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. Zach M

    Also, look at Iraq. We thought they would be grateful for our help, and let me tell you from experience, the vast majority of those people simply hate our guts. Let them take revenge on their own ignorant Islamist brethren, and if they want to mess with us down the road, we pound them into the dust.

    April 28, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. George Dixon

    To support Syrian "Rebels" we would have to arm Islamic Jihadists.

    "Syria War: Rebels Joined By Chechnya Islamic Militants In 'Jihad' Against Assad"
    Reuters 03/06/2013

    "Syria: Al-Qaeda's battle for control of Assad's chemical weapons plant"

    "Dec 10, 2012 – The presence of rebel fighters in Syria that were trained and supported by Al Qaeda poses a serious problem for the United States"
    NY Times

    April 28, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  3. milenkovic milan

    USA must support Syrian opposition to secure ALL chemical weapons and other WMD...

    April 28, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  4. Rightster

    Yes the Syrians need our help, let's start fighting the terrorists in Syria who are committing atrocities against the government and the people.

    April 28, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  5. Donkey Party

    Nobody knows "angry and bitter" better than McCain. What's next, is he going to give a "My friends, today we're all Syrians" speech? The man has a proven track record of being 100% wrong, 100% of the time.

    April 28, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. chewie402

    Arming or otherwise emboldening any groups in that part of the world has never worked out well for us. No matter which side wins, no matter much aid the US Provides to the winning group, within a year they will be marching in the streets, burning out flags, and calling for our destruction. No thanks. The US should stay as far away from the Syrian Conflict as possible.

    April 28, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  7. RickJ

    How many of McCains friends own arms manufacturers is what I'd like to know..

    April 28, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. billobrienschindimple

    Someday the brilliant braintrust will grasp the fact that a lot of the hate and violence that is perpetuated towards us by Muslim radicals is a result of our neverending involvement with a region of the world that only holds our interest because of oil. People complain that Islam is the Religion of Violence. Well, like it or not, we are the country of War. Anytime a conflict arises we are just itching to get involved. Our country is at a loss for what to do when we are not involved in war. If we were not lost at times of peace you may actually see steps taken to improve the life of the American citizen, addressing such needs as poor education system, rapidly deteriorating national health, and crumbling infrastructure.Long live War! It IS the US way.

    April 28, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. Jocho Johnson

    Why the hell should Syrians think it is ok to "take revenge" on the US for "not helping". It is as illogical as Americans deciding to "take revenge" on Syrians for not helping us secure the border between us and Mexico.

    April 28, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  10. Orestes

    America needs our help. Quit jumping off to war with everyone else, McCain, and DO something to help Americans.

    April 28, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. tet1953

    This is not our problem. Don't forget, prior to 2 years ago these people hated the west. And they will hate the west again no matter what we do. And Senator McCain should know better than most that a no-fly zone is much more than simply declaring one. First step is to neutralize the formidable Syrian air defenses. Protecting any WMD will require boots on the ground. No, we need to stay out of this.

    April 28, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. bp

    If anyone understands "angry and bitter" it's John McCain.

    April 28, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. HBsushi

    McCain always seems to not care if we send the American military everywhere possible to be the world police. I think he is a relic of the past. Give him an assault rifle and a plane ticket to Syria and if he comes back, ask him again what his position is.

    April 28, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. pat carr

    Here goes McBomb again trying to push us into another war. We of america are angry and bitter over 2 wasteful and evil wars. McBomb should go and fund his own war if he wants it so bad.

    April 28, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. pat carr

    "This term will probably be McCain's last term as well. Voted for Gun Control and now he wants Americans to go to war with Syria. Kind of an Oxymoron. Regulate my guns DO NOT expect me to raise a hand to help you."

    Exactly! This same JM who voted for gun control but now wants us to get involved in another war. John, please resign so that someone else younger and not as demented can be in office

    April 28, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  16. just wondering

    We have to CONTROL THESE NUTS IN OUR GOVERMENT who want nothing bot unending WAR,,,,,

    April 28, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. Keith T. Maxwell

    Not interested.... Let them fight it out.

    April 28, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. Dennis

    The more we do in that region the more they hate us. I suggest Senator McCain start worrying more about all the wounded vets that have returned from Afganistan & Iraq. There is not one Syrian worth one of our highly trained soldiers or airmen dying in another loser cause. When is this guy going to retire??

    April 28, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. Tony

    “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" ... i feel compassion for humanity, but being threatened to help or else really rubs me the wrong way.

    April 28, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  20. Marcus

    us_1776 you forget another side : the US -terrorist--foreign--policy which provokes all this wars in the Middle East , I am totally sure that without US / Israel war interventions the story would be 180º different !!

    April 28, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. What the?

    Meanwhile Detroit goes bankrupt....

    April 28, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. dman

    Sorry Mr. McCain. If I'm the President, there is no way I'm going to arm anyone, let alone a fringe group, in the Middle East, with the exception of Israel.

    April 28, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. wxqz

    1983 Beirut barracks bombing – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Beirut Barracks Bombing (October 23, 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon) occurred during the Lebanese Civil War, when two truck bombs struck separate buildings ...the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines
    American pulled out and 3 days later invaded the carribean hamlet of Grenada

    April 28, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  24. David Corbin

    Mr. McCain, you've got it wrong again. You are soooo out of touch. Please retire and please stop trying to send our young people into another war.

    Yes, the Syrians need help, but why isn't the "Arab World" helping their own ??

    April 28, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  25. McShannon

    This is not the time to extend ourselves for political fodder as John suggests and getting involved in Syria should be more of a worry to Russia than the USA. John stop showing your failing mind it's downright scary!

    April 28, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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