Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz., shown in photo) and his goal of openly intervening in the Syrian conflict on behalf of the foreign-backed rebels — many of whom openly fight under the banner of al-Qaeda — suffered a major setback this week after a public relations stunt backfired in spectacular fashion. Media reports that surfaced Thursday claimed some of the opposition fighters he met and posed for pictures with during a recent trip to Syria were actually extremists. In fact, the radicals are accused of kidnapping Lebanese pilgrims from a village in Aleppo province.
The news, first reported by Al Jadeed and The Daily Starnewspaper in Lebanon, sparked widespread ridicule and criticism of the senator as his office scrambled to deal with the embarrassing negative publicity. It also further confirmed long-held suspicions among lawmakers and analysts that, contrary to claims made by Sen. McCain and others pushing for another open U.S. war in the Middle East, rebel forces might be just as bad as the Assad regime — maybe worse.
Sen. McCain, who is often at odds with his party and is regularly derided by conservatives as a “RINO,” snuck across the border into Syria to give Western-backed rebel fighters a quick PR boost. He was also hoping the trip would help build support for overt U.S. intervention on behalf of the opposition, which continues to come under fire worldwide. Among the criticism: human rights abuses, firing on civilian protesters, cannibalism, massacres, using chemical weapons, deep ties to terrorist groups, Islamic extremism, openly announcing an ethnic cleansing program aimed at Shia Muslims, mass-murdering Christians, and more.
McCain has long been claiming that the U.S. government would be able to identify and vet the “good” elements among opposition fighters before overtly sending heavy military weapons. In an ironic twist, however, even his own staff was apparently unable to do so. According to the Lebanese paper, among the rebels who Sen. McCain met were men identified by two survivors as kidnappers involved in holding Shia pilgrims hostage.
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Photo of Sen. John McCain: AP Images