had good intentions at first but our meddling back fires and never is productive. If the world wants to help let the UN, and other countries do something. Israel can go in there for starters since it is so worried. If the middle east though wants change, it has to learn to take responsibility for its own actions, It does not. The day that part of the world takes responsibility for the extremists, killings over religion, that will be a big start for the middle east. When that day happens, then we should talk.

    April 28, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  20. JohnRJohnson

    Just the Vietnamese, Iraqis, and Afghans, huh, John? Maybe we should invade North Korea, too, since the South Koreans obviously need help with them. John McCain's transmission has two speeds: attack and reverse.

    April 28, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. TadJustWonders

    Just wondering...since Syria's best allies are Russia, Iran, China, Turkey...why US?

    April 28, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. Earl Dukeschein

    First of all, does anyone believe that the CIA is not doing anything? Secondly, I am for helping folks that share our ideals, but applying the Republican mantra to anything the Democrats want, Mr. McCain, how are you going to pay fot it?

    April 28, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  23. mm

    Mc Cain , America needs our help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 28, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. IceMan

    Americans need America's help, Senator.

    April 28, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. Budd

    If those children are going to be angry at the people who put them in this position, then they need to kill the teacher and their parents and the rest of the Syrian people who have sat on the collective butts and allowed this regime to stay in place. If they truly want to be free, grow a pair and keep fighting for your freedom.
    I will be glad to pay Mclame's plane ticket to go to help them

    April 28, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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