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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript - Boston Bombers and Syria


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SCHIEFFER: All right, well, Senator Graham, thank you for being with us and sharing that this morning. I want to turn to two more key members of the Senate, two senators, Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the intelligence committee, and Democratic senator Claire McCaskill who serves on homeland security, both members of the armed services committee. Senator McCaskill what's your reaction to what you just heard from Senator Graham? Do you think there is a growing consensus that we've got to do something in Syria here?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think we're developing contingencies. I think the president, along with our military leadership, is working very hard right now to figure out the best way to keep Syria from becoming the fragmented state that could be a home and haven for terrorists. Russia's very important here, Bob. Russia, we've got to bring them around. Assad is leaning on Russia -- as much as we have to bring China around with North Korea. And I do think that people don't realize how much work is going on. The president met with the king of Jordan this week. The secretary of state is busy with all of our allies in the area trying to get help in figuring out what we can do surgically that will get the result we want without making the problem even worse.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Chambliss, I mean Senator Graham pretty much underline in the understatement of the year, he said it's really hard and it's going to be very complicated. Who do you help? And how do you help them? I think that's the question that most people in government are trying to figure out.

CHAMBLISS: Well, Bob, we got better intelligence today than we had six months ago about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are in Syria. Unfortunately, one thing we're seeing is the bad guys are becoming more popular. They're the ones that we've got to make sure do not get their hands on these chemical weapons should Assad fall. They're the ones that we've got to make sure that if a decision is made to arm the rebels, that we don't arm them, that we arm the good guys. But, you know, it is very, very complex. Here's what concerns me, though. The world is watching. We've got 70,000 dead people in that part of the world as a result of Bashar al-Assad. We as America have never let something like that happen before. We've taken action.

Now, I don't have the answer, I doubt Claire does, as to exactly what we ought to do but the world is truly watching America right now, particularly with the president saying his red line of use of chemical weapons, use of chemical weapons is a game changer. Well, we now know he's used chemical weapons...

SCHIEFFER: Well, do we really know that, senator?


SCHIEFFER: I keep thinking about Iraq and all these reports about weapons of mass destruction, and I remember Colin Powell going before the United Nations and it turned out none of it was true.

MCCASKILL: What we don't know is we don't have a conclusive chain of evidence at this point as to where the weapon -- where the order came from. Was this a rogue guy that decided to do this? Or was this truly a decision by the government in Syria to implement the use of -- and that's why I think we've got to make sure we know before we base our actions just on that.

SCHIEFFER: Well, is that -- should we only be our action on whether or not there was chemical weapons used? Or should it go beyond that, Senator Chambliss?

CHAMBLISS: Unfortunately, the situation in Syria has deteriorated to this point, to where it really does go beyond that. I would disagree, a little bit, with Claire in that we know where the order came from to use the weapon. We had another general defect just in the last couple of days who, again, has validated where the order came from. But even beyond that, look at what's happening inside of Syria. It is just a total chaos and a huge military conflict that has the potential to spread all over the Middle East. This is more than an Arab Spring uprising, more than people demonstrating in the streets. This is an out-and-out war.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what about the -- what are the things we can do, no-fly zones, more aid to the rebels, if we can figure out which rebels to give the aid to? What -- what are the things that are most likely to happen here, Senator?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think there's a variety of things that can be considered that I know that we are really working on the humanitarian part to help the king of Jordan and the problem that Lindsey referred to, in terms of the number of people that are fleeing Syria.

I think we can also help by providing things. We haven't gotten to lethal yet, but we sure are working with our friends in the area that may be providing more assistance to some of these -- the good guys, the opposition good guys. So it is a matter of resources and it's a matter of having contingency plans and making sure that we are ready if we need to take some kind of military action.

SCHIEFFER: Do either of you at this point think there's a chance that we would have to put U.S. troops in there or that we would want to?

MCCASKILL: I don't think you want to ever rule it out because I think this is, kind of, as -- as Saxby said, this thing has really deteriorated, and it's not really at a tipping point. So I don't think you ever want to say absolutely not. Obviously, we don't want to do that unless it's absolutely necessary.

CHAMBLISS: I would go even beyond that. I would say no. I think we can take affirmative action. Lindsey referred to cruise missiles. We've got F-22s and B-2s that can take out the anti-aircraft missiles that they have, and they are very sophisticated. If we did that, then it's still not up to the United States to engage in this from a military conflict standpoint. We don't need to put boots on the ground, but we need to enable their neighbors, the neighbors of Syria, to bring some sort of peaceful resolution to this. We can do it through a no-fly zone. I had a good conversation with King Abdullah just this week about that. I don't think we're at that point right now, but we're close. But the fact is, for America to sit on the sidelines and do nothing is a huge mistake because the world is watching.

MCCASKILL: And of course, if we do, if we take the bomber action, then that may lead to something else, and that's really what I'm referring to in terms of you don't ever want to say absolutely never any boots on the ground because, you know, Iran is busy here. Iran is very busy here. And so is Hezbollah. So it's just one of those things that we've got -- I think that we do need to be very cautious.

SCHIEFFER: You know, once Osama bin Laden was killed, we had people around here saying that the war on terrorism is over, the threat is over. I guess we found out in Boston that that's not entirely true. It does seem to be a different kind of terrorism that we're up against right now.

CHAMBLISS: This was our worst fear, and that is, a home grown terrorist, or a terrorist that was sent here to be ingrained within the community and -- you know, these guys, they flew under the radar. Certainly, the FBI had some suspicions because of contact by the Russians. I wish the Russians, Bob, had given us, in 2011, instead of just a cursory opinion of these guys, what they gave us...

SCHIEFFER: Do either of you have any information to suggest that they got training from somebody else some place else or in this country?

MCCASKILL: There -- there is no evidence at this point. The investigation continues. But there is no evidence at this point that these two were part of a larger organization, that they were in fact part of a -- some kind of terror cell or any kind of direction. It appears, at this point, based on the evidence, that it's the two of them.

SCHIEFFER: All right, well, I want to thank both of you for helping us on this, this morning. Thanks for coming by.



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