After the Libyan rebels seized Tripoli, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said that Americans had not done enough to oust Muammar el-Gaddafi from power In a statement that damned the Obama administration with only the faintest of praise, McCain and Graham thanked everyone (the British, the French, Qatar, etc.) but the US as we had failed to “employ the full weight of our airpower.” But a leaked Wikileaks cable reveals this statement to display something of a turnaround in the two senators’ views about the Gaddafi regime.
Exactly two years ago, McCain, Graham and Senator Joe Lieberman were in Libya meeting Gaddafi, Think Progress points out. Not only did they assure the long-standing dictator that Libya’s relationship with the US was “on the mend”; the cables reveal that McCain assured Gaddafi’s son, Muatassim — Libya’s National Security Adviser — that the Arizona senator would “see what he could do to move things forward in Congress” regarding the Gaddafi regime’s request for eight C130s (military transport aircraft).
The cables make no mention of democratic reforms of, indeed, of the Libyan people.
Lieberman also pledged support for Libya as “an important ally in the war on terrorism.” “We never would have guessed ten years ago that we would be sitting in Tripoli, being welcomed by a son of Muammar al-Qaddafi,” the cables quote Lieberman as saying.
Flash forward to February of this year when Gaddafi and his sons responded with bullets and violence to Libyans protesting inspired by the uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. The International Criminal Court soon put out a warrant for Gaddafi’s arrest. McCain himself made a surprise visit to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in April. Then, just this past weekend, the rebel forces marched into Tripoli and seized Gaddafi’s Bab al-Azizya compound — all developments that no one ever “would have guessed” would have occurred.
As the rebels gained ground, McCain and his “clique,” says Think Progress, wasted no time in “return[ing] to their perches as the staunchest advocates of U.S. military action in Libya, taking to the airwaves to lament the U.S.’s mere three-week delay to build international consensus and calling for arming the Libyan rebels.” In other words, McCain and his cohort were for Gaddafi “when it was convenient as a win for the Bush administration” and then against him when the uprising began. What they have been consistent in, is their hawkish tone, and in switching sides as the moment dictates.
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Photo of McCain, Graham and Lieberman in Kabul in July 2011 by U.S Embassy Kabul Afghanistan