Watch: Former Marine challenges McCain on Syria intervention


On the viral YouTube video beat, check out this showdown between a former Marine grunt and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

In the video, Bryan Bates, who identified himself as a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who also worked as a private security contractor with the Army Corps of Engineers, stands up at a Sept. 5 town hall in Tucson, Ariz., to ask McCain a tough question about military involvement in Syria.


” I am no stranger to Al Qaeda, their affiliates and the people of the region near Syria. I am here to tell you that I completely oppose any military intervention in Syria,” he says in the grainy video.  “My reason, I do not believe that we can differentiate between who the good guys and who the bad guys are. I have lived amongst the population in that region. I have sat and ate dinner and been in many houses over there and I can tell you from experience that although there are many good people in that region; the cultural, religious and ideological differences from us Americans are too great for us to truly understand what is going on in Syria. We need to stay out of there. ”

Then he gets more personal, addressing McCain.

“You sir, do not represent me or my people and I am flabbergasted that a man of honor who has sacrificed so much for his country does not understand the danger of aiding the Syrian rebels.”

The audience cheers.

McCain first thanks Bates for his service. Then he adds that one of his sons was a former Marine lance corporal and the other is a Navy pilot.

” They don’t share your views,” McCain, himself a former Navy officer and Vietnam prisoner of war, says. “When you think you speak for men and women in the military, I think you speak for yourself. Because I talk with men and women in the military all the time.”

His response gets drowned out as Bates turns on his heel and walks out and the audience cheers him again.

The video so far has over 63,000 Youtube views and growing.

Marine Corps Times caught up with Bates, who is 28 and lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Bates, in a photo from 2005. Photo courtesy Bryan Bates

He served as an infantryman from 2004 to 2008 and left the service as a Pfc., having gotten into trouble a few times, he said. One of his hobbies is photojournalism, and he said he has attended a number of local Syria protests as a photographer.

Since the video was posted, Bates said he has taken some heat for his brusque treatment of McCain.

“I’ve had a couple of people kind of mad at me because I disrespected the senator and how dare I do that because he’s a war hero,” he said. “I believe that the second he became a public servant and ran for office, we can’t be nice to him just because he is a war hero.”

Whether or not you think Bates took the right approach in addressing McCain, he’s not alone in his views. A new Military Times poll shows that troops oppose a military strike on Syria by a three-to-one margin.

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  1. Good for you, Bates. I don’t give two hoots what he did in the Nam, he ain’t nothin but a yes-man now. Vote his ass out and 534 others with him. I would tell him the same thing. We are sick and tired of unwinnable “wars”.

  2. Bates is more a man than mccain. A hero stands up when no one else will. respect goes both was mccain. you didn’t give PFC Bates respect and made a personnel jab at the Marine Vet. I thought elected officals are suppose to reflect the people who elected them, be a problem solver and voice of the people to the government. I hope more Vets speak out and continue to do their part as American Patriots who know there is no end to oath we swore until death. Semper Fi Marine and suck it trebek

  3. McCain is nothing but a puppet of the defense industry, he needs more money from them and he gets it by keeping them busy building more and more weapons. He could not care less about this Country or any member of the Armed Forces. Let us also understand that McCain was an aircraft pilot while this young Marine has faced the enemy face to face and really knows what wars are all about

  4. This young man was absolutely right in confronting Senator McCain, who is starting to act like either a Manchurian candidate or someone that has been blackmailed by Obama into falling into step with the administration. It is time the US stopped being the damn worlds police force.

  5. This is by far the most disrespectful argument I have heard from a Marine. To get up and question the views of the senator is beyond the normal idea of how debates are done on a professional level. When you are going to question an elected officials views on an act of war in the middle east personal opinions should never be the discussing point. Personal agenda was the cause for the statement and that holds no weight in anyone else’s eyes. This was merely a cry for attention, if you want to debate at least go through with it to the end. Disrespecting a man that has come to hear and honor your feelings on our nations situation is sight of lower intelligence. This not only made him look like someone with nothing to prove, but also made the Marine Corps. look bad in the public eye. This was uncalled for…

  6. Im all in for a strike on Syria for Chemical Weapon use. Senator McCain is well aware of sacrifice. I dont believe the former Marine acted professionally he acted on passion. I completely understand his view but that place is a powder keg with or without us involved but if Assad brazenly used Chemical Weapons I do believe a response is needed.

  7. McCain no longer deserves the Hero status, he does not represent the people of America, and does not deserve their respect, he needs desperately to be thrown out of office, he is desperate for recognition, and it has always been that way, he cant make up his mind and will quickly change sides if will bring that wanted recognition.. He is a pathetic elected official, as history will show

  8. Firstly allow me to say that I am an Independent. What bothers me as to the atmosphere in America is the polarization of either Right or Left, Conservative or Liberal and to be honest the polarization of this Great Nation is its demise. What happens is the American People and the Politicians go so far that they cannot recognize the real threats to our sovereignty and interests. We are viewed as weak and divided well until a 9/11 happens and then we rush to galvanization. It is rather sad.

