Sunday, February 28, 2021

Roasted Asparagus and Baby Artichokes in the Kitchen

white house


From a week or so ago, that's  Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "TJ and Joe's Tara Problems."

Helen swears by and notes this recipe:


Instructions Checklist
  • Place a large baking sheet in oven. Preheat oven to 450°. (Leave baking pan in oven as it heats.)

  • Cut off top third of each artichoke. Trim stem to within 1 inch of base; peel stem. Remove bottom leaves and tough outer leaves, leaving tender middle and bottom. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise. Place artichokes, lemon slices, and 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl; toss to coat. Arrange mixture in a single layer on hot baking sheet. Roast at 450° for 15 minutes or until almost done and beginning to brown, stirring well after 10 minutes.

  • Toss asparagus with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. Stir asparagus into artichoke mixture. Roast at 450° for 10 minutes or until tender, stirring after 5 minutes.

  • Place vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add butter and next 4 ingredients (through pepper); toss gently to combine. Sprinkle evenly with pine nuts.

Helen says that in a pinch she will use artichoke hearts and skip the baby artichokes.  

At WSWS, Trevon Austin reports:

Visiting Texas 11 days after the onset of a man-made disaster that killed dozens of people and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage to homes, hospitals and schools, President Joe Biden barely took notice of the mass suffering while offering a political amnesty to the Republican state government. He made no mention of the fact that over one million Texans were still without clean water as of Thursday.

Speaking at a stadium fitted out as a mass vaccination center, Biden devoted the bulk of his brief remarks to touting his vaccination program and stressing the need for “unity” with the Republican Party. By virtue of his near silence on federal aid to the victims, Biden made clear that the millions of working class Texans devastated by days without power or clean water would have to fend for themselves.

Biden’s silence on the conspiracy between the energy giants and the state government to maximize profits by leaving the electrical system utterly unprepared for a winter storm did not come as a surprise. What was noteworthy, however, was the extent to which he went out of his way to embrace Governor Greg Abbot.

Insisting that both the Texas disaster and the pandemic were not partisan issues, Biden repeated his calls for “unity” with the Republicans and hailed the supposed success of the US response to COVID-19 just days after the death toll surpassed 500,000.

Biden boasted that he had provided millions of gallons of water and 125,000 blankets to Texans, a drop in the bucket compared to the scale of the human disaster. He made no announcement of additional aid nor indicated how the federal government would help in the coming weeks or months.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday: 

 Friday, February 26, 2021.  The US government bombs Syria because, they insist, Iran bombed Iraq.  After that 'logic,' we take another look at a Subcommittee hearing (and will probably do that on Monday as well).

The Iranian government is accused of many things.  Accused.  The US government has long accused it of meddling in other countries -- usually countries that the US government is itself meddling in.  A prime example would be Iraq.  Bombings in Iraq thought to be targeting the US are blamed on Iran (by the US) just as they were making the same claims back in 2005 and 2006 (usually these claims were given the most airing -- and least questioning -- in reports by Michael Gordon who was at THE NEW YORK TIMES back then).  The accusations of meddling have resulted in the US government bombing Syria.

Sarah Abdallah points out:

Joe Biden bombed Syria tonight. He is continuing to starve Syria with inhuman sanctions. And he is also keeping up the theft of Syria’s oil while building new illegal US military bases. Whether Democrat or Republican, there is zero fundamental difference when it comes to war.

Richard Medhurst addresses the bombings in the video below..

BBC NEWS notes:

The US military has carried out an air strike targeting Iran-backed militias in Syria, in the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration.

The Pentagon said the strike was ordered in response to attacks against US and coalition personnel in Iraq.

The action destroyed "multiple facilities" used by Iranian-backed Iraqi militant groups, it said.

Militia officials said one person had been killed but a war monitor reported at least 22 fatalities.

Vanessa Romo (NPR) also notes the official response, "The Department of Defense said the strikes are a response to recent rocket attacks against Americans in Iraq, including one in which a civilian contractor working with American forces was killed and several U.S. service members were injured. Officials believe the Feb. 15 attack in Erbil, Iraq, was conducted by Shia militants." 

Glenn Greenwald makes an observation:

Someone should ask
her own question verbatim about Biden’s Syria bombing at tomorrow’s briefing (and while the context of her tweet was Trump’s bombing of Syrian forces, the question still applies):
Quote Tweet
Jen Psaki
Also what is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country.

