Tuesday, August 17, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad slammed by a bombing, 8 judges around Iraq are targeted and only six remain living, a total of at least 71 deaths are reported (161 injured), the political stalemate continues, Ayad Allawi increases talks with a Shi'ite political party, and more.
Today Baghdad is slammed by a bombing. Alsumaria TV, citing "health sources," puts the death toll at "at least 60" with "another 157" injured from a suicide bombing this morning. Fan Chunxu (Xinhua) quotes a Ministry of the Interior source explaining, "The explosion targeting an army recruitment center at Bab al- Muazem area in Baghdad occurred at local time 7:30 a.m. (0430 GMT), it was an old building of the Defense Ministry, now up to 45 people were dead and 121 others were wounded." Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reports, "Outside a blue-domed mosque near the scene of the attack on Tuesday, Sgt. Muhammad Hassan, 28, said the latest bomber had clearly intended to attack the Army recruits." Farrell quotes him stating, "I was here from the early morning. We searched everybody. One exploded himself among a group of soldiers and recruits. The recruiting has been going on for at least a week, and this was the last day. We were not expecting it because it was the final day." BBC News adds, "The BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad says that a suicide bomber walked up to the army recruitment centre where hundreds of people had been queuing for hours - some since Monday evening." At the top of the hour news briefs on NPR this morning, listeners heard Sykes state that no protection was provided for "men looking for employment." The New York Times' Stephen Farrell told PRI's The Takeaway this morning, "how a suicide bomber had just walked up to the recruiting station at 7:30 a.m., waited until he was surrounded by as large a crowd as he could get and then blew himself up." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) adds, "An interior ministry official said a person wearing a suicide vest triggered the explosion a few minutes past 8:00 a.m. local time." Channel 4 News states, "An army source suggested two bombers could have been involved in the attack as recruits gathered outside the centre in large groups to seek work." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "The senior officer said they believed the bomber had accomplices who helped him stow a pair of pants with explosives attached near the site and put them on in addition to the pants he was wearing. Some of the potential recruits had lined up before dawn." Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) quotes recruit Ahmed Kadhim stating, "After the explosion, everyone ran away, and the soldiers fired into the air. I saw dozens of people lying on the ground, some of them were on fire. Others were running with blood pouring out." Aziz Alwan and Leila Fadel (Washington Post) describe the aftermath, "Hours after the bombing, families searched frantically for their relatives as casualties were transported to hospitals. An elderly woman collapsed in the middle of the street, screaming just a few yards from al-Midan square, where the recruits were killed. She slapped her face and wept as young boys tried to calm her." Andrew England (Financial Times of London) adds, "Another policeman pointed to bloody footprints left by survivors as he described how they fled in panic. Nearby, dozens of sandals belonging to the victims and a small heap of clothes were stacked in piles, while large pools of blood were left to congeal in the sun." PBS' Margaret Warner is in Iraq and she may have a report on tonight's The NewsHour.
Hugh Sykes: One of Baghdad's main hospitals was suddenly overwhelmed shortly after 7:30 this morning. The suicide bomber exploded his bomb in a large crowd. Dozens of men, some with terrible shrapnel and impact injuries, were taken to hospital after the attack.
Saleh Aziz: We were standing at al Muatham and the army and the officers were registering our names for recruiting when a bomb went off. I don't know exactly if it was a bomb or not. All the young men and the officers were killed. I was wounded in my arms and, thanks God, I managed to run away.
Hugh Sykes: It happened on the other side of the Tigris River from the hospital in a square called the Maidan. Hundreds of men had been waiting there all night hoping for a good place in the que for the army recruitment center and then the suicide bomber arrived. This bomb is part of a clear pattern of targeted attacks on the security forces here. Baghdad traffic policemen and federal police have been murdered in significant numbers over the past few weeks. Members of the government-backed, mostly Sunni Sahwa militia, the "Awakening" movement, have been attacked too and now these men simply queing for jobs in the army in a country where unemployment is running at 60%.
Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) observes of the bombing, "It marks a resumption of a previously successful tactic aimed at discouraging Iraqis from joining the police and army." Liz Sly and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) note, "It was the bloodiest single attack in months, and came less than two weeks before U.S. forces draw down to 50,000 and formally end their combat mission. Tensions have been rising as the deadlocked negotiations for a new government drag into a sixth month, and there are fears insurgents will try to take advantage of the political and security vacuum to stage a comeback." Sean Alfano (New York Daily News) notes, "Tuesday's bombing marks the fourth time in August Iraqi police or military have been attacked by insurgents."
The Economist notes, "By the end of next year even its military advisors expect to be gone, so they say, unless the Iraqi government asks them to stay (which is looking more likely now that American-made tanks and choppers are arriving in defence ministry lots)." Terry Patar of IHS's Iraq Focus Group tells Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News), "The longer the things go without a government being formed properly, the more of a driver there is for militant groups." The political stalemate.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 10 days.
Yesterday talks between Iraqiya and State Of Law broke down after Nouri declared on state television that Iraqiya was a "Sunni party." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains, "[Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon] Al-Damalouji said they were demanding an apology to the supporters of al-Iraqiya. Allawi, a secular Shiite, heads the cross-sectarian al-Iraqiya list, which won the largest number of seats in the March 7 national elections. Al-Iraqiya garnered most of the Sunni Arab vote." Leila Fadel and Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) observe, "The move by Allawi's group further isolates Maliki, who is intent on staying in power. This month a coalition of Shiite groups also halted talks with Maliki's group." They also note that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill (now former US Ambassador) just left the country (James Jeffrey has been confirmed as the new ambassador) and that Gen Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, is set to leave Iraq September 1st. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) points out of Nouri, "Only the Kurds, who do not have enough votes to give Maliki a second term, have somewhat unenthusiastically said they do not reject him." Lindsey Hilsum (Channel 4 News) adds:
According to the think tank Stratfor, many of Mr Maliki's allies are taking their orders from Tehran, which is doing its obstructionist utmost. "There are not enough of these politicians to create a government, but there are enough to block a government from being formed. Therefore, no government is being formed," said the most recent Stratfor analysis. Others blame Mr Allawi's grouping, which brings together both Shia and Sunni politicians, for refusing to accommodate Mr Maliki's faction. With no government, even the illusion of stability cannot be maintained. Today's bombing of an army recruitment centre, with nearly 50 dead, is a sign of how dangerous the situation is.
Meanwhile Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) is reporting that Allawi is increasing talks with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc and Ibrahim cites an announcement Allawi made yesterday, "In the next few days and thereafter, we are going to intensify our discussions to reach an important, mutual stance on what needs to be done to form the next government."
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The media echo chambers that we talk about so often are thriving in Iraq. People watch the channel that confirms their own views. And yet the phenomenon is not as strong there as it is here.
DEBORAH AMOS: Indeed, the studies show that Iraqis watch at least five different channels. They are crossing sectarian lines to watch different newscasts.
A Harvard professor who's done these kind of studies in the American media, he uses a wonderful term, which is "cognitive misers." That's what Americans are. We are cognitive misers. We don't like to watch stations that don't necessarily agree with our political opinion. It's too much trouble. And there's nothing really at stake for us to cross the lines. For Iraqis, there's plenty at stake. What are the other sects doing that I need to know about so that I can make some serious decisions about is my neighborhood safe? Do I send my kid to school tomorrow? Can I get to my job tomorrow? So it really matters for them to cross those lines.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The whole idea of a sectarian press is considered anti-democratic, and yet the newspaper environment of America 200 years ago, when our democracy was emerging, was incredibly sectarian.
DEBORAH AMOS: That's exactly right. And Iraq is mirroring an old system, in particular because it is not yet a commercial system. These channels are all funded by political parties, Islamists, Arab businessmen. Sharqiya may be the most popular because they are the most commercial. And once you become a commercial station, then you do have to broaden your appeal because you just don't have enough consumers in your particular sect. So it is possible that as all of these channels have to survive, not simply by funding of political parties but funding by commercial, that it may open that political space.
In Iraq's short history of free elections, Shiite candidates have a demographic advantage. Shiites are approximately 60% of the population, and Iraqis voted almost exclusively along sectarian lines in the 2005 national elections and the 2009 provincial vote. Maliki also had a media advantage. The state-run national news network did not accept paid campaign advertisements, but freely broadcast extensive reports of Maliki's election appearances and campaign speeches in evening news bulletins. On the eve of the vote, state TV broadcast a documentary highlighting the Prime Minister's visit to security checkpoints around the capital.
