McCain calls for air strikes as Syrian atrocities mount

John McCain

Senator John McCain says US has moral duty to oust Assad as tales of torture leak out of Homs

LAST UPDATED AT 13:48 ON Tue 6 Mar 2012

JOHN MCCAIN, the US Senator and former Republican presidential candidate, has called for air strikes on Syria to force President Bashar al-Assad to step down. His intervention comes amid growing reports of atrocities committed by government forces, including summary executions and the torture of patients in hospital.

McCain told his fellow Senators that the US had a moral duty to oust Assad, AP reports. "The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power," he said. "The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centres in Syria, especially in the north, through air strikes on Assad's forces."

McCain's call to arms comes amid mounting diplomatic pressure on Syria to agree a ceasefire and allow aid to be delivered. China, which last month vetoed a UN resolution calling on Assad to step down, is pressing Syria to agree to a ceasefire. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hailed the "honourable and determined resistance" of the Syrian rebels and called for humanitarian corridors to be opened to deliver aid to war-torn regions.

Meanwhile, allegations of atrocities carried out by Syrian government forces continue to mount:

  • Footage shot by an employee at the military hospital in Homs showing evidence of patients having been tortured - allegedly by doctors - was shown on Channel 4 News last night. The employee claims that military and civilian surgeons, male nurses and other staff were all involved in the abuse. He told C4: "I have seen detainees being tortured by electrocution, whipping, beating with batons, and by breaking their legs. They perform operations without anaesthetics. I saw them slamming detainees' heads against walls. They shackle the patients to beds. They deny them water. Others have their penises tied to stop them from urinating."
  • Refugees from Homs have told horrific tales of reprisal attacks in the city, which has been a centre of opposition to Assad. One man told the BBC's Paul Wood that he had seen 36 men and boys murdered on Friday, including four members of his own family. "They moved them into a street next to a school," said the witness. "They killed them all. I saw it. I was 50 to 100 metres away. Their hands were tied behind their backs. A soldier held each one still on the ground with his boot; another soldier came to cut their throats. I could hear their screams."
  • Syrian forces have bombarded a bridge which is used by refugees and the wounded fleeing to Lebanon from the shattered city of Homs, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has told AFP. It is only the latest bridge to be bombed as the government clamps down on the movement of people in areas of unrest.

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Watching a brutal regime kill scores of people day after day with impunity, that it may stay in power, makes accomplices of us all. 
History will not be kind. 
Senator McCain is right. The World has sat this out too long. 
The time to act on Syria is now -- and we may be already too late.

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