So in April 6, 2017, Jen Psaki was opposed to strikes against Syria because it was "a sovereign country."  Now she's the White House spokesperson.  She does need to be asked about this so we can all watch her dance around the question.

Sarah Abdallah points out:

Joe Biden has barely been in power for a month, and he’s already bombing #Syria — escalating the war that was started by Obama and prolonged by Trump.

Iran's PRESS TV offers:

One person has lost his life and four others have been wounded in the US military’s air raid against positions of resistance forces operating against terror groups on the Iraqi-Syrian border, an informed source tells Press TV.

The casualties were caused in the early hours of Friday, as the American airstrike targeted facilities used by forces of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) — better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi — at a border point in eastern Syria,

Danny Haiphong Tweets:

Biden has bombed Syria, blaming it on an "Iranian-backed" militia targeting military hardware in Iraq. Could it be that the people of the region want the US occupiers to leave? Biden's rule will be riddled with war crimes and this is just the tip of the iceberg

Aaron Mate offers his take:

To remind Iran who’s boss — rather than conduct the diplomacy he promised — Biden opts to act as ISIS’ Air Force. (That’s who “Iranian-backed militia” have long been fighting)

Caitlin Johnstone Tweets:

This latest Biden airstrike is being spun as "defensive" and "retaliatory" despite its targeting a nation the US invaded (Syria) in response to alleged attacks on US forces in another nation the US invaded (Iraq). You can't invade a nation and then claim self-defense there. Ever.


"For me news is about searching for verifiable actual information and bringing that to the public," claimed Soledad O'Brian when she spoke before the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday (stream it here).  Some rush to cheer her on -- oh, she criticized Rachel Maddow!!! -- and ignore the long reality of Soledad's work.  It can be difficult to follow because she's been repeatedly fired from so many outlets.  "Not a team player," that was the NBC NEWS eval that led to her departure.  They weren't going to fire her for cheerleading the Iraq War.  That's this site's focus so I'm not really hear to applaud her for going after Rachel Maddow.  When it comes to Iraq, Soledad is a liar and she pimped lies.  For anyone who actually knows the record, her record, she needs to be called out.  But most people don't know the actual record.  And that can be due to the fact that she was all over the place -- hopping here, there and everywhere and hoping to somehow become a star.  I don't think most even understand that the 'reporter' (ha ha ha!) 'reports' on sports and has fort he last few years.  Before that?  The bulk of her career was sitting in front of the camera at a desk and pretending to be an anchor.  "I left live reporting eight or nine years ago," she told the Subcommittee.  

The role of the press, as she saw it,  was "how they can serve their public."  Okay, fine, Soledad, please explain how your one-sided presentation of going to war with Iraq helped the public?  Let's hear about how your attacking any colleague at NBC NEWS who questioned internally whether more voices -- including voices of dissent -- needed to be on the airwaves.

I'm sorry but Soledad's a whore and all the things she said that are being applauded?  She's all talk.  Unless and until she takes accountability publicly for her Iraq War 'coverage.'

Carmen Chao.  30 ROCK had Carmen Chao.  That was their send up of Soledad.  She's desperate to climb that ladder and suspects Avery may be pregnant and that she could grab Avery's CNBC spot.  She'll resort to anything, she's completely lacking in scruples.  30 ROCK based that on Soledad.

Carmen was meant to be funny.  Soledad is just sad.

As is US House Rep Marc Veasey.  He's already started the year embracing and fighting for fracking.  The hearing on Wednesday was about the news media.  Veasey supports fracking so his comprehension abilities are already in question.  That questioning only strengthens after his performance Wednesday.

The news media.  That was the focus.  So he brought up THE BIRTH OF A NATION.  

That's a racist, silent movie from 1915.  It was very popular in real time.  I'm not aware of the riots he speaks of that the film caused in its release.  He claimed riots and other violence.  Maybe he's right, I have no idea.

It's a racist film.  I ended up with a C -- my only C as an undergraduate -- because of that film. This was being presented as history and it's a film.  It's not factual, it's racist.  And this was not going to be addressed.  The visuals and the narrative and the sweep and scope were going to be addressed.  I brought up the racism and the inaccuracies in the film.  And got an F on that (which brought my grade down to a C for the course).  Fine with me, I spoke my truth and I don't really care (the F brought that.

So I'm not a fan of that film.  But I didn't confuse it with news media.  Veasey did.

He also wanted the world to know that, as a Black man in Black History Month, he wanted to highlight it.


