John McCain went to Syria early this week. He went there to meet with, and show support for, the Syrian rebels fighting against the brutal Assad regime. His visit also was intended to put additional pressure on the Obama Administration to intervene in the disastrous civil war plaguing that nation.
But then, it all blew up in his face.
The hawkish senator from Arizona had a photo taken with a few of the rebels. Two of the men in the picture have been identified by victims as Mohamad Nour and Abu Ibrahim, who are suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of eleven Shiite pilgrims in May 2012. In fact, the group of rebel leaders Mr. McCain met with – the Free Syrian Army – have strong ties to Sunni Islamic fundamentalist and Islamist Jihadist groups such as Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, Al-Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham. It should be noted here that the second group, Al-Nusra Front, was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in December 2012 and accused of being affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq.
On Thursday, McCain responded to the photo controversy:
(CNN) – It would be “regrettable” if the identities of the men photographed with Sen. John McCain in Syria this week are confirmed to be individuals responsible for a year-old kidnapping, the Arizona senator’s office said in a statement Thursday.
What is also regrettable is McCain’s mistaken belief that if “we can help the right people” the terrible situation in Syria can be improved. Unfortunately, the only “right” people are ordinary Syrian citizens who are just trying to survive. All of the factional combatants in this escalating sectarian war have blood on their hands. None of them are “right.”
How many painful lessons must America learn before it realizes that backing militant groups in unstable foreign countries, no matter how appealing such allegiances appear to be, is a lose-lose proposition?