Friday, January 22, 2021



That's Tina Turner's "When The Heartache Is Over."  


I've had that song stuck in my head for about two days now.  Don't know if it's been on my mind because Trump's gone or because Biden's now with us for four years or maybe it's the pandemic?


But the heartache never ends.  If you pay attention right now, you will be able to see the whores.  You will be able to see the liars who will cover for an elected official and go back on everything they've spent the last four years griping about.


"I can make my own decisions, it was only a matter of time," Tina sings.  Exactly.  We can and we need to put these pundits and 'leaders' on the garbage heap and stop letting them lie and distract.


When the heartache is over

I know I won't be missing you

Won't look over my shoulder

 Cause I can live without you

That's what we should be saying to all the Sam Seders out there.  You want a functioning democracy?  Stop glorifying the whores that keep cheapening it and excusing do-nothing politicians.


"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

Thursday, January 21, 2021.  Bombings slam Baghdad, US media gushes over Joe Biden.

This morning, Baghdad is slammed with bombings "in a busy commercial area near Baghdad’s al-Tayaran Square."  

Ghassan Adnan and Justin Malcolm (WALL STREET JOURNAL) report, "Twin suicide bombings ripped through a crowded marketplace in Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 32 people and wounding at least 75 others in the first such attack in Iraq’s capital in more than two years."  The writers insist that "the explosions shattered a period of relative calm."  It hasn't been relatively calm in Iraq but it does provide cover for your outlet that's ignored the ongoing violence -- especially the violence aimed at the protesters -- when shocked readers see the story.  As XINHUA points out, "sporadic deadly incidents still occur in the war-ravaged country as IS remnants have since melted into urban areas or deserts and rugged areas, carrying out frequent guerilla attacks against security forces and civilians"  Samya Kullab and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) note, "Blood smeared the floors of the busy market amid piles of clothes and shoes as survivors took stock of the disarray in the aftermath." The first bomb helped draw the crowd, the second one then went off.  Martin Chulov (GUARDIAN) explains, "The interior ministry said the first bomber had claimed he was ill and when crowds gathered to help, he detonated his bomb."  Aqeel Najm, Jomana Karadsheh, Kareem Khadder and Tamara Qiblawi (CNN) add:

Security forces say they pursued the two attackers before they blew themselves up. It was the first suicide attack to strike Baghdad in nearly two years.
The first bomber entered the marketplace and, pretending to be sick, asked for help, causing people to gather around him before he blew himself up, according to officials and state media. The second bomber then drove to the scene on a motorbike before detonating his explosive vest.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though it bears the hallmarks of Sunni jihadi groups who have carried out numerous similar attacks in Iraq. Double bombings were common in the country during the height of its sectarian war between 2005 and 2007. 

ALJAZEERA's Abdelfattah Fayed states, "The injured were rushed to the nearby hospitals. Local reports suggest that the number of fatalities will rise as the large number of those injured are in very critical condition."  Ramadan Al Sherbini (GULF NEWS) notes, "Photos carried by Iraqi media showed bodies lying on the ground in the aftermath of the attack."  XINHUA reports:

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit on Thursday condemned in the strongest terms the twin suicide bombings at a crowded commercial area in Iraq's capital Baghdad.

"That terrorist attack is a heinous act that came at a very important time. It undoubtedly aimed to hinder Iraq's efforts to restore the country's security and stability and achieve the aspired economic reform," Aboul-Gheit said.

MIDDLE EAST MONITOR offers this context, "The latest bombings come just days after the government unanimously voted to postpone the country's general elections to October this year. They were scheduled for 6 June. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi had pledged to hold early elections after taking office last year, to appease anti-government protesters demanding a reform of the country's political system and an end to rampant corruption and poor public services."