I was in college decades ago.  When I spoke against it, I noted the NAACP protested the film, how this is not about things we see today, this was seen in real time.  If you wanted to see it, you could have seen it.  Yes, the press applauded in real time (which could have been something to address but Veasey didn't even raise that issue), but many people could see reality and the NAACP spoke out and organized protests.

To me, the NAACP's response is part of Black History and goes to the strength and power of the people.  Veasey didn't do anything that noted African-American accomplishments in his remarks.  He just offered a bad film and then tried to link that to the violence in DC last month.

Legal expert, Jonathan Turley testified to the Subcommittee as well.  He writes of the hearing:

Rep. [Anna] Eshoo insisted that the hearing itself was guilty of the type of disinformation that she was combatting in her letter co-authored by Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.). That itself was disconcerting since we were sharing opposing views on the import of her letter, including widely shared views that the letter was pressuring these companies to drop Fox News and other networks from cable programming.

The First Amendment Argument

Eshoo started out by objecting by reading the First Amendment on the government abridging free speech. She then added:

“The First Amendment prohibits Congress from enacting laws abridging the freedom of speech. . . It does not, however, stop us from examining the public health and democratic implications of misinformation. The idea that members asking questions violates the First Amendment is absolutely absurd; it’s our job to ask questions.”

She then added that she had submitted the letter to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to see if there was such a violation in the letter. The problem is that I did not say that the letter itself was a violation of the First Amendment. Indeed, my testimony said the opposite while noting that free speech values go beyond the First Amendment. Indeed, I raised the danger of letting members do indirectly what they cannot do directly. Asking the CRS to look for First Amendment violations is about as useful as asking them to look for endangered species violations. It was answering a question not asked.

Ironically, the emphasis on the narrower test under the First Amendment is precisely what some of us have objected to in this and other controversies. As I stated in my testimony:

What is particularly concerning is the common evasion used by academics and reporters that such regulation is not really a free speech issue because these are private companies and the First Amendment only addresses government restrictions on free speech. As a private entity, companies like Twitter or publishing houses are clearly not the subject of that amendment. However, private companies can still destroy free speech through private censorship. It is called the “Little Brother” problem. That does not alter the fundamental threat to free speech. This is the denial of free speech, a principle that goes beyond the First Amendment. Indeed, some of us view free speech as a human right.

Consider racial or gender discrimination. It would be fundamentally wrong even if federal law only banned such discrimination by the government. The same is true for free speech. The First Amendment is limited to government censorship, but free speech is not limited in the same way. Those of us who believe in free speech as a human right also believe that it is wrong to deny it as either a private or governmental entity. That does not mean that there are no differences between governmental and private actions. For example, companies may control free speech in the workplaces and companies have been recognized as having their own free speech rights. However, the social media companies were created as forums for speech. Indeed, these companies sought immunity on the false claim that they were not making editorial decisions or engaging in viewpoint regulation. No one is saying that these companies are breaking the law in denying free speech. Rather, we are saying that they are denying free speech as companies offering speech platforms.

Some have noted that it is possible for pressure from government officials to constitute state action for the purposes of an actual First Amendment claim. Thus, they cited cases when a borough president in New York City asked a billboard company to take down a sign or when a village official wrote to a local chamber of commerce objection to an ad. In both cases however the standard involved a dismissal where all facts must be inferred in favor of the opposing party. The point is valid that letters can cross the line as a threat of retaliation or action against a private company.  Yet, there are countervailing political speech and legislative interests for members of Congress. Courts are often uncomfortable in drawing such lines between advocacy and coercion by elected officials. A great variety of letters can be taken as veiled threats of possible congressional action. I know of no case where a letter of this kind ultimately resulted in a successful claim. There is also the question of relief. If a court were asked to enjoin Eschoo, what would the court order her not to do? She is engaging in free speech as a representative of her district as well as inquiry as a member of the legislative branch. If the relief is a declaratory judgment, what would be declared? That it is unconstitutional to encourage companies to apply misconceived moral standards?

"Considerably."  That's a term US House Rep Robin Kelly needs to learn.  She also needs to learn about the history of the press before she weighs in.  No, Sandy Hook was not the first widely covered shooting or even the first that noted the killers.  It might have been the first widely covered school shooting, I don't know.  But I do know that her comments on the news industry just revealed her own ignorance and that's really sad that she shows up at a hearing on a topic and doesn't know the basics -- not even about what she chooses to talk about in her own remarks.

That's an excerpt.


