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CNN "American Morning" - Transcript


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ROMANS: Joining us now from Capitol Hill to respond to the president's speech is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, former Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

You say that part of the speech might have given comfort to Moammar Gadhafi. Why? I mean, we've dropped 192 Tomahawk missiles at $1 million a pop. He's not very comfortable, I think.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't think he's very comfortable, but when the president says that it would be a mistake to use military force in order to take him out of power, which is U.S. policy to, quote, "force him to step down," I think is a serious mistake. Could I say that I think the president made a clear and convincing case for our military intervention. It's clear that Benghazi would have been the scene of a massacre.

If we had done the no-fly zone three weeks before, Gadhafi would've fallen. But it is what it is. And now, the anti-Gadhafi rebels are succeeding because we are giving them significant and essential assistance from the air, taking out Gadhafi's ground forces. And we just proved outside of Sirte that without that, the rebels don't match up with the Gadhafi forces.

I hope that Gadhafi goes --

ROMANS: What more should we be doing? What do you think we should be doing more here to get him out? You want him out, how do we do it?

MCCAIN: I think keep -- keep moving. Keep the support of the air to their troops on the ground and to keep taking out Gadhafi's military. And one or two things is going to happen. Gadhafi will leave or be forced out, or we will force him to surrender. But to say that we're not going to use military means to achieve a U.S. policy goal, in my view, is a contradiction with the facts on the ground where we are heavily engaged militarily from the air.

ROMANS: What if our European partners -- if someone were to step forward and negotiate for him to leave the country, maybe promising him that he wouldn't be tried in an international war crimes tribunal -- would that be a solution you could live with?

MCCAIN: Yes, I could live with it. Obviously, I'd love to see him in criminal court. He has the blood of American citizens on his hands as a result of Pan Am 103. But -- and what he's done to his own people probably as important. But --

ROMANS: You want him out? You want him out?

MCCAIN: I want him out. I want him out.

ROMANS: You want him out. Who -- can give you --

MCCAIN: But to say that we are --

ROMANS: Go ahead.

MCCAIN: Anyway, to say we don't want him out -- we rule out the use of military power, I think one contradicts the situation as it exists. We are assisting the rebels with our significant air power capabilities and the factor in determining their success or failure. And at the same time, to say we're not going to take him out through military means.

And finally, could I just say?


MCCAIN: Gadhafi remains in power, it'll be a stalemate. We saw a stalemate before after Operation Desert Storm. We saw a no-fly zone and sanctions that lasted for 10 years that Saddam Hussein was able to remain in power. A stalemate is not an acceptable solution.

ROMANS: But, you know, the thing about North Africa and the Middle East is trying to compare one country to another is so difficult. You could take a look at Libya and then talk about Syria. What do we -- you know what I mean? I mean, it's very difficult, the inherent contradictions, as we say, in American foreign policy.

So, let me switch to Syria and Yemen, as well. I mean, you have an American ally president there. How concerned are you about other parts of the region? We're focusing so much on Libya now. But there are more concerns for Americans here. MCCAIN: Well, I think there are significant concerns. But it does not mean just because we used air power in Libya that we are going to use them in other countries. Each country is different.

And I am reluctant to commit U.S. military force in any country unless it is an absolute situation where we are preventing what we've always said we would prevent, a Holocaust, a Rwanda, a Srebrenica. And so, I'm not advocating the use of military -- U.S. military anywhere unless there is a situation that absolutely compels it.

And the president made a strong case for that in Libya last night.

ROMANS: And we prevented Benghazi for being added to that list, you think?

MCCAIN: Absolutely.

ROMANS: All right. Senator John McCain, thank you so much for your time this morning, sir. Thanks.


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