Among the many hideous moments on US TV yesterday?  The efforts to turn Bully Boy Bush into someone worthy of admiration.  The War Criminal is beloved by those who whore for corporations.  Hannibal Khoury Tweets:

Children are still getting blown-up in Iraq but CNN and Stephen Colbert want you to know what a cute and cuddly grandpa George Bush is
Red heart


Corporate whores are happy.  They spent yesterday ooh-ing and ahh-ing over aged debutante Joe Biden's coming out party.   The rest of the world?  Not so much.  Kooky | Destroyer of Mayo notes:

Palestine is not celebrating today Venezuela is not celebrating today Iran is not celebrating today Syria is not celebrating today Iraq is not celebrating today Cuba is not celebrating today Bolivia is not celebrating today Yemen is not celebrating today

Chile is not celebrating today Afghanistan is not celebrating today Honduras is not celebrating today

I'm not letting liberals enjoy this. There is nothing to enjoy, only the continuation of capitalist terror and hegemony

Also a preemptive response to liberals finding this: I'm Syrian, ask me about the Obama years

Victory hand

Yeah the new president is a war criminal who has terrorized the places I listed. Take your smart comments to other places

Joseph Kishore (WSWS) reports of the inauguration:

President Joseph Biden’s inaugural address yesterday was significant above all for its banality. Amidst an unprecedented political, social and economic crisis of the entire capitalist order, Biden delivered remarks filled with cliches, incoherent non sequiturs and the emptiest of abstractions.

One would not, of course, expect Biden to deliver a socialist speech. He is a capitalist politician assuming the position of “commander-in-chief” of the most powerful imperialist country. However, in the tradition of American politics, the inaugural address of the incoming president used to be an occasion for speaking in some form to the political situation and the policy of the incoming administration.

[. . .]

The poverty of Biden’s remarks is not just an intellectual failure. He knows full well that any hint at a significant shift in policy would spark a sell-off on the markets. As it was, the markets rose during his speech. In the minds of the political establishment and the media, this is the main factor in concluding that the speech was a great success. They were all somewhat richer at its conclusion than at its beginning.

Moreover, the political representatives of the ruling class, and particularly the Democratic Party, are acutely aware of the fact that any serious examination of reality—including the political and social forces behind the rise of fascism in America and the bipartisan policies that have produced the catastrophic spread of the pandemic—risks a social and political explosion that will threaten the entire capitalist order.

Biden’s appeal to “unity” is, ultimately, a desperate effort to cover over a massive social chasm. This chasm does not separate the Democrats from the Republicans, who, whatever their differences, both represent the same oligarchy. It is the unbridgeable division between the capitalist ruling elite, on the one hand, and the working class, on the other. It is the fear of the open eruption of this conflict that drives Biden to his abstractions.


Margaret Kimberley offered:

Every 4 years I suffer. I watch many people who I respect shed tears over a democrat winning or the first black president or Trump is gone and Harris is a woman, etc. But I don't care because I want a different society altogether.

ADDED: Glenn Greenwald Tweeted:

"The commentary from TV broadcasters across the board, all day long, was at times embarrassingly complimentary" -- The Washington Post's , with great understatement on yesterday's festivities and how the media covered them.

The following sites updated:


  • Thursday, January 21, 2021

    Joni was right

     Ajamu Baraka was the Green Party's vice presidential nominee in 2016.  He's a noted intellectual and he's also an activist.  Two on the money Tweets from his Twitter feed:


    When the Clinton News Network (CNN) MSNBC & other neoliberal propaganda organs talk about the need to police speech to purge "extremism" every anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-white supremacist radical should be concerned.

     Brilliant!: Capitalism moved millions to social media platforms promising freedom, connectivity, a new world where they had instant access to information. Then using Russiagate & now "domestic terrorism," the public is being conditioned to accept capitalist content censorship.


    As Joni Mitchell sings, "They're going to slam free choice behind us."



    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

     Wednesday, January 20, 2021.  Donald to leave today, Joe to be sworn in.

    Today, Donald Trump's presidency ends.  It was four years of turmoil and nonsense -- from the press and from Donald.  He came into office a petty man and he leaves it that way as well.  Despite repeatedly insisting he was a menace to the world, Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats were more than happy to back any war funding or corporate give aways while pretending there was a significant difference between themselves and Donald.

    He did cut the official number of US troops in half in Iraq.  The official number is now 2,500.  Other than that, not much can be said for President Donald.  Not much can be said that's nice.

    The key word for Donald remains "petty."  

    He never rose above petty.  In fairness to him and his egomania, he never rose to the level of Great Satan that so many 'faux' resistance persons -- among the people, in Congress, in press -- tried to insist he was.  

    And he created jobs.  

