Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., both expressed disappointment Sunday that President Obama has not responded more forcefully against the violence spreading in Libya and called for the arming of rebel forces in that country. Speaking to CNN's Candy Crowley from Cairo, Egypt, McCain said though U.S. officials had expressed concern for the safety of Americans in Libya as reason for holding back on further action and stronger rhetoric, that was not good enough.
"The British prime minister, the French president, and others were not hesitant, and they have citizens in that country. Look, America leads," McCain said. "The president should reverse the terrible decision he made in 2009 to not support the demonstrators in Tehran. Stand up for democracy in Iran, and tell those people we are with them."
The president did say Saturday that the Libyan president should go "now." Still, Lieberman said, "I wish we had spoken out much more clearly and early against the Qaddafi regime...The fact is, now is the time for action."
Lieberman said of the recent UN sanctions imposed on Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi and his regime that he was "glad pressure is finally being applied," but the senator said, "Honestly, I think the world has to do more."
The Connecticut Independent, who some have recommended to be the next Secretary of Defense, called for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya to ensure Qaddafi cannot continue to attack his own people from military planes and fly in armed mercenaries from Africa. The senator said the U.S. "should recognize the opposition government as the legitimate government of Libya and that we ought to give that government, certainly, humanitarian assistance and military arms."
Lieberman stopped short of calling for direct American military involvement, but McCain did not rule it out.
"I think there possibly could be," the Arizona Republican said of using military force, though he hastily added that Libyan pilots are sure to obey a no-fly zone. McCain agreed with his long-time friend and colleague that the U.S. should send material and humanitarian support and said any mercenary acting against the Libyan people should know "they're going to find themselves in front of a war crimes tribunal."
McCain, top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, and Lieberman, a senior member of the panel, were wrapping up a week-long trip through turbulent regions including Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.