And guess who's political slate received the "highest positive coverage"? Nouri's.
So explain it to us, did alleged reporters just sit around on their asses watching Iraqi TV in the lead up to the election?
That would certainly explain the NPR embarrassment that is Quil Lawrence (who needs to get his Afghanistan reporting right real quick or we may start including Afghanistan in the snapshots). For those who've forgotten, Iraq held elections March 7th. The morning of March 8th, Quil Lawrence was announcing the Nouri al-Maliki was "the winner." Not just that his slate got the most votes -- which it didn't -- but that Nouri was the winner. NPR's never explained how that happened. NPR's never bothered to address why the day after the election -- when no vote count, not even partial, was complete -- Quil was allowed to go on the air and declare Nouri the winner. So what was it? The White House wanted Nouri to win. (A Nouri win always meant an easy extension for the SOFA.) Was Quil 'reporting' based on Iraqi media or was he schilling for the White House? And why has NPR's ombudsperson never addressed the issue of a reporter calling the election when the votes weren't counted?
That's a serious question and it demands a serious answer. Deborah Amos is a serious journalist (for NPR) and she is also the author of the new book Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. The book addresses the exiles, the refugee crisis created by the violence and instability in Iraq. The Baghdad bombing wasn't the only violence reported in Iraq today. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that judges were also targeted today: in Baghdad Judge Kamal Jabbar Bander "was seriously injured" by a roadside bombing while in Diyala Province two other judges were wounded by a roadside bombing. In addition to the targeting of those 3 judges, Reuters notes five more were targeted with bombs and 2 of those were killed, a Baghdad explosion (a generator and it may or may not have involved a bomb) which claimed 5 lives and left twenty-five injured, a Baghdad assault in which three people were injured after being shot by unknown assailants, 2 police officers shot dead in Kirkuk, a Baghdad grenade attack in which two people were injured, Hasan Abdul-Lateef (Trade Ministry's head of the audit department) was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 police officer was shot dead in Hamman al-Alil, 2 corpses (woman and a man) were discovered in Mosul (inside a car) and 1 employee of Badosh prison was shot dead in Mosul. If we use Reuters' conservative count of 57 killed in the Baghdad bombing at the recruitment center and 123 injured, we're left with 71 reported deaths and 161 reported injured.
Staying with violence, last week, the US State Dept issued a warning on visiting Turkey which opened with:
There is an overall increase in violence and a continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout Turkey. The August 15 anniversary of the first PKK (also known as the Kongra-Gel (KGK)) attack against Turkish government installations has historically provided an excuse for an escalation of violence. While the PKK's intentions for the anniversary are unclear, the potential for violence or unrest warrants increased awareness during this period. The Mersin and Kız Kalesi areas in southeast Turkey have been put off limits for American military personnel from August 13–15.
As discussed in previous Warden Messages, the PKK terrorist group has recently threatened increased violent activity in urban areas in Turkey, and there is credible information that the PKK intends to target tourist areas. There have also been recent clashes involving security forces and the PKK in parts of Turkey outside of the PKK's usual operating area in southeast Turkey.
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Turkey to be alert to the potential for terrorist-related violence and the possibility of increased PKK activity in urban and tourist areas, as well as throughout southeastern Turkey. We encourage all U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution and maintain a low profile throughout Turkey. We reiterate Department of State advice to take prudent steps to ensure your personal safety: remain vigilant and aware of surroundings, listen to news reports, avoid crowds and demonstrations, and vary times and routes for all travel.
The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Turkish authorities to release American journalist Jake Hess, who is being detained in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, according to the Turkish dailyHürriyet. Hess is accused of collaborating with the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), referred to in news reports as the "urban wing" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Hess, who is a contributor to the Inter Press Service new agency, was detained on Wednesday evening, according to Serkan Akbaş, his lawyer. Akbaş told CPJ that Hess "wrote several articles that angered the authorities." He added that when Hess was arrested the police said he was being detained on allegations of "aiding the PKK" and that his name was in the government's file on the KCK.