    Take Carl Bernstein, a vile and disgusting man (I say that as a friend of the late Nora Ephron's) who got to pose and preen as some sort of journalist.  Watergate was decades ago.  Bernstein did one article on the CIA infiltration of US media after that and then moved on to writing bad prose (and having fits that his ex-wife's novel was turned into a film).  Garbage Bernstein wasn't interested in truth then, no.  He didn't want the children to know how disgusting and unfit their father really was.  But the Trump presidency allowed Bernstein to show up regularly on MSNBC and be treated seriously -- as long as he toed the party line and claimed that each scandal -- real or imagined -- was, wait for it, worse than Watergate.

    No, they weren't.  And that only demonstrates what many have long known -- and what the film DICK parodied -- Carl didn't know a damn thing about Watergate.  Bob Woodward took him along for the ride.  He was the Oates to Bob's Hall, the Andrew to Bob's George Michael.  Carl clearly has no grasp of what Watergate was.  It wasn't just a break-in.  It was a conspiracy, an enemy's list and a hell of lot more.  It was government persecution of the American people.  

    But, again, Carl's not very smart and he has no life so he needed to be on TV.

    And if you ever needed to be on TV, Trump hatred was the way to go.  Failed comic Tom Arnold was a 'resistance' hero.  Remember that?  Michael Avenatti was a 'resistance' hero.  James I-Lied-To-Congress Clapper was a 'resistance' hero . . .

    So many scoundrels, so much cable TV time.

    The four years ended like a really bad DC superhero movie -- in the end, the villain never lived up to the build up.

    But he certainly was a wonderful distraction, wasn't he?

    Allowing for members of Congress to grandstand and preen -- while they told the American people that, in a pandemic, corporations were entitled to billions but the American people only deserved about $150 a month -- that's what the only stimulus check that arrived prior to December 25th averaged out to.  It allowed them to desecrate the Constitution and continue wars around the world while pretending that they had some moral standing and/or ethics.  

    Now Donald's leaving and it's 'time to heal.'

    How stupid do they think his supporters -- which includes nearly 75 million Americans who voted for him -- are?  There was no 'time to heal' after the 2016's election.  There were obstacles and hatred tossed out immediately.  The "honeymoon" period every new president traditionally gets?  Denied to Donald.  

    And now you have various whores ready to dance for their master.  Dickless Bruce Springsteen will trot around on a leash for Joe.  So will Jennifer Lopez.  I'm sorry, who in the world thinks Jennifer is a singer?  She was a dancer with a weak voice who had chart hits -- years and years ago.  As one desperate celebrity after another rushes to bow to empire, it becomes clear that the United States really needs some celebrities to announce that they won't perform at any presidential inauguariton -- no matter who is the president, no matter which party has the White House.  They whore themselves out.

    Donald has millions of admirers to this day.  But he never managed to win over anyone not already for him.  That's because he's so damn petty.

    He issued so may pardons -- including yesterday -- but not one for Ed Snowden.  Not one for Julian Assange.

    Ed?  I'd argue history will judge him a hero.  

    Julian?  There's no arguing.  He needed to be pardoned -- both for himself and also for what a possible US trial could mean to the press -- destroying a free press.l

    Had Donald the guts to pardon Julian, he would have had one historical note to applaud.  

    Instead, he's just a petty man who has no real accomplishments.  Cutting the troops in Iraq in half (officially, anyway)?  That's not getting all the US troops out of Iraq.

    He's got nothing.

    One historical moment -- and pardoning Julian would have been one -- would have allowed for some reconsideration of his presidency in the future.  How could he be so right about one thing (Assange) and so wrong about other things?

    That would have led historians to look at the way the media treated him -- unfairly and it wasn't journalism.  But for a deep dive like that to take place and matter, there would be a need for historians to explore.  And Donald's pettiness ensured that they had no reason to explore what he did have to face.  

    Will Joe Biden face that?

    It doesn't appear so.  The 'independent' press spent 2020 either ignoring Joe's scandals (the credible allegations made by Tara Reade; Hunter Biden under federal investigation) or dismissing them -- and usually dismissing them with what the campaign told them to say.

    Today, Joe Biden gets sworn in.  And we're supposed to be grateful that a War Hawk who is responsible for the slaughter of the Iraqi people is going to be president -- someone who in severe cognitive decline is going to be president.

    He's not going to seriously address the environment.  Possibly due to having one foot, an ankle, a calf, a knee and a huge portion of his upper leg already in the grave, Joe doesn't feel that climate change is an urgent issue.  