    I oppose war as well. However, I am not that oblivious to the fact that war is an extension of the interests of Americans. We Americans have become so soft and rhetorical, finding comfort in blaming Corporations and Politicians, when we have done absolutely NOTHING to curb our demand of gluttonous consumerism. Whenever the Feds step in to even suggest that we move away or be conservative via alternative energy Americans laugh and balk at being told what to do.

    Like it or not Ladies and Gents there is a rush to resources and allies who share in our objectives. In the path of our objective(s) are Russia and China and believe me when I say that appeasement will not usher in peace. So stop your polarization and stand behind this President in the face of our interests.

    Ronald Reagan said it best when he said:

    There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender.

    Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face — that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender.

    There are voices pleading for “peace at any price” or “better Red than dead,” or as one commentator put it, he’d rather “live on his knees than die on his feet.” And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don’t speak for the rest of us.

    You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin — just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all.

    You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance.” And this — this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s “peace through strength.” Winston Churchill said, “The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits — not animals.” And he said, “There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

    ~Ronald Reagan

  9. Matt Bein, you are 100% completely wrong. Debates do have personal views and opinions associated with them. How do you think Congress debates and votes? At least 50% of the issues are de3bated through personal opinion and feedback from personal opinions of those they represent.

    As a former United States Marine Staff Sergeant and a Moderate Independent, I think the way Bryan Bates approached the subject and his wording was wholy appropriate. Never once did he insult McCain nor disrespect him in any way. He shared his personal experiences as part of his argument. McCain claims his sons views are the opposite of Bates. They well may be. I can guarantee you I can find 1000’s if not 10’s of 1000’s of active duty, retired and former military that have the same views as Bates. Does that mean we are disrespecting McCain and our elected officials? NO! That means we are using the part of our rights called ‘Freedom of Speech’ to let our elected officials know how we feel and where we stand.

    Just because McCain served, earned medals and was a POW does not mean he is any better than me who served, earned medals and never was captured. I am not above him and he is not above me in that respect. Yes, he was elected but that doesn’t say much. Many who get elected have no business in their elected positions.

  10. Semper Fi 84-89 on


    Misappropriating Ronald Reagan does nothing to help your case here. No one is talking appeasement, we are the only ones looking at this with a clear head and asking where our national interest lies and how it would be served by attacking Syria.

    Obama’s appeal was all to emotion, talking about videos of murdered children. You want us to stand with a president who is thinking with his heart, not his brain and who clearly has no idea what the issues are or what he is doing? There was no real appeal to the national interest in his speech. How would attacking the Syrian government, ostensibly taking the side of the Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels, help us or the people of Syria? It would not as far as anyone has been able to point out.

  11. Robert Minichino on

    If he had not gotten himself shot down, he would never had been able to turn being a POW into a political career. I am sure his sons are on lock step with him publicly on just about everything. Because it is an embarrassment to him if they would publicly disagree. He needs to retire. The Syrians that are killing each other are the same ones that were crossing into Iraq to kill Americans are they not? As long as they are killing each other they have their minds off killing us.

  12. Thank you Veteran Marine Bates! YOU TOO are a hero – so you are on EVEN grounds with McCain on that score. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

    YOU speak for FAR more Americans than McCain does – the polls alone should tell him that! You definitely speak for me! Oohrah!!!

  13. Matt Bein – the minute we STOP questioning our POLITICIANS – is the minute we turn into sheep. This honorable Marine has every right to question – and every right to make it personal. Though I really do not see much personal in his statements – as he is speaking for SOOOO many of us right now who would love to say the exact same thing to McCain’s face. McCain sold this nation out a long time ago.

  14. CW2, USA, Ret. says;

    Senator McCain is a war hero and he deserves the respect we would give to any Senator whether or not we agree or disagree with them.

    However, Bryan Bates speaks with both authority and accuracy from having been there, having lived it, and having observed what he is speaking of. He deserves every bit of the same honor and respect we would give any man who has so served his country as he has.

    Having said this, and looking beyond the honor both justly deserve, Senator McCain should not forget that he is working for us, and is neither our parent, supervisor, superior, nor is he our better in his position within the Senate.

    The vast majority of American Citizens are stating their opposition to entry into the Syrian Civil War. McCain’s position is without argument – he should be opposed as well or he isn’t doing his job.

    It is seriously disingenuous for the United States to be taking a side based solely on the use of chemical weapons against civilians. Since 1945 there have been well established cases of genocide and politicide that have taken place in numerous countries across the world; these include – 24 countries in Africa; 13 in South America; 28 in Asia; 10 in Europe; and 8 in the Middle East. America did not intervene in any of these cases except one (Somalia), and that was to extract American and United Nations citizens. Either these millions of people were of no consequence to us, or they probably had no oil or other resources of interest. We’ve even argued over not identifying the rape, murder, poisoning, butchering and enslavement of innocent men, women, and children specifically as genocide, so as not to have it addressed as an issue at the United Nations; e.g., bring it up in a way that we would have to do something about it.

