McCain: Qaddafi Should Stand Trial for War Crimes

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 21, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator John McCain has very strong views about our military action in Libya. He went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, it seems to me in sort of looking over the reports that you and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are on the same page on our military action in Libya and that President Obama was a little bit later to the program. Is that a fair assessment? And why are we there?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Well, from what I heard through the media, I think that that's pretty much the case. I think we're there because there was very close to being a humanitarian situation and a disaster in Benghazi. The Qaddafi forces were obviously on the outskirts in the city. And hopefully, and I pray, that we were in time to prevent the fall of Benghazi, which would have meant enormous slaughter on the part of Qaddafi's troops. He's not known to be a very decent person.

So I see it as a -- maybe just in time. And now we have two other cities, you know, Misrati and Abjaya -- Adjerbaya -- I'm not very good at Libyan names -- and Misrati that both are in very serious condition. And I think we need to try to move to relieved the pressure of Qaddafi's forces there, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: But how do we distinguish between Libya, going there and doing this military action, and for instance, Bahrain and Yemen because you have similar situations where there, you know, are horrible things that are going on with protesters?

MCCAIN: Well, I think the main thing is that -- is that Qaddafi obviously is a person who had already been responsible for the massacre of people on the Pan Am flight. He had been responsible for other acts of terror. And there was very little doubt about what he was going to do if he could regain control of Benghazi and other places, and that is slaughter his own people. The situation in Bahrain and Yemen, we -- obviously, they are somewhat different, but they are not in any way reached those proportions, nor do I think that they will.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of Qaddafi and Pan Am 103 -- and I don't need to recite that horrible history of what happened, over 250 people shot down, and also the welcoming home of the mastermind when he was released from Scotland and that -- you know, we had to watch as they celebrated. But President Obama says that Qaddafi isn't our target. Is he our target? Should he be our target?

MCCAIN: I think he should be our target in the respect that he should leave power. Now, whether that is to join Hugo Chavez in Venezuela or Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin someplace else, I'm not sure. But what we really do need is to remove him from power. I'd like to see him on trial for the war crimes that he has committed. I think that'd be the best of all worlds, and I think that's what the opposition wants.

But right now, we've got to prevent him from using the superior power now that he has on the ground. We've neutralized him in the air. And by the way, Greta, did you notice? After the French flew over, not a Libyan aircraft flew, as some of us had predicted. But I think it's very important that we prevent him from perpetrating additional atrocities on his own people.

VAN SUSTEREN: You mentioned the French. Should we be the lead on this or because we have got so many other wars going and are -- we're so unpopular in parts of the world, should the French be the lead on this?

MCCAIN: Well, the French and British I would like to see lead on this. There's no doubt about that. But rather than emphasizing how quick we're going get out and how quickly we're going to turn it over, why don't we emphasize getting the mission accomplished, which is to stop the slaughter, remove Qaddafi from power and give the people of Libya a chance to -- for democracy and freedom? Why not that be our highest priority?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it doesn't seem -- and I know -- I'm unclear from what President Obama said that removing -- you know, that be -- sort of zeroing in on Qaddafi really is what he has an idea as the mission. He'd like to see that happen, but I don't see that as -- you know, he didn't -- he didn't say that straight up, I don't think.

MCCAIN: Well, I think what the president is trying to do here is walk a fine line because the U.N. resolution only says that we act for humanitarian purposes. But the president has announced the policy that Qaddafi must go. Now, what I hope we are doing is arranging for arming and equipping, either through us directly or indirectly, arming and equipping and helping with the training of the anti-Qaddafi forces so that they can gain their own freedom. As you know, I am opposed to ground forces. And there's no doubt, as I said for a long time, that control of the air has a very salutary effect on those who have it and a very devastating effect on those that don't.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any idea -- when you talk about how long this will take -- I mean, I know war is so unpredictable. But are you talking about days, weeks, months we'll be doing this? I mean, what is your sort of thought about how this will proceed?

MCCAIN: I think it could end very quickly. As you know, a few weeks ago, Qaddafi was very close to being toppled. I think it depends on how quickly we get some support in for the anti-Qaddafi forces so that they can move forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me talk about another war -- that's my word -- Mexico. You're going to the border very soon. And let me read from a crime report that I have right here, crime report that describes the body of a shooting victim as thin, black hair, light brown skin, purple blouse, bullet wound in chest, age 4. It's a little girl. Now -- now children are -- I mean, I -- and I -- and 10 were executed in a nightclub in Acapulco, which is where all the people go for their vacations, but 10 in the nightclub last Saturday night. So take it away, Mexico, that war and why you're going to the border.

MCCAIN: Well, because we need to beef up our border. By the way, that Tucson sector -- there's two sectors in Arizona, Yuma sector and Tucson sector. Half of the marijuana smuggled across the United States- Mexico border comes through the Tucson sector. We in Arizona are very sensitive about it.

This war has become so barbaric and so cruel, it poses an existential threat to the government of Mexico. We are trying to help, and we are having better coordination. But let me just give a number to you. During President Calderon's tenure as president, some 34,000 Mexican citizens have been killed. In Afghanistan in that same period of time, 21,000 civilians have been killed. That can give you an idea if the dimensions of this conflict, which has spilled over or moved into places in Mexico like Monterey, Acapulco and other places that we never thought we'd see this kind of violence.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it's interesting is that -- I mean, if we're in Libya for humanitarian purposes -- and when you talk about Mexico and talk about 34,000 -- even our own U.S. ambassador resigned on Saturday, sort of -- there wasn't much attention to it because it was in the midst of the bombing in Libya -- but because he had been critical of President Calderon. I mean, we have a war right next door that's visiting immediate harm to the United States. I mean, and I'm not suggesting we shouldn't, you know, take care of other humanitarian issues in our lives, but that's right next door.

MCCAIN: Jon Kyl and I have a plan which we know, if it's implemented, would get our borders secured. And then we must move on to the next pressing issue, which is comprehensive immigration reform. We can do it, Greta. We can secure our border with sufficient personnel, fences and surveillance capability.

This administration has chosen not to. Now, by the way, they have made some improvements, but it has not kept up with the escalation of violence and the sophistication of the drug smugglers. There are between 75 and 100 drug smuggler employees on mountains in the southern part of our state that are guiding the drug smugglers as they bring the drugs across the border up into Phoenix, Arizona, where they distribute it nationwide.

So -- and the other aspect of this, we need to have more of a conversation about, if I could just briefly say, we are creating the demand. We are creating the demand, and we have to have that national conversation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir. Thank you for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on, Greta.