WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hailed the death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi Thursday but chastised Congress for its hesitance to assist anti-Gadhafi Libyan rebels and for criticizing President Barack Obama’s use of U.S. military resources to assist in air strikes.
“I’m very disappointed in Congress,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Congress took an irrational view of the War Powers Act. I guarantee you that a lot Republicans who wanted the War Power Act invoked would not have asked for it to be invoked if President Obama were not president. To me, national security should be as bipartisan as possible.”
“The world is changing around us,” Graham continued. “There’s a revolutionary changing around us. There’s a revolutionary change in the Middle East where women are driving in Saudi Arabia, Gadhafi is dead, Syria is on the ropes. We need to get involved, they're about to have their first free and fair, I hope, election in 6,000 years in Egypt.”
Still, Graham said he thought Obama made a mistake by “leading from behind.”
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“It drug out the war, we have less influence now, a lot of people got killed and maimed that didn’t need to be killed and maimed. But that’s behind us now. Congress needs to understand the world is changing. Ronald Reagan wanted to shape the world, well I hope the Congress will understand that we have a role to play in foreign policy and now is not the time to become Fortress America. It never works.”
Because the U.S. got involved in Libya late, its playing catch up and may not have a leading role in helping the country post-Gadhafi, Graham said.
“It’s a great opportunity to start over in Libya,” he said. “These opportunities come once in a generation. From my point of view, we need as many people on the ground as the Libyan people will welcome to shape the next few monthsWe have $34 billion in frozen assets they can pay us back, we need medical care, a hospital ship, a hospital ship would be a great opportunity for us to win hearts and minds of the Libyan people, they need to disband the militia and train a professional army, we can help there. So seize the moment.”
“Not having a leading presence means that we don’t really have the context for a day like this,” Graham added. “Getting in on the ground floor, being one of the leaders allows you to shape events. We’re playing catch up. I’m glad its over, I’m sorry it took so long, but having taken a back seat means you don’t have the influence you would otherwise. Now we’re playing catch up.”