By Avery Lotz and Jack Forrest, CNN
(CNN) — GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday called Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “naive” for believing further civilian casualties in Gaza could produce even more insurgents and said he has “lost all confidence” in him.
“He’s so naive, I mean I just lost all confidence in this guy,” Graham told CNN’s Dana Bash, adding later, “This is a radicalized population. I don’t want to kill innocent people, but Israel is fighting not just Hamas, but the infrastructure around Hamas.”
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum Saturday, Austin said he has “personally pushed Israeli leaders to avoid civilian casualties, and to shun irresponsible rhetoric, and to prevent violence by settlers in the West Bank, and to dramatically expand access to humanitarian aid.”
“You see, in this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat,” Austin said.
Graham, on “State of the Union,” disagreed: “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.”
The South Carolina Republican said the retired Army general and former commander of US Central Command “is telling Israel things that are impossible to achieve” and called on Austin to “quit criticizing Israel in public.”
“Secretary Austin, the reason Palestinians are dying: Gaza is so condensed, Hamas has tunnels under apartments, under schools, under hospitals,” Graham said.
Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed at least 15,207 people and injured at least 40,652 others, Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, a spokesperson for the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza, saidSaturday.
He 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.”
“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,” he said.
Graham also criticized Vice President Kamala Harris, who on Saturday during a news conference in Dubai said that “too many innocent Palestinians have been killed” as she met with the leaders of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan during her trip to the COP28 climate summit.
Graham questioned, “What is too many people dying in World War II after Pearl Harbor?”
“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.”
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