BENGHAZI, Libya – Calling his visit here “one of the most exciting and inspiring days of my life,” Sen. John McCain urged the U.S. to formally recognize the transitional – and largely unknown – Libyan rebel council.
McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the most vociferous advocate on Capitol Hill for U.S. intervention in Libya, also was the most prominent American to visit the liberated east since the uprising here began in February. The Arizona senator received a jubilant welcome as residents waved American flags and cheered as he canvassed the downtown.
McCain said he was in Benghazi “to get an on-the-ground assessment of the situation.” He toured downtown Benghazi, which is covered with graffiti critical of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and met with wounded rebel fighters at a hospital and rebel leaders.
McCain’s support for the effort in Libya comes as consensus grows that the war here is becoming a stalemate.
Some believe that NATO intervention is prolonging a war that otherwise would have ended quickly with the rebels’ defeat, rather than the protracted conflict some fear.
Others, such as McCain, believe a stalemate will create a power vacuum that al-Qaida and other extremists groups could exploit. Therefore, the U.S. should do more, short of boots on the ground, McCain said.
“I fear a stalemate,” McCain said at a news conference.