The lawyer told CPJ that Hess' name was in the KCK file likely in connection with a translation job he did in 2009 for a nongovernmental organization in Turkey called the Human Rights Association, which has reported extensively on human rights violations related to the Kurdish issue. Akbaş said that the timing of the arrest "clearly shows that they got annoyed with his articles." Hess wrote about human rights violations against Kurds. His latest piece, about Kurdish refugees who had fled to northern Iraq after the Turkish army attacked their villages, was published on August 4.
Teymoor Nabili: Kamil Mahdi, let me start with you if I may. The situation in Kirkuk is being touted by the people there as the most stable in Iraq and certainly somewhere where they are hoping to attract foreign investment and encourage a degree of progress. None the less, there are still a number of issues unresolved. Give us an overview of how you see the situation in Kurdistan and its relationship with Baghdad.
Kamil Mahdi: Well relatively speaking, the situation in Kurdistan is indeed stable and it's secure unlik the rest of Iraq but the emphasis is on it being relatively the case. One of the sources of instability in Kurdistan -- in fact the ideology and the politics of the Kurdistan Regional Government -- is the emphasis of this government on resolving issues of longstanding claims in areas that are not under its control at the moment. And that is really a source of instability for Iraq as a whole and for the Kurdistan Region. I think the Kurdistan Government, if it were to emphasize the economic prospects --
Teymoor Nabili: But --
Kamil Mahdi: -- in the region and to also move towards resolving problems in the region -- issues of jobs and services
Teymoor Nabili: Alright, but --
Kamil Mahdi: -- above all the issue of corrutpion in Kurdistan.
Teymoor Nabili: You're talking about instability and we're getting a general sense of perhaps a few problems but nothing serious but on the other hand there does seem to be and there has always been this constant fear that Kurdistan wants to secede and doesn't see itself as part of Iraq. That seems like more than just a little instability. That seems like the potential for some serious division, don't you think?
Kamil Mahdi: This is the point that the emphasis of the Kurdistan Regional Government on resolving issues of conflict with Iraq is seen as a prelude to a demand for secession. Now the question is if this was the intention of the Kurdistan Regional Government then it should come clean --
Teymoor Nabili: Alright --
Kamil Mahdi: -- and not meddle too deeply into Iraqi politics.
Teymoor Nabili: Well let's put that too a member of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Mohammad Ihsan, the Kurdistan Government is advertising itself as "the other Iraq." It would seem to suggest that you don't want to be part of the existing Iraq. Is secession the ultimate goal?
Mohammad Ihsan: The concept of "the other Iraq" [. . .] is not on the basis that we don't want to be part of Iraq. We wants to show better pictures of Iraq or better view of Iraq. What people outside of Iraq, looking at Iraq. This doesn't mean that there is a war or that there is sabotage operations or that there is a conflict. We want to pursue our message to show the international community that we have part of Iraq which already exists, the economy is booming, you have stability, you have peace, and wait for us in the near future. The other part of Iraq is also going to be the same. That's our target for describing our process as "the other Iraq," not that we want to isolate ourselves or to show that we are not Iraqis, we are --
Teymoor Nabili: Well the relationship -- the relationship between [KRG President] Massoud Barzani and Nouri al-Maliki doesn't seem to suggest that there is a great deal of common interest.
Mohammad Ihsan: It's not a common interest. We have to accept that we are leaving a transitional period of time. Iraq after 2003, we moved to a totally different part of our history. A lot of things have been changed. We adopted new political system. We are adopting new economical system. We are facing a war of terrorists. We are facing a lot of things at the same time. This is why we have to accept that there will be a lot of differences. Disagreement among leaders in Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq or among Shia themselves, Sunni themselves. We are at the stage of reforming the country, reforming the political system, reforming the national identity --
Teymoor Nabili: Alright. Let me ask
Mohammad Ihsan -- as well. We are doing all of these things at the same time.
Teymoor Nabili: Let me ask -- let me ask -- let me ask Abdul Hadi al-Hassani then. Abdul Hadi al-Hassani, what do you think about the Kurdistan Region wanting to reform Iraq politics?
Abdul Hadi al-Hassani: I think [. . .] I believe Iraq is in a phase of transitional period and reforming period altogether. Let's not forget Iraq capital is Baghdad and the changing that's taken place in Baghdad not in the year 1991 or 1990 as the KRG had benefit from really. A lot of really security and assistance from the international world as a green zone. And this really transition and reformation, it need coherent cooperation between all Iraqi people whether they are in the north or the south, the KRG or in the rest of Iraq.
