Congressman Stephen Lynch joined Boston Public Radio on Tuesday. The Congressman was just back from a trip to the Middle East. Lynch talked about that trip, the 2024 Boston Olympics process, and the death of Usaamah Rahim last month at the hands of law enforcement.

Questions below are paraphrased, and Rep. Lynch's responses are edited where noted [...].

You think we've done enough in Iraq. What about the idea that we broke it, so we should fix it?

I don't believe that first of all. I think they had a dysfunctional government to begin with. I think we have done our part over there. We've trained up over 9,000 Iraqi. [...] We've spent $25 billion training and equipping those folks, and also we lost 4,500 good Americans in the process. The whole idea there was to build capacity within the government to allow them to take charge of their own security and take full responsibility for their government and their people, and that's the point that we left them at.

There are a lot of excuses as to why this has unraveled. Some people point to Nouri al-Maliki — the former Prime Minister — and the fact that he alienated the Sunni and the Kurdish people. But, in any event I think that this has to be solved by the Iraqi people. I do not think there is a way forward for the United States, even with some allies that can be the guarantors of human rights and decency and a democratic process in Iraq. They have to step up as I said, and take responsibility.

Has the fall of Ramadi 'galvanized' the Iraqi government, as President Obama said yesterday?

I don't know about galvanized. I think they're embarrassed. I think the government in Baghdad is embarrassed over the performance of their people in Ramadi. [...] All of the top leadership conceded that they have a morale problem as they described it with their own troops, and that they were not driven out of Ramadi, they drove out of Ramadi in advance of the much smaller number of forces that came in from ISIL. And there is some support within the Sunni population in Anbar province for the insurgency, for ISIL, there's no question about that. Some of them are complicit, some of them are just standing by as this goes on. We had an opportunity to meet with some of the Sunni sheiks from Anbar province, and that is clearly the case.

How does the military situation in Iraq get fixed?

There's going to have to be a reconciliation between the Sunni, the Shia and the Kurds. The Kurds seem to be intensely motivated to protect their territory, and they've fought very well with the support of US, and at the time British and Jordanian air support. They will protect what has traditionally been considered their territory. We met with their Prime Minister Masoud Barzani, and Nechirvan Barzani the President there, and they are deeply committed to recapturing basically the Kurdish territory, which — Mosul is a mixed Kurdish and Shia city, and they are focused on that. But beyond that, there doesn't seem to be a cohesive sense of nationhood within those three sects, and that's the nature of their problem. That's the root of their problem. [...]

They have to come together. They've got enough people there. ISIS is a relatively smaller force. The Iraqis are better-equipped. There are some things that they can't do very well, which is the air support, and some of the satellite logistics, and things like that where I think the coalition can help out. But again, it has to be Iraqi boots on the ground, because if we go in there — and a lot of them expect us to go in there! We sat with them. I went to a couple refugee camps. They expect the United States to come back in big numbers, and to do this again in big numbers. [...] We basically said that that is not going to happen, and that they've got to step up.

How many times have you been to Iraq?

I think that was my sixteenth trip.

Is it possible that Vice President Joe Biden was right — when he said while running for President — that the only way forward is to have three countries there?

I'm not sure. I could see where he would arrive at that conclusion. I don't think it's that far-fetched, let me put it that way. I do think that if you split that up, there's no oil for the Sunni [people]. The oil is basically in the Kurdish and the Shia areas in Basra and, you know. So you're going to have to figure out how you take care of the Sunni, because they don't have any oil or resources in their area, and I think that will just be a continual problem in that region.

As well, the relations between the Kurds and the Shia in Baghdad, you know, Irbil and Baghdad, that could be a problem too. Baghdad's trying to keep the Kurds under their thumb, and quite frankly the Kurds are driving circles around the Shia in Baghdad. They've got a much better sense of the working economy, and you know, they're squared away to a certain degree.

Stephen Kinzer wrote a recent piece in the Globe about how pathetic the US's investment in infrastructure is. He likened it to Third World conditions. What do you think of that premise?

Yeah, well, the parts of the Third World I've gone to there's no comparison. But that doesn't — that doesn't ignore what you're saying, [...] I think you're pointing to the inability or the unwillingness of Congress to deal with this. I'm not encouraged by the last couple of weeks. We had some hope that they might look at a couple of tax-reform pieces that might help us restore the Highway Trust Fund. Now what I'm hearing is that they're going to try another one of these gimmicks or Band-Aids that will kick the can down the road a little bit, but not really fix the bridges and the roads as we need, and improve on rapid transit. So, I'm a little bit negative on that right now. I'm hopeful.

But there's a group there in Congress — actually, on the Republican side — that refuses to basically accept the fact that it is our responsibility to generate some revenue for states, cities and towns to deal with their infrastructure. If we took care of everything we needed to take care of — in terms of restoring our bridges from deficient status, and getting us to a good place with respect to infrastructure — that's about a trillion dollars in spending and good jobs. We're not talking about minimum-wage jobs. We could put a lot of Americans to work, so I think we're whistling through the graveyard here.

My fear is that we're going to have a major bridge collapse somewhere, and then Congress is going to say, 'Gee, we never saw that coming.' That's going to be a lie.

Republican voters and Republican constituents see infrastructure crumbling, too. It doesn't seem like a partisan issue.

Well, there's this ideology that they're following, which is no new taxes, and government is bad, and private sector does things better, and let's shrink government. And so, that's all consistent with that mantra, and so they can't seem to go away from that. Every time they say, 'Okay, let's try to raise taxes, or let's get a stream of revenue that'll take care of a certain problem,' they go spastic on the Republican side.

