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McCain: U.S. shouldn't stand by, watch slaughter

Sen. John McCain said today that imposing a no-fly zone over Libya would send a message to those opposed to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi that the U.S. supports them.

He also does not believe a no-fly zone would - or should - lead to the use of U.S. or NATO ground forces.

"I don't think we should end up on the ground. I think it would be counterproductive for us to send in ground forces," McCain said on CBS' "The Early Show" Tuesday. "But I think it's very clear that right now through the use of air power, Qaddafi has been able to stop the tide that's been running against him. He has been able to inflict casualties from the air. And we have not well-trained or untrained troops as we have on this anti-Qaddafi side. Air power really does change the equation.

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"I think we all realize American troops on the ground would be very harmful to our cause," he said. "But right now, Qaddafi is massacring his own people. He is committing war crimes. He is doing things which are in violation of every standard of international behavior."

"The President of the United States has said Qaddafi must go - that means that we need to take action," McCain told anchor Erica Hill. "A no-fly zone would not only stop the air attacks but it would also send a message to the anti-Qaddafi forces that we're assisting them. There is humanitarian aid that needs to be given, intelligence that we could share with them - a number of areas take we could help these anti-Qaddafi forces without sending in ground troops. And we're facing a huge humanitarian crisis there, too."

But can a no-fly zone fly without a ground invasion as well? McCain did not believe so.

"For ten years over Iraq, we imposed a no-fly zone, and the escalation was as a result of 9/11, not because of that," he told Hill.

"And I will point out again, Qaddafi's air capabilities are not very great, his maintenance is not good. It's not that huge a problem when you look at where his air assets are located."

When asked if he understood skepticism on the part of some to getting involved in any military conflict in the Middle East, McCain replied, "I certainly do - certainly a lot of skepticism given the length of our involvement and the losses we've sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan."

But, he added, "the American people also are not prepared to sit by and watch this bloodthirsty - one of the two or three worst despots in the world - slaughter innocent civilians."