Never mind that there are known jihadists among them, allegations of “death squads on both sides,” and evidence of rebels committing atrocities against the enemy. And never mind that NATO’s sufficiently concerned about their intentions to have warned them that they’ll be bombed too if they attack civilian Qaddafi loyalists. “Heroes.” I get why McCain would want to boost morale for America’s newest ally; what I don’t get, given the likelihood of brutality and recriminations in post-Qaddafi Libya, is why he’d do that with rhetoric so rosy that’s it guaranteed to be thrown back in his face later when some prominent rebel does something nutty.
“They are my heroes,” McCain said of the rebels as he walked out of a local hotel in Benghazi. He was traveling in an armored Mercedes jeep and had a security detail. A few Libyans waved American flags as his vehicle drove past.
Reporting from Benghazi, Libya, CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey said the arrival of McCain is exactly the kind of VIP trip the Transitional National Council has been looking for.
McCain told Pizzey that what he really thinks should happen is that $30 billion in assets that are already frozen that belong to Libya, should be released to the Transitional National Council so that they can get this part of the country working.
He also called on Obama and U.S. allies to recognize the rebel council as the true government of Libya, even though … no one’s entirely sure who’s in charge. (He had wiser things to say about how Qaddafi’s benefitting from NATO’s risk aversion and poor military preparedness.) Below you’ll find two clips, one of John Bolton rebutting McCain’s “heroes” remark and one of McCain himself receiving the gratitude of Benghazians for what is, after all, a killer bit of publicity for their cause; between his visit and reports from Misrata that Qaddafi’s snipers have finally been liquidated, today must be the best day the opposition’s had in a month. Truth be told, though, you don’t need a conservative like Bolton to sound the alarm here. Even David Ignatius, in wringing his hands today over Obama’s decision to use drones in the country, had this to say of our new allies: “[N]ow the United States will use them to beef up a stalemated NATO campaign in Libya, on behalf of a rebel army that very well may include Islamic radicals who, under other circumstances, might themselves have been targets of Predator attack.” Yikes.
Exit question: If the Arab Spring were happening on President McCain’s watch, would there already be boots on the ground in Libya? Double yikes. Click the second image to watch.