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Taking Aim at John McCain

4:03 PM, Aug 29, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Last week, when Libyan tyrant Muammar Qaddafi had reportedly fallen from power, Senator John McCain, along with his colleague Senator Lindsey Graham, issued (in part) the following statement:

Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.

The Republican senators were referring to the political debate that played a role in determining whether the United States would intervene in Libya on behalf of the revolutionaries. At the time, six months ago, after a few days of unrest and the onset of a civil war between revolutionaries and Qaddafi’s forces, many respected foreign policy players urged President Obama to intervene in Libya. The president waited several weeks before finally entering, by which time Qaddafi’s forces were able to become better entrenched in the war and better organized. Moreover, when the president finally decided to enter, he did so without the full force and strength of the U.S. military.

McCain was, just last week, saying that had the U.S. used its full strength and not dithered, Qaddafi’s fall from power would not have taken as long.

And, suddenly, after suggesting the Obama administration might have been able to do a better and faster job in Libya, McCain became the target of ire.

“A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable shows that Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain promised to help Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi obtain U.S. military hardware in 2009,” Politico ’s Tim Mak reported on Friday. “The cable, released by the open information group WikiLeaks, reveals the pledge came at meeting that was attended by other prominent members of Congress, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).”

Hmm. What’s odd about this is that the WikiLeaks cable in which McCain allegedly promises military hardware to Qaddafi was first reported on in May! All of a sudden, though, this WikiLeaks cable is making the rounds again, all in an apparent attempt to discredit McCain’s criticism of Obama’s handling of the war in the Libya.

Moreover, at the time of the cable’s release in May, it was roundly discredited. McClatchy then reported:

Graham chuckled Thursday when he was asked whether he'd ever delivered on his pledge to the Gadhafis to endeavor to free up the C-130s.

"We never did anything," the senator said. "I didn't feel comfortable pushing the Pentagon to provide military aircraft to Libya. None of us did."

McCain today again denied that he agreed to any military demand from Qaddafi. As McCain told Josh Rogin:

"It's just outrageous," McCain told The Cable in an exclusive interview. McCain said that he never indicated to Qaddafi that he would help him get weapons in any way. "Of course not, that would have been ridiculous," he said.

So there’s a WikiLeaks report that says one thing—written by diplomat Joan Polaschik—two senators who adamantly deny that anything of the sort took place, and no evidence to contradict the senators' claim except for hearsay claims.

Yet for some reason, when McCain criticizes the Obama administration, this discredited State Department cable begins to make the rounds again.

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