    His history of racism is appalling and maybe that'll take him down.  Barack Obama has repeatedly called out 'woke' culture and there's a reason for that: He himself couldn't have survived it had it been around when he was president.  His attacks on African-American fathers, for example, would have been loudly rebuked.  Can Joe survive "woke" America?

    He already has his defensive line up, doesn't he?  People like Ryan Grim (glad you paid attention to the hair tip, Ryan, you almost look like a real boy), Betsy Reed, Naomi Klein and assorted others.  And right behind them, in the second ranks, you've got the nutless Kyle Kulniksi who will scrape and bow before power because that's what you do -- if you're a coward and a whore.  Demands?  No, no, no says nutless Kyle.  (Nuts does not invoke power in this paragraph -- I don't use that metaphor and never have.  I'm referring to Kyle's endless podcasts about his balls.  And after awhile, you have to start wondering if he can't stop talking about them because he really doesn't have them?)

    The corporate press will likely go back to sleep and just spout the usual lines from government officials as fact -- the way they did long before Donald.  

    ADDED at 1:25 PM EST on 1/20/21 David Sirota Tweeted:

    NEWS: Biden's new health care plan lifted its proposals from insurance lobbyists' letter - it would provide lucrative subsidies to insurers that pumped cash into the 2020 election. It avoids a promised public option & Dem legislation to expand Medicare.

    Nothing really changed in the last four years -- Barack's points and plans were upped by Donald Trump.  Nothing really change in the last four years except a lot of innocents were murdered and harmed and a lot of time that could have been spent addressing climate change got wasted.

    That's all that happened.

    But garbage like Paul Mulshine serve up nonsense like "Donald Trump’s legacy: He turned Washington, D.C., into Baghdad, Iraq."  No, he didn't.  The riot that took place does not compare to the slaughter in Iraq.  The slaughter that continues today or the slaughter that left corpses in the street or the slaughter when the US backed the Shi'ite death squads that set out to 'cleanse' Baghdad.  Paul Mulshine is garbage because he wants to pretend that DC is Baghdad.  He has no idea what Baghdad became due to the US-led invasion.  It's insulting to the Iraqi people to pretend that DC has been turned into Baghdad.  

    But drama queens need their drama, don't they?  Sad because what journalism is supposed to offer is perspective and context.  We all survived without it for the last four years so maybe we'll make it through four more?

    ADDED at 1:25 pm 1/20/21, Glenn Greenwald Tweeted:

    If you're in the national press and will be on TV at any point today and being to feel the need to weep joyously, just hold it in until you find a private place. Nobody is expecting any adversarial coverage over the next 4 years, but it's just a matter of personal dignity.

    New content at THIRD:

    Ava and I did our TV piece on Sunday.  We didn't have time to update it.  We'll look over it at some point today and if it needs a note "This was written Sunday" we'll add that.  The following sites updated:

    Tuesday, January 19, 2021


     Melanie's "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)."

     I don't have a lot of hope these days.  Certainly not in politicians or self-proclaimed leaders.  The one thing I still have hope in?  Music.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

     Monday, January 18, 2021.  Convicted killer Phil Spector has died and you can see it as a test for the press.  If it was a test, the press yet again failed.

    The press lies.  From stupidity, from the need to whore -- they lie for a variety of reasons.  Never forget it.  Phil Spector has thankfully died.  The artist Phil Spector died years ago.  A record producer and sometime songwriter (he took credit for a lot of songs he wrote no part of), Phil was influential in the sixties.  While the artist died long ago, the person just died January 16th.  THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER has a laughable obit.  This may be the most hilarious passage ever:

    Spector’s domestic life, along with his career, eventually came apart. After his first marriage, to Annette Merar, broke up, Ronettes leader singer Ronnie Bennett became his girlfriend and muse. He married her in 1968 and they adopted three children. But she divorced him after six years, claiming in a memoir that he held her prisoner in their mansion, where she said he kept a gold coffin in the basement and told her he would kill her and put her in it if she ever tried to leave him.

    I love Ronnie Spector but I love the truth even more.  Not ''after his first marriage broke up."  He began sleeping with Ronnie in 1963.  In August of 1963, Annette was informed that Phil was having an affair with one of the Ronnettes.  She thought it was Nedra Talley because Nedra was considered the pretty one.  She checked the recording studio to see if Phil was with her.  Phil wasn't at the recording studio.  Then she remembered he had a little studio several floors below their apartment.  She called down there.  And what were her exact words upon Phil answering?  "Get that whore out of my building."

