Lindsey Graham says he's 'lost all confidence' in Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over Israel-Hamas war

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “naive” after he urged Israel to take stronger efforts to protect Palestinian civilians.

“He’s so naive. I mean, I’ve just lost all confidence in this guy,” Graham, a prominent defense hawk in the Senate, said Sunday in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“How about focusing on protecting our soldiers, men and women in Syria and Iraq? Strategic defeat would be inflaming the Palestinians? They’re already inflamed,” Graham added.

Austin, in a speech on Saturday, warned Israel of a “strategic defeat” in its ongoing war against Hamas if it does not take further efforts to protect civilians in Gaza, saying that Israel risks driving civilians “into the arms of the enemy.”

“The center of gravity is the civilian population,” Austin said.

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel’s following retaliatory strikes, over 15,200 people have died in Gaza, with 70% of them being women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, the Associated Press reported.

Graham on Sunday scoffed at Austin’s remarks, saying he doesn’t “want to kill innocent people, but Israel is fighting not just Hamas, but the infrastructure around Hamas” and that failure is actually "letting Hamas stand.”

Graham said his disapproval of Austin is nothing personal and that he likes the defense secretary. However, he added "If we were attacked like this, which we were in 9/11, if somebody called for us in two months to have a ceasefire in Al-Qaeda, we’d have laughed him out of town, we’d have run him out of town.”

“Secretary Austin is telling Israel things that are impossible to achieve. Secretary Austin, the reason Palestinians are dying, Gaza is so condensed, Hamas has tunnels under apartments, under schools, under hospitals, if you’ve got a better idea of how to destroy Hamas, pass it on. Quit criticizing Israel in public,” Graham said.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks at a press conference on deterring Iran at the U.S. Capitol on November 14, 2023 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks at a press conference on deterring Iran at the U.S. Capitol on November 14, 2023 in Washington, DC.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lindsey Graham knocks Lloyd Austin as 'naive' in Israel, Hamas war