Teymoor Nabili: Why does Nouri al-Maliki think the only time he needs to particularly nice to the Kurdish politicians is when he needs their support in Parliament?
Abdul Hadi al-Hassani: [Long pause] Maliki or any prime minister of Iraq has to be really close to everybody in Iraq whether in the KRG or the south. We have one Constitution. We have on state. Furthermore, we believe we have to have on fiscal system, one political system which is democracy and election.
Turning to the United States, at the US State Dept yesterday, Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Corbin and the Defense Dept's Colin Kahl held a joint-press conference. Listen to Kahl and laugh (it's okay, he's a War Hawk and an idiot and oh, so much more):
Moreover, as Michael explained, the U.S. interagency is focused very intensely at the moment on transitioning to a civilian-led mission in Iraq. I think contrary to the perceptions of some, this transition in the nature of U.S. presence in Iraq does not imply strategic disengagement. Instead, it signals a transformation in our bilateral relationship, and in many respects an increase or a deepening of our engagement in a way that's sustainable over the long term. I've traveled to Iraq in three of the four official visits by Vice President Biden and this is something that he makes a point of emphasizing, both in public and in private with Iraqi officials, is that we're not disengaging from Iraq; our engagement will increase. It's just the ratio of military versus civilian engagement is changing over time, as it should and as the Iraqis want it to.
At stake during this major transition, both for Iraq and the United States, is not only ensuring that stability in Iraq is enduring and that the Iraqi Government is able to meet the needs of its citizens, but also the consolidation of a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq that contributes to the region's peace and security. Given this variety of strategic issues, I want to take a few minutes to discuss the Administration's policy toward Iraq from a DOD perspective. I think my points will complement Michael's nicely. My brief remarks will basically skim over the surface of some current security trends, some of the remaining political drivers in our overall approach to dealing with them in – as we continue to draw down and support this transition. So let me say a few things about where we are on the security front. Iraq's security situation, I think, is generally positive. The number of violent incidents in Iraq remains at its lowest levels of the war. According to USFI data, the number of security incidents and casualties -- that is, Iraqi civilian casualties, Iraqi security force casualties, and U.S. casualties -- for the first five months of 2010 are the lowest on record. We should expect to see periodic spikes.
No, it's not at the "lowest levels of the war." And that the press didn't challenge that false claim goes to how in the tank they've all gotten (except of course for the ones who were just bored by the whole press conference). What an idiot. It didn't take today's violence to make him an idiot. And the War Hawk works for the Defense Dept. And is on board with the militarization of the US Embassy in Iraq. Start making the connections, don't wait on the press because they're never going to point it out. There's no withdrawal. But look to Kohl, follow him down his rabbit hole, and you'll start to see who will be over the Samantha Power plan of militarizing diplomacy. Two gal pals sitting around War Hawking apparently. (It's not Hillary, kids, but the woman may take Gates' job.) Michael Schwartz speaks with Ashley Smith about the non-withdrawal (US Socialist Worker):
Secondly, the State Department actually has a small military force of its own. It has made public pronouncements that it's going to increase that military force to a tremendous size to protect all of the American civilians in Iraq. It made requests to take over the five major military posts that remain in Iraq, each of which is meant to accommodate about 10,000 soldiers.
Third, the U.S. has flooded Iraq with civilian contractors and bureaucrats--what U.S. officials call their "civilian presence." They built the largest embassy in world history, and they plan to expand it quite considerably to accommodate almost twice the 1,000 diplomats it was built to hold. These civilians will constitute a very important presence for the U.S., different from the military, but nevertheless constituting pressure on the Iraqis to conform to U.S. policies.
But even with these surrogates, the U.S. military leadership has repeatedly said that it expects a modification of the SOFA that will permit a continued American military presence. The fact that it isn't dismantling the five major bases suggests that it expects to get some kind of agreement to retain a significant military force to control the country.
U.S. officials are determined to do so because the Iraqi government has not been compliant with American wishes. When the current political impasse since the election gets resolved, we should not expect the next Iraqi government to be any more compliant. Therefore, the U.S. will need a military force to discipline the Iraqi government.