    Phil got her to come downstairs and show her it was Ronnie, not Nedra, like that was going to make a difference.  He then promised Annette that it was over between him and Ronnie.  It wasn't over.  The affair would continue.  

    The notion that Ronnie was his muse?  I think the Ronnettes would laugh really hard at that because Phil and Ronnie's affair -- and eventual marriage -- did not mean the group became a priority.  It actually meant that Phil lost interest in the group.

    The obit tells us that he gave an early break to Cher.

    That's hilarious.  Cher was living with Sonny Bono at the time and Sonny was his gopher.  Phil used Cher for background vocals because he could pay her cheap and non-union (I think he paid her $15 a session).  He didn't give her a break.  He also set out to destroy her when Sonny kept begging him to record her as a lead artist.  The Ringo song was mean to mock Cher and meant to make people think a man was singing it.  Phil never helped anyone but himself.

    His songwriting credits are mentioned without pointing out that many times he stole credit from the songwriters.  He was more apt to steal from Carole King and Gerry Goffin than from Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil because Barry and especially Cynthia wouldn't put up with it.

    He died in prison, yes, but he died a very wealthy man (estimated worth most recently was $30 million) and a lot of that money came from stealing writing credits on songs.  

    I looked over CRAPAPEDIA and what did I see?  One lie after another coming after me.

    I wondered as I read the obits -- with one lie after another -- from the various outlets how they got it so wrong and how they didn't grasp what a loser Phil was.  CRAPAPEDIA.

    It pretends it has all the singles Phil did from 1958 to 2003.  I'm not seeing "A Woman's Story."  That's the bomb he produced for his label (distributed by WARNER BROS in the US, I believe by POLYDOR in the UK).  1974 was the year.  Ignore YOUTUBE's claims, it was 1974.  If you see it listed as 1975, be sure before you e-mail to argue that you have a solid source.  I'm not in the mood this week.  And CRAPAPEDIA is not a solid source.  Oh, wait, let's stop the e-mails before they start.



    Check the copyright at the bottom of the record above -- 1974.   Here's the track.

    Phil had no real success after the sixties ended.  The Beatles?  He didn't produce LET IT BE, he assembled it.  And Paul's right -- and was demonstrated to be right when LET IT BE NAKED was released -- the songs sounded better before Phil added effects to them. 

    Back to Cher.  Why leave that single out?

    He died in prison.  He deserved to be in prison.  He'd threatened people and resorted to violence for years.  He did it with John Lennon, shooting off the gun and having John tell him that he needed his hearing to record.  It's cute how they want to do a greatest hits for killer Phil that's musical but not one that includes all the times he threatened people and physically harmed people.

    Cher?  She would record the STARS album and that would be released.  None of her work with Phil in 1974 was released on an album.  Those recording sessions were a nightmare and you'd think the obit of a killer would take a moment to note that.

    Or is it normal that billionaire David Geffen left a studio with a busted lip?  That is what happened during Cher's recording sessions.  David was disagreeing with the gop and goo Phil was adding to the song and Phil punched him.  David fell to the floor and Phil and Phil's bodyguards had all pulled guns on him.

    Phil killed Lana Clarkson and, at any moment throughout the decades, he could have killed someone else.  Ronnie was terrorized by him. Dee Dee Ramone says Phil pulled a gun on him when The Ramones worked with Phil.  He put a gun to Leonard Cohen.  He pulled a gun on Debbie Harry.  These stories -- and there are so many more -- go to the type of person he was.  Phil Spector was a toxic person.

    From THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER obit, "Darlene Love also feuded with him, accusing Spector of failing to credit her for her vocals on "He’s a Rebel" and other songs [. . .]"

    Excuse the f**k out of me?  Darlene accuses him?  It's established fact, not just a charge.  First off, she was Darlene Wright.  Second, he took her songs -- including "He's A Rebel" -- and issued them as songs by the Crystals -- a group that had scored hits already with "Uptown" and "There's No Other Like My Baby."  Darlene Wright and the Blossoms recorded "He's A Rebel" and had the hit but Phil credited it to the Crystals.  Darlene Wright, now renamed Darlene Love, then recorded "He's Sure The Boy I Love."  It was a top twenty hit on the pop and R&B charts and it was supposed to be credited to Darlene Love.  Instead, it was listed as a song by the Crystals.  Darlene was not a member of the Crystals.  "He's a Rebel" is Darlene Love and it's a number one song but it's credited to the Crystals.  Darlene's not making accusations, she's stating facts and shame on anyone trying to besmirch her to praise a convicted killer.

