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Graham, McCain: U.S. Response to Libya Was Too Slow

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Updated: 11:56 a.m.

Top Republicans criticized President Barack Obama on Sunday for not moving quicker on Libya but lent their support for U.S. military action, even as they strongly urged the administration to expand the mission to remove dictator Moammar Gaddafi from power.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made clear during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that the U.S. mission is limited to protecting the lives of Libyan civilian opponents to Gaddafi’s regime and that the American military would move into a support role in the next few days to allow European and Arab forces to take the lead. 

That did not sit well with Republicans, who charged Obama with abdicating U.S. leadership on the world stage while missing a chance to help Libyan rebels depose Gaddafi, who the CIA says has used his nation’s oil funds to support terrorism abroad. Gaddafi had made significant strides in the past decade to normalize relations with Western nations, and the United States rescinded the nation’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in 2006.

“I’m glad we’re finally doing something,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t know how many people have died as we wait to do something, and I thank God for strong women in the Obama administration. I don’t know what finally got the president to act. But I’ve very worried that we’re taking a back seat rather than a leadership role.”

Obama “waited too long, there is no doubt in my mind about it,” Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But now, it is what it is. And we need, now, to support him and the efforts that our military are going to make. And I regret that it didn’t — we didn’t act much more quickly, and we could have.”

“But that’s not the point, now,” the Arizona Republican continued. “The point now is, let’s get behind this effort, do everything we can to support it. And I say to my friends in the Congress who are nervous about another intervention, I’m confident we can prevail, and I’m confident that if we hadn’t have taken this action that the consequences of failure would have reverberated for years.”

Mullen said the United States would not act beyond the limits of a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for military action to protect Libyan civilians, making clear that the mission does not include removing Gaddafi from power.

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