McCain: 'We Need to Finish the Job' in Libya

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 24, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been critical of President Obama's decision to take part in the military campaign against Qaddafi's regime. Senator John McCain has said that not only does he agree with the no-fly zone, he thinks we should do even more to oust Qaddafi.

And joining me now to explain, the man himself, Senator McCain. Senator, welcome back. Good to see you.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: Senator, nothing I like to see more than Qaddafi gone. Let me layout my case and I want you to shoot as many holes in it as you want, OK?


HANNITY: I think it's too little, too late. We telegraph no boots on the ground. That means we are not committed to victory, in my view. I think we may be supporting rebels that we don't know where they are associated. He said -- at different times we've heard the goal is to remove Qaddafi, not to remove Qaddafi. Then we hear, we are going to build the democracy, a nation build, then we are not going to do that. And now we leave because, you know, he doesn't want to have the political fallout of actually finishing the job.

I think if that's the case, I don't know why we started this in the first place.

MCCAIN: First of all, I think we need to finish the job. The reason why wars are waged is to achieve political objectives. People of Libya rose up against one of the most brutal thugs in the world. A person who has the blood of Americans on his hands because he bombed Pan Am 103 and has committed other acts of terror throughout the Arab world and would clearly be intent on continuing that if he stayed in power. We could have, by imposing a no-fly zone immediately, given the kind of cover for the anti-Qaddafi rebels to succeed and they would have succeeded, not only in my view but other military experts.

Instead, they dithered and went back and forth and all this conversation about multi-nationalism and Security Council. Meanwhile, Qaddafi, through firepower and airpower was able to regain an initiative and now he has cities surrounded where terrible things are taking place.

Just in time outside of Benghazi when they would have gone into the suburbs of Benghazi and committed massacre, that's what he committed to do, we brought in airpower. But still, that momentum has not been reversed as we have seen Misrata and Ajdabiya surrounded by Qaddafi's forces. And now, I think that we can, through humanitarian assistance, I think by providing arms and some intelligence and other thing to the anti-Qaddafi forces, that they can succeed.

HANNITY: Senator, I was with you. Early on, you called and you were asking that we expand the mission, that we have a surge. You were right. I give you 100 percent credit. Here is the problem. This president dithered for six months on Afghanistan. Wouldn't support the students in Iran in 2009. He supported Mubarak, then he was neutral and then he shifted away from Mubarak.

Here's the problem, I mean, Hillary disagrees with Mullen and Gates disagrees with Hillary. And Obama shifted his opinion, Qaddafi has got to go, not got to go. I don't have confidence in him. This policy is incoherent. He seems to be too little, too late, ill advised and doesn't have the political or moral courage to do this right. Tell me where I'm wrong?

MCCAIN: I understand your concern and I share those concerns. And it is incoherent when you say Qaddafi must go and then say that the mission is only there for humanitarian purposes. But we are attacking his forces on the ground. We are keeping two major cities from being overrun and the people are already being subjected to terrible atrocities as we speak. And I believe that with continued ground attacks we can succeed.

By the way, this latest announcements I just read that somehow NATO would take over the air, the no-fly zone and the United States would continue the other activities or something, frankly I don't understand. I haven't had time to absorb it. But I've never seen any decision quite like that.

But the fact remains, it is in our interests and America's interests and the world's interests to not have another (INAUDIBLE), to not have another Rwanda. Every time we say never again.

And so, I want to see us continue to use our airpower, not ground troops, but airpower which I think would have a significant effect still on the battlefield. That along with equipment and other assistance.

HANNITY: With NATO split, and literally NATO allies abandoning the effort, the president not acknowledging this is war, it is some kinetic military action. And if the humanitarian rational that they are offering, you are right it should have existed for Rwanda and a whole series of other countries. But, you know, does that mean these human rights violations, humanitarian concerns in China, in Russia, in Iran, in Bahrain, in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia, you know, Lebanon -- where do we go, I mean, from here? It seems to me that he was forced into doing something instinctively that he doesn't want to do.

MCCAIN: I'm sure that instinctively he doesn't want to do it. But the fact is --

HANNITY: But he's pulling out.

MCCAIN: -- the people of Libya were being massacred. And by the way, you haven't seen a single anti-U.S. demonstration in the Arab world. The Arab League has not reversed their position. The UAE is sending 12 aircraft, Qatar is already sending some airplanes.

So, if we allow the people of Libya to be massacred, I'm going to be on this program six months from now saying never again. And I believe that American military power in the air and with other kinds of assistance, they can still prevail.

HANNITY: Senator, if they --

MCCAIN: Despite they dithering back and forth that has been going on. Go ahead.

HANNITY: Senator, if he doesn't say that we've got to remove Qaddafi, which they flipped and flopped on, and if they never talk about victory or define victory or define success or talk about an exit strategy or telegraph no boots on the ground, he is not committed to it. And I think it is unfair for our military.

But, yes, there are all these other countries that a lot of slaughters are going on as well.

MCCAIN: Right now, there are air attacks on Qaddafi's forces on the ground. If those can continue, maybe we can save those people. But I'll tell you what, if you bail out right now, Sean, and I heard the criticism, we bail out right now we will see massacres of enormous proportions.

HANNITY: I agree.

MCCAIN: We can still win this thing.

HANNITY: You know what? If you were president, I'd be behind you, but you are not president.

MCCAIN: I can still urge the president to use our airpower and our other assets to help these people survive. Thousands of lives are at stake right now my friend.

HANNITY: Senator, if you were president, it would be done right. He is timid and he's inconsistent. This is incoherent and frankly, it's unforgivable because he's the commander in chief, it ought to be not handed off to France, Great Britain and NATO and some French, you know, policy one group to decide. I'm very concerned about where this is headed.

MCCAIN: I'm concerned about where we're headed. We passed up a golden opportunity three weeks ago. In my view, I still believe we can salvage this situation. And I greatly fear that so many people will be killed and tortured by this brutal dictator who has American blood on his hands. It will be a serious thing. We can succeed, still.

HANNITY: Maybe they should have a meeting and first get their stories straight and their goals straight, but Senator, good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

MCCAIN: I wish they would. Thank you.

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