    An important question to ask at this point in time – is why do we suddenly have this driving need to be involved in what would otherwise be addressed as a civil war? Who or what is the OZ hiding behind the curtain? And, why is our President being pushed unrelentingly towards war?

    We have ignored the needs of the American people too long. It is time to bring our economy back into control, to provide for those who are in great need within our own borders, and reevaluate who has been, and who should be carrying the financial burden the middle class has carried for so long. It’s time to respect the American People! Our greatest responsibilities do not lie in Syria, they lie here in America. Ignoring them one day longer would prove a serious travesty.

  15. When Sen. John McCain went to Syria in May, 2013 to meet with Syrian “rebel” commanders and call for sending them US arms, he snuck over the border with Turkey to the town of Azaz – the headquarters of the “Northern Storm Brigade,” and the site of a 2012 kidnapping by Syrian rebels of 11 Shi’ite pilgrims returning from a visit to a religious shrine.

    The Senator posed with rebel fighters in front of their headquarters, smiling as gun-toting jihadists smiled back.

    As it turned out, two of the rebels in the photo have been positively identified as the 2012 kidnappers.

    As Bryan said in the video, we are clueless about who is who and who they support day to day changes with the wind. So far we know that these groups are involved in the conflict: Alawites (Assad’s ruling Baathist tribe – remember Saddam was a Baathist), Sunni’s, Shi’ites, Russians supporting Assad, Iranian Quds forces, Hezbollah (an Iranian backed terror group), Muslim Brotherhood supported groups, Khurds seeking land for an independent state, and various al Qaeda related groups.

    For sorting all this out we have this brain trust in Washington: Obama, Biden, Kerry, Feinstein, Schumer, Reid, Pelosi, McCain, Graham, and Susan Rice. In the UN we have Samantha Power.

    When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was asked in a Congressional hearing what he perceived his mission to be, he said “I have no idea.”

    The first night of attacks in Libya cost us $725MM. The incursion into Libya created the chaos we see now where Libya is the primary source for training and transiting volunteers for jihadist groups. Well played Mr. Obama.

    In 1994 Clinton sent bombers to punish Bosnian Serbs for their war crimes. Clinton said it needed to be done and only America could do it. He committed that no US boots on the ground would happen.

    In 1995 the US sent troops into Bosnia.

    In 2004 the US troops came home.

  16. Protocol aside, our elected officials are accountable to the people; otherwise it is we who are the Manchurians. Both have the right to speak, especially Bates so and others can help shape and influence their Senator. Bates’s comments about their culture and ideology toward the West is spot-on! Our country had more civility with enemies like Hitler, the Japanese Emperor and later the Soviet Union than we do with the Jihadist movements like AQ and their affiliates. As infidels there are no standards and they use our generosity and civility as weapons against us. Wake up and become more informed; holding your elected officials to account, or rue the day for our childrens future.

  17. Retired Marine MSgt on

    As veteran of two years in Vietnam, and a total of 22 years in the Marine Corps I can tell you Mr. Bates DOES speak for the majority of the folks Senator McCain supposedly represents. Senator McCain has gone the way of most politicians, only does what he thinks will help him get re-elected. His status as a POW and worthy of respect went away when he was elected, and especially when you started playing flipflop with his decisions on matters of importance. He, like the majority of the folks holding office, need to retire, without benefits, they are NOT upholding the Constitution as they promised, and certainly do not represent the majority of the folks who voted them into office. He should get out of office ASAP! MSgt, USMC, Retired……….Semper Fi………..

  18. bruce montgomery on

    When someone is wrong, as is Mr. McCain, he must be called out on it. Don’t beat around the bush, Mr. McCain is a man who is known to have never seen a war he doesn’t like and therefore always looks for confrontation and military action. Frankly, its as if he is trying vicariously to experience war by always favoring it because he got shot down early in his tour in Viet Nam and was a four year prisoner. In my opinion, Mr. Bates’ experience in two war zones and his familiarity with the people there is just restating what most Americans already know: and that is we are fighting people who we don’t have clue will turn on us militarily and people with whom we have nothing in common and will never understand.

  19. This is a perfect example of why the ‘brass’ should be advised by the grunts before making life and death decisions to go to war. Bates has been in the actual war zone and McCain has been behind a desk for waaaaay too long, so long he is totally out of touch with reality. Bringing his son’s into the argument was a cheap shot by McCain and shows his argument has no substance.

    I’ve watched many vids of McCain’s townhall’s and the way he treats the average citizen who has the absolute GAUL to oppose or question him, is appalling, but expected by a RINO……Bates DOES represent the feelings and thoughts of MILLIONS of fed up American’s …..I’ve got yer back ANYtime, bro !

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