The following sites updated:

Friday, February 26, 2021

The pandemic exposes a great deal

The pandemic continues with no end in sight.  Now we're being told we may still be wearing masks in 2022.  That's outrageous.  This has been a massive failure and, clearly, Joe Biden's not going to be any better at addressing the pandemic.  

This is going around the world and it should result in us asking serious questions about our government and what it provides and what it should be providing.  Alex Lantier (WSWS) reports

Yesterday, the official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic across Europe surpassed 800,000.

Death on this scale is so massive a blow to society that it is difficult to comprehend. It is as if the cities of Frankfurt (753,056) or Amsterdam (821,752) had been wiped off the map. The loss of life has surpassed the total casualties at the battle of Verdun in World War I, and the number of soldiers killed in the gigantic 1941 battle of Moscow during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.

One in 529 people has died of COVID-19 in Belgium, one in 545 in the Czech Republic, one in 558 in Britain, one in 625 in Italy, one in 630 in Portugal, and one in 646 in Bosnia. As deaths surge and births collapse, life expectancy has fallen in Western Europe for the first time since World War II: 1.5 years in Italy, one year in Spain and Britain, and half a year in Sweden and France.

Tens of millions in Europe have lost loved ones. By last month, 63 percent of Spaniards, 59 percent of Poles, 58 percent of Italians, 57 percent of Britons and Swedes, 51 percent of Frenchmen and 34 percent of Germans had at least one relative or close friend test positive. Fully 19 percent in Spain and Poland, 21 percent in Italy, 13 percent in Britain, 11 percent in France, 10 percent in Sweden and 8 percent in Germany, saw a relative or close friend die.

Tens of millions of workers lost their jobs as the economy fell by 11 percent in Spain, 10 percent in Britain, 9 percent in Italy, 8 percent in France, 5 percent in Germany, and 3 percent in Poland and Russia. Restaurants, theaters, gyms and other small businesses are unsure when or even if they will ever be able to reopen normally. Students who have lost part-time jobs are lining up to receive food and basic supplies from charities or other associations.

The pandemic is not only a tragedy, but a comprehensive failure of the social order. A ruling class utterly indifferent to human life is carrying out policies that amount, as the prestigious BMJ (British Medical Journal) recently wrote, to “social murder.”

Today, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 33.5 million, or about 5 percent of Europe’s population. Every day, 100,000 people or more test positive, and deadlier variants of the virus spread further. The Czech Republic recently appealed for international aid, with its hospitals overwhelmed, and expected to be swamped in two to three weeks. It received only one reply, from Berlin, offering to take just nine patients.

Yet amid warnings from scientists that a new upsurge of cases due to the variants is inevitable unless drastic action is taken, capitalist governments across Europe are rejecting shelter-at-home orders and moving to eliminate remaining social distancing measures.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday:

Thursday, March 25, 2021.  In the US, the war on speech continues, the Pope prepares to visit Iraq, and much more.

"I think," failed everywhere personality Soledad O'Brien, "that you should not be allowed -- and this should be for the news organization -- should not want people on the air if they are liars and they are in fact lying."

Soledad said that.  While sporting the most ridiculous eyebrows you will ever in your life see.  But she said that.  This pimp for the Iraq War said that.  This liar who used her position as a co-anchor of NBC's WEEKEND TODAY to lie constantly about the Iraq War.  

As for not allowing lying to occur?  They'd have to fire pretty much every person they have.  They lie and they lie again.  Carrying out the lies of Bully Boy Bush, NBC's David Gregory went on the air to attack Paul O'Neal for Ron Suskind's THE PRICE OF LOYALTY and how dare Paul steal these memos and how . . .  And I'm on the phone with a friend at TODAY asking, "Did the fool read the introduction to the book he's waving around right now?"  Because it's right there in the introduction that the White House, at Paul's request gave him the memos on a disc.  The lies of the media have been big and small and the incompetence always gets rewarded -- which is how the hideous David Gregory ended up later becoming the host of MEET THE PRESS and running off a huge portion of the audience before he was finally dismissed.

Soledad was speaking at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday (stream it here).

"I am a proponent of debating," proclaimed known liar Soledad.   "I do not believe that lies deserve equal time"

Really?  Because she wasn't when she was at TODAY.  Not only did she cheerlead the Iraq War, she mocked TODAY proper for the debate they did offer -- a townhall discussion on the war -- moderated by Katie Couric.  She trashed that segment, she mocked and insisted to everyone who would listen that if she were the co-host of the Monday through Friday broadcasts of TODAY that never would have happened.  