    Phil didn't just steal Darlene's credits from her, he did a number on her.  Annette has long spoken of how Phil was manipulative and would destroy your self-worth as a game.  That's all it was to him.

    Now I love "Be My Baby," for example.  And I'll always love that song.  I can even say Phil did a great job producing it.  But that doesn't make Phil a good person.  He was a violent man who wrecked a lot of lives, threatened a lot of people and died in prison for killing Lana Clarkson.  As a record producer, he really had nothing to offer after the Checkmates' 1969 releases.  His violence continued for years and years after.

    Turning to Iraq, Hussain Abdul-Hussain (TIMES NEWS NOW) offers:      

    Militias need war to legitimise them. That is how the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and elsewhere in the region justify their existence. Iraq has seen plenty of war for 40 years, but the latest threat, from ISIS, has been seen off with American help, and the US will soon withdraw its troops. If there ever was a need for the militias – which is doubtful – it is no longer there. But despite all entreaties, the Iraqi militias refuse to go.

    In the words of Abdul-Aziz Al-Muhammadawi, also known as Abu-Fadak or Al-Khal (meaning “uncle”), the armed militia he leads, the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU), is “more legitimate than all other armies” and will remain in existence “until God wills otherwise.”

    Until then, “Uncle” will refuse the options offered by Baghdad of either disarming all militias and transforming them into political parties, or of being absorbed into Iraq’s regular military and security forces. Abu-Fadak, of course, ultimately takes his orders from another capital, and Tehran says the militias must retain their arms in order to “liberate” Iraq from “American military occupation.”

    In releated news, Sura Ali (RUDAW) reports:

    Iraqi parliament’s human rights committee on Friday called for an urgent investigation into a newly discovered mass grave in Salahaddin province, in which tens of bodies were reportedly found, some belonging to children. 

    Locals on Wednesday uncovered a mass grave in the town of Ishaqi, which according to the  commission contains “hundreds” of bodies.

    The Salahaddin Clan Council issued a statement the same day confirming the site’s discovery. 

    The council’s spokesman Tami al-Majmei told Rudaw English on Saturday that the mass grave “contained the remains of more than 50 people from Salahaddin, including women, and children between 8 and 12 years old.”

    He says the presence of women and children is evidence “that militias committed a mass execution of families," referring to units of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, known as Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) that he says control security in the area. 

    In response, Brookings' Ranj Alaaldin Tweets:

    More evidence of the crimes against humanity committed by Iran-aligned militias in Iraq: “the presence of women & children is evidence militias committed a mass execution of families, referring to units of the Popular Mobilization Forces that he says control security in the area”


    The University of Kent's Conflict Analysis Research Centre has published a paper (January 15th) entitled "Militias as a Tool For Encouraging Ethnic Defection: Evidence from Iraq and Sudan."  Last Wednesday, Human Rights Watch published "World Report 2021" and this is from their section on Iraq:

    Arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings of demonstrators by Iraqi security forces in late 2019 and into 2020 led to government resignations and the nomination of a new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, in May 2020. Despite an initial seeming willingness to address some of Iraq’s most serious human rights challenges, al-Kadhimi’s government failed to end abuses against protesters.

    Iraq’s criminal justice system was riddled with the widespread use of torture and forced confessions and, despite serious due process violations, authorities carried out numerous judicial executions.

    Iraqi law contained a range of defamation and incitement provisions that authorities used against critics, including journalists, activists, and protesters to silence dissent.

    The Covid-19 pandemic had a particularly harmful impact on students kept out of school for months during nationwide school closures, many of whom were unable to access any remote learning.

    Excessive Force against Protesters

    In a wave of protests that began in October 2019 and continued into late 2020, clashes with security forces, including the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashad, nominally under the control of the prime minister), left at least 560 protesters and security forces dead in Baghdad and Iraq’s southern cities.