Is that a legal term, 'spastic,' Stephen Lynch?

It's the third rail, it really is for a lot of people. Look, I would support a small gas tax. I know that that's not popular. But damn it, you gotta do what you think is right. And unfortunately, because we're using less gas — our fuel efficiency has gained greatly, we're using smaller vehicles — so the revenue is not there to keep that going. So, we're going to have to do something. You know what? The thing that kills me is the Republicans in Congress had no problem when we were paying $4 a gallon to the Saudis. But, God forbid now when it went to $2 we said, 'You know what, let's throw three cents into the Highway Trust Fund.' And, oh no, that was a red line, that was off-limits.

From the way you spoke about it on NECN, it sounds like you think it's a bad idea to build a stadium, even temporarily, in Widett Circle?

Well, I do. I do think it's a bad idea. Look, here's there plan: we're gonna spend somewhere around $200 million, they're saying, for [...] a 60,000-seat stadium. But they're saying that they're going to dismantle it after they're done. So there's $200 million in sunk costs that we have no way to pay for because we're putting it up — get this — we're putting up a 60,000-seat stadium for three weeks basically, four weeks at the most. And then we're going to take it down. [...] Even if that were your plan, wouldn't it be smarter to find a location where you can actually build a 60,000-seat stadium and use it afterward? For the next 50 years amortize the cost, create jobs and pay off some of the debt service that's going to be there possibly, for after the Olympics?

And the other thing is, they're sinking it right down, outside of Andrew Square, and we don't really have the infrastructure really to handle it. We've got a small station there, it's very close to a densely-settled neighborhood, it's sort of the convergence between Roxbury, South Boston, Dorchester and the South End. I think it would have a huge impact on people's lives there — a negative one. And so, I think there's a better way to look at this, and try to come up with a better solution.

Are you committed to stopping the plan for Widett Circle?

Obviously, if we can't come to terms, I'm in a position of opposition now. I'm just going to see what I can do.

Have you spoken to Boston 2024 since you were interviewed by NECN?

We've gone back and forth with a number of their representatives, so there's been dialog but no progress to-date. At least on that issue. And believe me — look, I understand the need for dorms, and I can see the athlete's village, and they're looking to do some things on the north jetty in my district as well. They're looking to use the convention center, they want to do this Olympic boulevard, and I'm on board on four or five major components of what they want to do. I just don't think the stadium component is well thought out.

Will there be a stadium in Widett Circle?

I'd say I'm not persuaded. I'm still in opposition, so I'm trying to stop it. They haven't persuaded me, but I'll just have to keep fighting and see if we can change some minds there.

What about tax breaks for Olympic development — is there a risk we could be 'giving away the store,' so to speak?

Yeah, that's possible. They had a 200-page basically executive summary, but it had large gaps in it in terms of the roots of the funding, and how they were going to make this thing viable. So, there were real problems there. The other thing I fear is that — as we move toward this, you know, breaking-ground date when they want to put the stadium — they reverse course. If I say yes to a temporary stadium, then they convert to a permanent stadium and they're taking public land. And what I don't want to see is public land is taken — good public land is taken — and it accrues to the benefit of some private stadium owner. You know, that's in the back of my mind.

You're from organized labor before you were elected as a lawmaker. Are you taking heat from your colleagues in the trades because of this Widett Circle thing?

Not yet. You know, I've got a history of independent thought. We've had problems. When they wanted to build the mega-plex down in South Boston — they wanted to build the football stadium down there — I took a little bit of crap on that. Also, they wanted to build Fenway Park down there, they wanted to build an asphalt plant not far from Widett Circle, and I fought that.

My brothers and sisters from labor give me a break every once in a while for independent thought. I'm not getting as much crap on the Affordable Care Act as I used to, [although] a lot of it have seen it as a bad thing. Now some of them are asking me to repeal it. I have a good relationship with organized labor, they're my brothers and sisters. But they don't inhibit free thought. They appreciate it in some respects.

Parking is pretty bad in South Boston, as I'm sure you know. What do you make of Mayor Walsh giving away 245 parking placards, including for city councilors and staffers, so they can park anywhere in the city?

I gotta get me one of them! Look, I think what he's trying to do is allow city employees to do their jobs, and they've got to cover the whole city. 240 is not a big number, and I think in some respects they need that to operate. I don't think it's going to make a huge difference. He's doing some other things [...] to try to create spots. He's working at it. He also lives in the city as well, so he gets it. [...] He's working hard at it, and we love him. So, you know, God bless him.

You signed a petition trying to persuade the Supreme Court to at least allow audio — and ideally allow video — for court proceedings. Have you received any response?

Not to my knowledge, no. They're not known for their speed over there in responding to questions of Congress. I have been — I'm a co-sponsor right now of two bills. One is a Republican bill, one is a Democratic bill. They both do the same thing, basically. You know, with some discretion to the Justice, or to the court, it allows them — if they think that TV in the courtroom will unfairly bias one side or the other — they can actually say, 'you know, we don't think it's appropriate.' But the presumption would be that television or obviously audio in the courtroom would be allowed.

You were last with us on June 9th. You commented on the death of Usaamah Rahim, that federal agents were under orders "not to let him get on that bus." That prompted a response from Rahim's lawyers, saying it was an "unlawful, warrantless arrest." How do you respond to that?

I respond by saying this is an ongoing investigation, and it's not done yet. So, I'd be very reluctant to speak further on it until the investigation is completed. I think I owe that to the law enforcement, and all the individuals involved, family included.