Sen. Lindsey Graham says the Libyan rebels are not fighting to topple despot Moammar Gadhafi to replace him with a more oppressive regime, such as one led by al-Qaida. The South Carolina Republican also said that President Barack Obama in his Monday night address to the nation should have sent a stronger signal that Gadhafi must be ousted.
“I think he did a good job talking about the signal we would send if Gadhafi murdered his way back into power, that we’re a values-based people, and standing by these young people will serve us well in the future,” Graham said Monday on CNN, adding that he thought Obama had taken too long to act. “But the line that really sort of broke my heart was that regime change by force would be a mistake.
“The goal of this country is to replace Gadhafi,” Graham continued. “If you look at the balance sheet of what it costs this nation with Gadhafi versus what it costs without him, it is in our interest to get rid of him, and the opposition needs continued military support — not a ground invasion by the U.S. or any other Western power — but air support, all the way to Tripoli.”
CNN’s Piers Morgan noted that little is known about the Libyan opposition and asked Graham whether the rebels could be infiltrated and influenced by radical elements like al-Qaida.
“These people who are fighting Gadhafi — I don’t think they are taking to the streets and risking their lives to replace Gadhafi with al-Qaida,” Graham replied, adding there might be some al-Qaida elements among the opposition, but, “we need to pour it on, we need to stay behind the opposition forces, give them the military support — just like we are doing now.
“But when this is over and Gadhafi leaves, it would be a huge mistake not to help the Libyan people,” he continued. “They’ve been enslaved for 40 years — and if there are al-Qaida elements in that country, we will help the Libyan people take care of them.
“It is my belief that these young Arabs — in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, now Syria — do not want to replace these regimes with more oppressive regimes,” Graham added. “They are not going to the streets in Egypt to have al-Qaida take over. I don’t buy that for one minute.”
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