By Christiane Amanpour
In a strong and courageous move, Sen. John McCain has called for the United States to take the lead in protecting innocent civilians being massacred with impunity by the Syrian Army.
“Time is running out. Assad’s forces are on the march,” McCain declared from the Senate floor. “Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power.”
McCain raised the idea of trying to help the Syrian opposition last month, in an interview I conducted for “World News.” Now he is criticizing the Obama Administration for ”hedging its bets,” and hoping for the best in Syria, as Bashar Assad’s “atrocities” mount and events on the ground outpace international hand-wringing on this issue.
Watch McCain’s call here:
Nonetheless the White House says it has no plans to take up McCain’s call to arms.
“We share his concern and outrage about what’s taking place,” a senior administration official tells ABC’s Jake Tapper. “We’re also concerned that further military intervention will accelerate the conflict on the ground and worsen the humanitarian situation without stopping the violence the Syrian regime is committing against its own people.”
The official says the United States “wants to keep putting pressure on the Assad regime.”
But McCain and a growing chorus of U.S. allies are saying the pressure is just not working. McCain even raised the specter of the slaughter in Sarajevo and across Bosnia in the 1990s, and compared the situation in Syria today to the war crimes committed by Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in the Balkans.
I was there and I covered that war.
Twenty years ago, the powers that be said the same in Bosnia, finding every which way, and every tortured rhetorical device (including refusing to use the word genocide) to avoid intervening. As we all know, tens of thousands of deaths later — including at Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War Two — the U.S. finally intervened with NATO allies, ended the war and launched the peace that holds to this day.
Of course Syria is not Bosnia, nor is it Libya, they are different countries, but just like in those countries, in Syria today a heavily armed military is besieging and slaughtering ordinary civilians, and outgunned rebels too.
Just like in Bosnia, the Syrian rebels/opposition have been denied the right to self defense, for fear of “accelerating the conflict on the ground and making it worse”.
Just like in Bosnia when the U.S. and its allies said they could not intervene “because it’s a civil war and all sides are equally guilty”, even though there was a clear aggressor, in Syria today they say they “don’t know who to help, who to arm, and that the opposition is fragmented.”
Tyler Hicks article in Sunday’s New York Times started to put the kybosh on that, when he described the Free Syrian Army that he and Anthony Shadid met, as more organized than the rebels in Libya…who got NATO onside.
Senator McCain has lent a loud U.S. voice to cries for help that can no longer be comfortably ignored. He called on President Obama to put the nation’s “full weight of our air power” so that Assad will not be allowed to finish what he started.