GOP senator rejects defense secretary's argument that more civilian casualties in Gaza could worsen insurgency

US Sen. Lindsey Graham and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
US Sen. Lindsey Graham and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Getty Images

US Sen. Lindsey Graham rejected Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s contention that further civilian casualties in Gaza could produce even more insurgents and replace “a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.”

The Republican senator went on to characterize Austin as “naive," saying he has “lost all confidence” in him.

“Strategic defeat would be inflaming the Palestinians? They’re already inflamed. They are taught from the time they’re born to hate the Jews and to kill them," Graham claimed on CNN — calling on Austin to “Quit criticizing Israel in public.”

“Secretary Austin is telling Israel things that are impossible to achieve,” Graham said. “Secretary Austin, the reason Palestinians are dying: Gaza is so condensed, Hamas has tunnels under apartments, under schools, under hospitals.”

Graham added that he understands the theory of what retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal has called “insurgent math,” an idea that collateral civilian death in warfare can be a catalyst for creating insurgents, but argued Gaza’s population “has been radicalized for decades.”

“Do you know what they teach in the schools?” Graham questioned. "The idea that somehow we’re or Israel is radicalizing the people in Gaza is ridiculous'"

“If we were attacked like this, which we were in 9/11, if somebody called for us within two months to have a ceasefire against al-Qaeda, we would’ve laughed them out of town, we would have run them out of town,” he said, also criticizing Vice President Kamala Harris’ Saturday statement that “too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.” 

“Vice President Harris, tell Israel how to destroy Hamas in a way not to hurt innocent Palestinians, and I'll pass it along,” he said. “No Republican believes this, by the way,” he added. “No Republican is telling Israel to change your military tactics.”

Aid for Israel: Meanwhile, said he would not vote for a bill to aid Israel and Ukraine if US immigration restrictions he and his GOP colleagues have advocated for are not included in the proposed legislation.

“I think there are votes for Israel apart from the package,” he contended. “Republicans overwhelmingly support Israel — so do most Democrats. Republicans are divided on Ukraine.”

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