    In July 2020, the government announced it would compensate the families of those killed during the protests and that it had arrested three low-level security forces officers. As far as Human Rights Watch is aware, no senior commanders have been prosecuted. After a spate of killings and attempted killings of protesters in Basra in August 2020, the government fired Basra’s police chief and the governorate’s director of national security but seemingly did not refer anyone for prosecution. In May 2020, when Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took office, he formed a committee to investigate the killings of protesters. It had yet to announce any findings publicly as of late 2020.

    In May, security forces in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region arrested dozens of people planning to participate in protests against delayed government salaries, a persistent issue since 2015. At August 2020 protests by civil servants in the Kurdistan Region demanding unpaid wages, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) security forces beat and arbitrarily detained protesters and journalists.

    Silencing Free Speech

    Iraq’s penal code, which dates back to 1969, enshrines numerous defamation “crimes,” such as “insult[ing] the Arab community” or any government official, regardless of whether the statement is true. Although few individuals served prison time on defamation charges, the criminal process itself acted as a punishment. Reporting on corruption and abuses by the security forces was especially risky.

    Authorities also invoked other laws and regulations to limit free speech. The Communications and Media Commission (CMC), a “financially and administratively independent institution” linked to parliament, in 2014 issued without legal basis “mandatory” guidelines to regulate media during “the war on terror”—a phrase it did not define. These guidelines were updated in May 2019 and renamed the “Media Broadcasting Rules.” They restrict freedom of the press to the point of requiring pro-government coverage.

    The CMC suspended Reuters’s license under its broadcast media regulations powers for three months and fined it 25 million IQD (US$21,000) for an April 2, 2020 article alleging that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country was much higher than official statistics indicated. Authorities lifted the suspension on April 19.

    The KRG used similar laws in force in the Kurdistan Region to curb free speech, including the penal code, the Press Law, and the Law to Prevent the Misuse of Telecommunications Equipment.

    Civil society efforts were successful in preventing passage of a deeply flawed cybercrimes bill in November.

    Arbitrary Detention

    Iraqi forces arbitrarily detained Islamic State (also known as ISIS) suspects for months, and some for years. According to witnesses and family members, security forces regularly detained suspects without any court order or arrest warrant and often did not provide a reason for the arrest.

    Iraqi authorities also arbitrarily detained protesters and released them later, some within hours or days and others within weeks, without charge.

    Despite requests, the central government failed to disclose which security and military structures have a legal mandate to detain people, and in which facilities.

    Fair Trial Violations

    In January 2020, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) published a report assessing the criminal justice system, based on independent monitoring of 794 criminal court trials, 619 of them for men, women and children charged under Iraq’s dangerously overbroad  counterterrorism law. It supported Human Rights Watch findings that basic fair trial standards were not respected in terrorism-related trials.

    Iraqi judges routinely prosecuted ISIS suspects solely on the overbroad charge of ISIS affiliation, rather than for the specific violent crimes they may have committed. Trials were generally rushed, based on a defendant’s confession, and did not involve victim participation. Authorities systematically violated the due process rights of suspects, such as guarantees in Iraqi law that detainees see a judge within 24 hours and have access to a lawyer throughout interrogations, and that their families are notified and should be able to communicate with them during detention.

    Detainees have shared graphic accounts of torture during interrogations in Mosul’s prisons under the control of the Ministry of Interior, in some cases leading to their deaths. These allegations are consistent with reports of the widespread use of torture by Iraqi forces to extract confessions instead of carrying out robust criminal investigations.

    Authorities can prosecute child suspects as young as 9 with alleged ISIS affiliation in Baghdad-controlled areas and 11 in the KRI,  in violation of international standards, which recognize children recruited by armed groups primarily as victims who should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society, and call for a minimum age of criminal responsibility of 14 years or older. One Mosul committee improved its handling of the prosecution of child suspects.

    Conditions in Detention

    Authorities detained criminal suspects in overcrowded and in some cases inhuman conditions. According to media reports, authorities released 20,000 prisoners in April as a preventive measure in response to the Covid-19 pandemic but did not share any information on the identities of those released and the criteria for selecting them. Authorities refused to respond when asked to share or make public the number of people in Iraqi prisons, making it impossible to assess whether the releases sufficiently reduced the acute overcrowding to enable social distancing. In July, there were 31 Covid-19 cases reported at a prison in Baghdad.

    The following sites updated: