Why John McCain Wants to Aid Syrian Terrorists

When John McCain slipped into Syria the other day to meet with Islamist rebels, Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted “best wishes” to his fellow warmonger and claimed “dibs on his office if he doesn’t come back.” Leave it to Sen. Graham, who has been agitating along with McCain for the US to send weapons to the rebels, to joke about the untrustworthiness of the very people he wants to arm. But the rebels’ savagery is no joke: we are, after all, talking about people who eat the lungs of their enemies.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) had it kind of right when he admonished the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after it voted for a bill that would arm Syria’s Islamist insurgents:

“This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”

And yet irony doesn’t quite cover it: insanity is more like it. Here is a man who is the Republican party’s voice when it comes to foreign policy, a role he has appropriated due to his intimacy with those who book the Sunday talk shows, and yet when it comes to America’s relationship with the rest of the world his utter and complete ignorance is appalling.

He told us the invasion and occupation of Iraq would be “fairly easy.” He pontificated that the anthrax attacks were delivered by the Iraqis. His preferred policy for Afghanistan: we should “muddle through,” rather than withdraw. When the North Koreans started acting out, he averred we ought to threaten them with “extinction.” And when Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia got into an armed conflict over the breakaway province of South Ossetia, McCain announced “Today, We Are All Georgians” and demanded we go to war with Moscow. He thinks Iran is training Al Qaeda: he also thinks Iraq shares a border with Pakistan.

In short, McCain doesn’t know s%^*t about foreign policy: he has been wrong, wrong, wrong about absolutely everything. So it isn’t merely ironic that he is leading the charge in demanding we intervene in Syria – it’s downright crazy.

What’s puzzling is why anyone is listening to him. And his fellow Senators are certainly paying attention: an overwhelming bipartisan vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the McCain-Menendez bill authorizing aid to the rebels (there were only three dissents).

Most of the other Senators weren’t that impressed with Sen. Paul’s argument: “I don’t think any member of this committee would vote for anything we thought was going to arm al Qaeda,” said Republican rising star Marco Rubio.

Isn’t that what they were saying in the days before our Libyan “allies” murdered the American ambassador to Libya?

“Al Qaeda, unfortunately, is well-armed,” added Menendez. “That is the present reality in Syria.”

Translation: What difference will a few more anti-tank guns make? Which ought to tell us why the New Jersey Democratic Senator isn’t exactly a candidate for a MacArthur “genius” grant.

So what did McCain do in Syria? The military backbone of the opposition is the al-Nusra Front, which has recently pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. Did McCain meet with their commanders – in spite of the fact that they have recently been added to the State Department’s list of officially-designated terrorist organizations? He didn’t say. What we do know about his trip is that he went and listened to their demands that we set up a no fly zone, send them guns and cash, and attack Hezbollah in Lebanon – yes, Lebanon. They want us to widen the war, and naturally Sen. McCain is for that, too. Has there ever been a war he didn’t want to escalate?

His trip was facilitated by the “Syrian Emergency Task Force,” a mysterious group set up by a former Senate staffer, Moustafa Mouaz, which sprang into existence fully-funded and which naturally doesn’t have to register as an agent of a foreign power – since the Foreign Agents Registration Act is only selectively enforced. Mouaz is a former aide to Senator Blanche Lincoln and Rep. Vic Synder, both liberal to centrist Democrats. Here he is cheering on al-Nusra – the official al-Qaeda franchise in Syria – on Twitter. (See also here and here.) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the “educational” branch of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, lists him on their web site as one of their trusted “experts”: he recently addressed a WINEP conference.

The Israel lobby’s involvement in all this is somewhat obscure, but WINEP has been on the scene providing quotes and rationales for US intervention, and now with the Israeli air strikes and all this talk of Hezbollah propping up a supposedly faltering Assad, it’s clear why: the Israelis want to use this opportunity to take out another of their enemies. They lured us into attacking Iraq, and now they are insisting we go after Iran – but as an appetizer, so to speak, they’re inviting us to first gobble up Syria before partaking of the main course.

The American people are overwhelmingly opposed to US intervention in Syria, including helping the jihadist rebels. But their opinion doesn’t count for much in Washington, D.C., where lobbyists, both foreign and domestic, rule the roost. Murky organizations with dubious ties to foreign groups, like the “Syrian Emergency Task Force,” have more sway than Joe Sixpack, and certainly WINEP, and – standing behind it – AIPAC have the kind of clout that could engineer US intervention in Syria’s vicious civil war.

A hoary coalition of “liberal” interventionists, Syrian exiles, and Israel Firsters is pushing the Obama administration to meet the rebels’ demands: they think we can “vet” the rebels to make sure al-Nusra is left out of the goodies package we’re sending them. This is a fantasy: do these people really think we can navigate the complexities of the Syrian opposition with any certainty? Of course we can’t. Not that Sen. McCain really cares: he hasn’t learned anything from Benghazi, even though he bloviates about it constantly. There we armed the Libyan rebels, and they turned those very same weapons on us – killing our Ambassador and three others.

Another “irony” for Sen. Paul to note: the same Moustafa Mouaz who is now serving as the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force formerly held the same position for – you guessed it! – the Libyan Emergency Task Force. And we know how well that worked out for us.

Funny how these “emergency task forces” show up at precisely the right time, loaded with funding, and with good connections to the mainstream media and prominent politicians, – like Athena emerging fully armed from the head of Zeus.

Where does the money come from? Who is providing the media connections, the organizational heft, and the cold hard cash it takes to make a major push for US intervention in Syria?

Finally, it may be initially puzzling to contemplate the support for aiding the rebels coming from supposedly staunch opponents of “terrorism,” such as McCain and Graham. But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense: those two don’t care so much about fighting jihadists as they do about effecting regime-change throughout the Middle East. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran – all are in the War Party’s sights, and the Two Amigos are leading the charge. Forget about the “war on terrorism” – that was a cover story from the very beginning. The real story of American foreign policy in the new millennium is all about regime change.


Yes, it’s just a coincidence that this group has just sprung up, with backing from major politicians in both parties, with a Washington, D.C., headquarters, and an executive director who picks up and flies to meetings with Syrian jihadists at the drop of a hat. Of course, I don’t know that foreign money is pouring into the pro-jihadists’ coffers, but I do know that Qatar and Saudi Arabia – two countries not exactly facing a cash shortage – are eagerly funding the Syrian rebel movement. As to whether that includes its American cheerleading section – we’ll, you’ll have to ask Mr. Mouaz.

What I do know is this: the anti-interventionists don’t have this kind of cash laying around. We can’t go to the Emir of Qatar, or the Saudi king, and ask him for a donation. The Washington lobbyists have no use for us – because, after all, we’re trying to oust them from their perch as the decisive players in the foreign policy game.

No, instead of going to the Power Players for what we need in order to scrape by, we are going to you – our readers and supporters. Don’t want us to get dragged into yet another war in the Middle East –well then, what are you waiting for? The War Party isn’t waiting, of that you can be sure: the latest news is that the President has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a “no fly zone” in Syria. There isn’t a moment to spare. Make your tax-deductible donation to Antiwar.com today – and beat the foreign lobbyists at their own game!

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].