We received this notice from people planning protests with the 3rd Battalion is sent to Iraq next week. Some of you may have heard about this upcoming action during the webcast we did a couple weeks ago.
This is a nation-wide call to action! Come to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 22 to participate in peaceful actions with veterans and anti-war leaders opposing the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's 5,000 Soldiers to Iraq. This is your invite. Can you attend?
Despite President Obama's fallacious claims that the war in Iraq is winding down, the 3rd ACR is gearing up for yet another deployment! Furthermore, many Soldiers facing deployment are known to be unfit for combat due to injuries sustained in prior tours. The Peace Movement must not let this stand!
The Soldiers of the 3rd ACR and the people of Iraq need you to be here Aug. 22. This will be a RADICAL demonstration, with optional direct action elements and possible legal implications. While all are welcome to participate at whatever level they are comfortable, we value greatly those willing to put their bodies on the line.
Lastly, go to War Is A Crime for more on this but David Swanson is endorsing David Segal and we'll close with some of the following:
On Thursday, August 19th, show up at 5:30 p.m. at Local 16 on U Street to help David Segal get elected to Congress from Rhode Island.
There are lots of ways to change Congress that falsely appear easy, that would alter the rules and patterns of behavior if only Congress were already fixed and willing to make the changes, or if we owned the television networks, or if people could suddenly hear what they're paid good money never to hear. But I've got a way to change Congress that is actually easy.
Congress lacks leadership. There is a progressive caucus, but it has never fought for anything. It doesn't fund its members' campaigns. It doesn't withhold votes needed for passing bills. It just does rhetoric. There are committees, but they don't subpoena, they don't send the police to pick up witnesses, they don't fine witnesses who refuse to answer questions. Congress thinks oversight was an oversight. If asked to put future generations into debt to fund wars, Congress asks "Would you like a side of drones with that?" Congress doesn't want power.
[. . .]
Here's audio of an interview I just did with David Segal: mp3.
Here's the transcript:
Swanson: This is David Swanson and I'm speaking with David Segal, candidate for Congress from Rhode Island, and someone I think that political progressives from around the country might want to be taking an interest in. David, thanks for speaking with me.
Segal: Thank you, and thank you for saying all those nice things.
Swanson: Well, I wonder if you could say from your own point of view what is your background that brings you to this and why you think people outside of Rhode Island might want to be paying a little attention.
Segal: I was a city councilman in Providence first elected as a Green in 2002 and then in the state legislature since 2006 as a Democrat. And if you want to talk about why I decided to make that transition from one party to another I'm happy to in more detail. But my work throughout those eight years has entailed pushing back against powerful, typically wealthy corporatist interests, against leadership within my own party when I was a Democrat, against the powers that be in Providence to try to do right by working families in Providence and Rhode Island, to try to push back against the standard fare corporatist interests that run the country and also run the state and also run the city. And work's happened on basically every issue front that a progressive might care about.
Swanson: I know a couple of areas that you've been involved with. One is proposing to cease funding out wars overseas should you be elected to Congress. I set up a list called A Coalition Against War Spending (http://www.caws.us), and you or your campaign immediately signed you on there with many other candidates. But many of them are Greens, many of them are Libertarians, and many are Democrats. What is your thinking in being willing to say you'll stop voting to fund the wars, because as you know, a great many members of Congress are willing to say they oppose the wars and they are critics of the wars but will not come within many miles of saying, "I won't fund the wars."
Segal: Right. Well, I'll start by saying I'm a vegetarian and wouldn't hurt a fly. I've been against the wars since before they began. I was, my first act on City Council in Providence was to sponsor an antiwar resolution in 2003 through the Cities for Peace program, which was obviously not a, it was going to end the war or prevent the war in its own right, but it was a necessary step between here and there. It had cities assert that the war was clearly going to have negative impacts on cities and their ability to function, fund municipal services and education, and so on. And it has, of course, had all of those effects. So my first act as a councilmember was to oppose the war in Iraq. And I represent the area around Brown and RISD and helped restart antiwar mobilization on campus which was waning during the sort of 2004, 2003-2004 era where there was this full Washington consensus that the war was OK and the war was going kind of well, even. And left activists were demoralized. We restarted a chapter here and I've helped organize and spoken at countless rallies about the war.