Sen. says intervention prevented “worst outcome” in nation, urges additional support for anti-Gaddafi troops.
SENATOR McCAIN TRAVELS TO BENGHAZI, LIBYA
Benghazi, Libya – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) made the following remarks at a press conference earlier today in Benghazi, Libya:
“I want to thank President Jalil and the rest of the Transitional National Council for making this one of the most exciting and inspiring days of my life. I have met with all of the key leaders of the Council, and I applaud their remarkable progress in this struggle for liberation.
“I want to thank U.S. Special Envoy Chris Stevens and his remarkable team here in Benghazi. They are doing outstanding work, and America should be very proud of their service. I also had the opportunity to meet with the special envoys from France, Great Britain, Denmark, Turkey and Italy. I thank them too for their good work.
“Let me offer my deepest condolences to the families of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros. They were killed trying to show the world the horrors that Qaddafi’s forces are inflicting on the people of Misurata. Their loss is heartbreaking.
“What I have witnessed today in Benghazi is a powerful and hopeful example of what a free Libya could be – a place where the dignity and the desires of all people for freedom and opportunity are respected. I challenge the critics of the international intervention in Libya to come here to Benghazi, to meet with these people and their leaders, and to repeat that we had no interest in preventing Qaddafi from slaughtering these Libyan dissidents, which is exactly what he had pledged to do.
“Had President Obama and our allies not acted, history would have remembered Benghazi in the same breath as Srebrenica – a scene of mass atrocities and a source of international shame. Instead, Benghazi today is a source of hope, and I have come here to ask our Libyan partners what more we can do to help them win their freedom.
“We are doing a lot of good already, and I want to thank the Obama administration for committing an additional $25 million for humanitarian assistance. The Libyan opposition leaders I met today are very appreciative of this life-saving support. However, there is still much more that needs to be done. And after my meetings today, I am convinced that the following steps are more essential than ever.
“First, I would encourage every nation, especially the United States, to recognize the Transitional National Council as the legitimate voice of the Libyan people. They’ve earned this right, and Gadhafi has forfeited it by waging war on his own people.
“Second, governments that have frozen assets of the Qaddafi regime should release some of that money to the Transitional National Council so that they can sustain, improve, and expand their capacity to govern justly.
“Third, we need to urgently step up the NATO air campaign to protect Libyan civilians, especially in Misurata. We desperately need more close air-support and precision strike assets – such as A-10s and AC-130s. And I applaud Secretary Gates’s decision to use Predator aircraft to help in this effort. We can better identify and destroy Qaddafi’s forces as they seek to conceal themselves in civilian areas.
“Finally, responsible nations need to provide the military forces of the Transitional National Council with every appropriate means of assistance to enable them to create conditions on the ground that increase the pressure on Qaddafi to leave power. That includes command and control support, battlefield intelligence, training, and weapons. I have met with these brave fighters, and they are not Al-Qaeda. To the contrary: They are Libyan patriots who want to liberate their nation. We should help them do it.
“We have prevented the worst outcome in Libya. Now we need to increase our support so that the Libyan people can achieve the only satisfactory outcome to this mass protest for universal rights: the end of Qaddafi’s rule and the beginning of a peaceful and inclusive transition to democracy that will benefit all Libyans.”