U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) released the following statement on coments by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on further American involvement in Syria's turmoil.
It has not been altered in any way:
"In a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning, I asked Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey whether they agreed with a proposal reportedly developed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former CIA Director David Petraeus last summer to have the United States arm and train members of the Syrian opposition.
"I was very pleased to hear both Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey state that they supported this proposal, which unfortunately was refused by the White House. What this means is that the President overruled the senior leaders of his own national security team, who were in unanimous agreement that America needs to take greater action to change the military balance of power in Syria.
"This conflict has been grinding on for two years. Bashar Assad and his forces have killed more than 60,000 people in Syria. Tens of thousands more are being tortured and abused in Assad's prisons. Millions have been driven from their homes. The crisis in Syria represents a graphic failure of American leadership.
"I urge the President to heed the advice of his former and current national security leaders and immediately take the necessary steps, along with our friends and allies, that could hasten the end of the conflict in Syria.
"The time to act is long overdue, but it is not too late."