Sen. John McCain calls Russian airstrikes 'disgraceful'

Lawmaker blames Obama as Putin unleashes airpower


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," September 30, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, we are awaiting John Kerry, who is supposed to explain, after meeting with his Russian counterparts, what the heck is going on with Russia, now with warplanes in Syria, and then, to top it all off, demanding that we get out of Syria and leave the place clear for his planes.

Republican Arizona Senator John McCain is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the former presidential candidate.

And I know you're not one to say I told you so, but, Senator, you warned just about this type of scenario breaking out. This is scary, though, Senator. I think the idea that we have both our guys' planes in there and we're not checking off whose are where or who is targeting whom, bad things could happen fast, you know?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: No, bad things can happen fast. And that's a danger.

But what's really bad that's happening is that we are seeing the Russians now inserting themselves in the conflict, assuming a position of power, which they haven't had since 1973, when the Egyptians threw them out of Egypt, confirming their control over the port on the Mediterranean. And now they are attacking first not ISIS, but the Free Syrian Army enclave in Homs, which, by the way, I have been told about 30 people were killed, including seven children.

CAVUTO: Well, do you know that for sure, though, Senator?

MCCAIN: Oh, sure.

CAVUTO: They claim they're going after ISIS. Donald Trump just said that, if they're going after ISIS, let them.

MCCAIN: Well, of course, I can't respond to that.

But I can say that there is televised footage of the attack in Homs, which is an enclave for the Free Syrian Army. Those are fundamental facts.  Mr. Trump can say whatever he wants to say. But the fact is that we are now seeing an unleashing of Russian airpower to take out the Free Syrian Army. And that is disgraceful.

And, by the way, some of this stuff, you can't make up. For example, they have been begging to coordinate these activities with the Russians.  John Kerry called Lavrov three times, et cetera. Do you know how we found out that they were launching these strikes? A general showed up at our embassy in Baghdad an hour before they started to tell us.

They are treating us with the utmost contempt. Vladimir Putin has the upper hand. Look, what we should have done, we should have said, we're going to fly any place, anywhere, any how, and you better not get in the way. That's what American -- that's what American leadership would do, not with our begging on our knees, saying, oh, please coordinate with us.

And the fact is that they're in there in a way to kill off the Free Syrian Army. That will inflame it further, and you will see greater bloodshed and chaos in Syria and in surrounding countries.

CAVUTO: Senator, if you were president in the middle of all of this, and you know or you're charging, as did just now -- and I assume you know more than I do -- that the Russian fighters are targeting the very groups we are trying to help, would you shoot down those Russian planes?

MCCAIN: No, but I would certainly make it clear -- well, I would do a whole lot of things.

General David Petraeus testified before the Armed Services Committee two weeks ago. He laid out what we need to do. We need to stop the barrel bombing. We need to have a no-fly zone. We need to have a buffer zone for refugees. We need to provide certain kinds of help.

CAVUTO: No, I know that, Senator, but if they're attacking the very guys who we want to see topple Assad, you would let America planes just pass them and let them do that?


MCCAIN: No, but I might do what we did in Afghanistan many years ago, to give those guys the ability to shoot down those planes. That equipment is available.

CAVUTO: Who would be shooting them down?

MCCAIN: The Free Syrian Army, just like the Afghans shot down the Russian...

CAVUTO: Not us?

MCCAIN: No. Just like the Russians -- the Afghans shot down Russian planes after Russia invaded Afghanistan.

CAVUTO: But you hear what I'm saying? You could see how easily, as you pointed out to me in prior visits, how easily something like this escalates into something much, much worse. Are we at that stage now?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think it would be much, much worse, but this administration, this president, this secretary of state, they aren't going to do anything that would escalate it. They're going to give them a free hand, just like they have given them a free hand throughout, just like we have no strategy whatsoever, so, while we watch innocent men, women and children being killed just as we just saw with these Russian airstrikes.


CAVUTO: What do you want to hear out of Secretary Kerry? He's meeting with his Russian counterparts, among others, we are told. And earlier, he had said maybe there was a way -- I'm paraphrasing here, I hope not incorrectly -- to work with Assad on focusing with ISIS.  What did you think of that?

MCCAIN: I think it's ludicrous.

And I think that, again, he just keeps asking them and asking them if he can get cooperation from them. He wants to cooperate with a guy that's killed 230,000 of his own countrymen with barrel bombing and other atrocities, including poison gas.


CAVUTO: Well, do you think Putin knew about this, Senator, when he met with the president?


CAVUTO: Do you think he was timing this so to embarrass the president, say, 24 hours later, after you and I are facing each other eye to eye, I'm going to be launching attacks of my own in Syria?

MCCAIN: Yes. Of course, because he moved the -- it takes a while to get ready for this stuff.

He moved the aircraft. And, by the way, some of those are fighter aircraft that go against other aircraft. ISIS has no aircraft that that would be necessary for. But, of course, he moved all the capabilities in, he built the runways, he built the establishment, and then was ready to strike.

And instead of revealing anything to Kerry from Lavrov or from him to Obama, he has a British -- a Russian general show up at our embassy in Baghdad an hour before it starts.

And what's the first target? The people we are supporting and arming and training and equipping. What better way to stick their thumb in our eye?

CAVUTO: So, the one who has had the strongest response to Russian escalation in the region has been Lindsey Graham of the presidential candidates. I know you like him very much.

I haven't heard nearly as much out of the other candidates, but I might have missed stuff. Senator, as you know, I inform millions of people with the latest business developments.

MCCAIN: Well, let me just -- let me just say one thing.

CAVUTO: Having said that, what do you think of that?

MCCAIN: Well, what I think is that Lindsey Graham and I went -- have been to -- and Joe Lieberman -- to Afghanistan and Iraq for 33 times. We were there saying Rumsfeld had to resign because we needed the surge.

We have been there every year, every Fourth of July for years and years and years. We know the situation. I know Vladimir Putin. So, we predicted all of these things that were going to happen. We have -- it's been leading from behind.

CAVUTO: So, when Donald Trump and others like him say get the hell out of there, it's not our business, why do we want to do this, if the Russians want to do this, let them do this, you say what?

MCCAIN: I say, if that's what you want, the slaughter of men, women and children through barrel bombing, triggering hundreds of thousands of refugees, millions washing up, babies washing up on the shore, if that's your view of the way the world should look, with this incredible evil of ISIS that beheads Americans on the Internet, if that's what -- and especially targets Christians and young women -- then you are free to have that view.

I don't think that's the view of Ronald Reagan or the people that I known that I admired and respected. And, by the -- and this would not be confined. It will spread. Right now, ISIS is establishing a foothold in Afghanistan, for example.

CAVUTO: All right.

MCCAIN: So, if that's your view, I respectfully disagree. And I suggest you talk to people like David Petraeus and Jack Keane and others.

CAVUTO: OK. All right.

Did you mean the words respectfully when you said disagree?

MCCAIN: Yes. Yes.

CAVUTO: OK. OK. I was just checking.

John McCain, always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

CAVUTO: All right.

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