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Interview with Senator John McCain

Interview with Senator John McCain

By Anderson Cooper 360 - April 24, 2012

COOPER: Senator, at the Holocaust Memorial yesterday, President Obama said that we need to do everything we can to prevent atrocities, to stop the slaughter of innocent people by bloodthirsty regimes.

That all sounds good, but is it just rhetoric? Are we doing that in Syria?

MCCAIN: Well, Anderson, I think it's really kind of paradoxical that the president said, quote, "Remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing."

But at the same time he only talked about financial and economic sanctions against a person who, as we know, is slaughtering its citizens. And the latest, of course, being killing people who talked to the U.N. monitors. It's really sad to see the rhetoric of this administration not only not matched but making almost a joke out of the fact that we are really literally doing nothing.

COOPER: You said before you believe the U.N. has been played in Syria. As you pointed out, they have a handful of monitors on the ground. But it seems like the Assad regime is basically playing a game of cat and mouse with these monitors.

First of all, the monitors aren't going out on patrol on Fridays when most of the demonstrations take place. And when they do go on patrol, the regime stops attacking. But as soon as they leave, they attack anybody or try to attack and kill people who met with U.N. monitors. Are they doing anything in Syria, the U.N.?

MCCAIN: Not that I know of. They have now called for additional monitors. But how atrocious is it that the government allows these monitors in, people have the courage to come out and express their grievances, and then as soon as the monitors leave, they go in and slaughter people? I mean, that is such a slap in the face, a repudiation of what this U.N. action is supposed to be all about. Again, if it wasn't so serious, it would be a bad joke.

COOPER: I spoke to a Syrian activist on this program about the U.N. sending 30 observers to Syria. I just want to play you some of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty? This is stupid. We need 30 observers for one neighborhood only. The international community should send 3,000 observers and, believe me, the regime will fall the same day. The regime will be toppled the same day, because we will be rushing to the streets for demonstrations. Don't tell me you could not send us more than 30 observers. Thirty?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Do you have any hope that the U.N. mission can do anything in Syria?

MCCAIN: I do not. And worse than that, Anderson, it gives the people who might be helping more pause while the assurances are given by the U.N. that we ought to give this a chance, et cetera.

It would be fine to give it a chance if they weren't still killing people. In other words, after the observers left, they even go into homes and schools and pull people out and kill them. So it's really worse than doing nothing, because it is giving sort of an excuse for the international community not to step up.

Artillery, tanks, helicopters as you have shown many times on CNN are still in action. And the Syrian people are dying for a cause. And to think that somehow that -- by the way, sanctions on luxury goods will have an effect, and I'm not making that up. We have to act in a fashion of leadership of the United States of America with other countries, and the first thing we need to do is get these people some weapons so they can defend themselves.

COOPER: The White House has created something now called the Atrocities Prevention Board. And the president signed a new executive order authorizing sanctions against people who commit human rights abuses through Internet monitoring, cell-phone tracking. Is that a positive step for you?

MCCAIN: Sure. I think it's a real positive step. And I think in many areas of the world it could probably have some effect. But right now we're in a full-fledged civil war, an unfair fight, where Russian arms are flowing in and reigning on the ground against people who are literally defenseless.

Anderson, you and I know that the price of a bullet for a Kalashnikov is $4 a bullet on the black market. I have not heard that that price has gone down, have you?

COOPER: No. There's a lot of people, though, Senator, who may be sympathetic to the plight of Syrians being killed but worry about arming opposition, igniting an all-out civil war in that country and a war that spreads throughout the region.

MCCAIN: Well, I heard that same argument about Tunisia and Libya, as well, and Bosnia and Kosovo. But I think also we should point out the longer it drags out, the more likely it is that foreign fighters and radical Islamists come into the fight.

And really, these people rose up peacefully. That's a direct repudiation of al Qaeda, who believes in acts of terror. So the fundamentals of this movement have nothing to do with radical Islamist individuals. It has everything to do with people's desire to get out from under a cruel and despotic regime. Part of the Arab Spring, I might add.

COOPER: Senator McCain, appreciate your time. Thank you.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Anderson. 

Anderson Cooper 360

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