"There are verifiable facts," Soledad insisted.  Where were the verifiable facts when you're cheerleading the Iraq War, Soledad.

The news media whored for the Iraq War and they think they can just walk away from that.  You can't.  You betrayed the trust of the American people and you never took accountability and you never apologized or did anything to fix it.

Did anything to fix it?

They rewarded the liars.  And that's not just NBC and THE NEW YORK TIMES, that's MOTHER JONES which has Kevin Drum, for example.  

The people who told the truth about Iraq didn't end up with columns or talk shows.  

They weren't rewarded.

The media has lied repeatedly -- not just about the Iraq War -- and they have earned the low opinion that the public has of them.

But what does Soledad think happens?  And what business does the government have in regulating speech?  None.

Earlier this week, Glenn Greenwald (SUBSTACK via ICH) weighed in on efforts of some Democratic members of  Congress attempting to attack the First Amendment:

Not even two months into their reign as the majority party that controls the White House and both houses of Congress, key Democrats have made clear that one of their top priorities is censorship of divergent voices. On Saturday, I detailed how their escalating official campaign to coerce and threaten social media companies into more aggressively censoring views that they dislike — including by summoning social media CEOs to appear before them for the third time in less than five months — is implicating, if not already violating, core First Amendment rights of free speech.

Now they are going further — much further. The same Democratic House Committee that is demanding greater online censorship from social media companies now has its sights set on the removal of conservative cable outlets, including Fox News, from the airwaves.

[. . .]

Since when is it the role of the U.S. Government to arbitrate and enforce precepts of “journalistic integrity”? Unless you believe in the right of the government to regulate and control what the press says — a power which the First Amendment explicitly prohibits — how can anyone be comfortable with members of Congress arrogating unto themselves the power to dictate what media outlets are permitted to report and control how they discuss and analyze the news of the day?

But what House Democrats are doing here is far more insidious than what is revealed by that creepy official announcement. Two senior members of that Committee, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Silicon-Valley) and Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) also sent their own letters to seven of the nation’s largest cable providers — Comcast, AT&T, Spectrum, Dish, Verizon, Cox and Altice — as well as to digital distributors of cable news (Roku, Amazon, Apple, Google and Hulu) demanding to know, among other things, what those cable distributors did to prevent conservative “disinformation” prior to the election and after — disinformation, they said, that just so happened to be spread by the only conservative cable outlets: Fox, Newsmax and OANN.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq March 5th through March 8th.  It would be the first visit by a pope to Iraq.  

At THE DAILY BEAST, Barbie Latza Nadeau offers:

Like people in the rest of the world, Pope Francis is clearly going a little stir-crazy staying cooped up at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The globetrotting pontiff has been grounded since November 2019 when he visited Thailand and Japan. But if all goes to plan, Francis will hit the road again on March 5 with a four-day, six-city visit to Iraq, which has seen a spate in violence with three attacks on the U.S.-led coalition in the course of a week and a surge in coronavirus cases that sent the country into a strict two-week lockdown. The Iraq Health Ministry said the new wave is “being driven by religious activities—including Friday prayers and visits to shrines —and large crowds in markets, restaurants, malls and parks, where greetings with handshakes and kisses are the norm.”

While the Pope plans to visit, the US intends to stay and stay forever.  Bonnie Kristian (DEFENSE ONE) reports:

The new administration’s goals for the war in Iraq, at least as briefly outlined last Tuesday to the United Nations Security Council, are likely to prolong U.S. involvement indefinitely.

“Among its top priorities, the United States will seek to help Iraq assert its sovereignty in the face of enemies, at home and abroad, by preventing an ISIS resurgence and working toward Iraq’s stability,” Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Mills told his fellow diplomats. That means facilitating free and fair elections, Mills continued, plus fighting Iran-linked militias and terrorist groups like the Islamic State, as well as funneling money toward economic development, humanitarian improvements, and the elimination of corruption. “The United States will remain a steady, reliable partner for Iraq, and for the Iraqi people,” he concluded, “today and in the future.”

That’s an understatement. With goals as expansive and flexible as these, the United States will have a military presence and roster of associated nation-building projects in Iraq not only through the end of the Biden administration but for decades to come. 

Biden campaigned on a promise to “end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, which have cost us untold blood and treasure.” “Staying entrenched in unwinnable conflicts,” he rightly reasoned, “only drains our capacity to lead on other issues that require our attention, and it prevents us from rebuilding the other instruments of American power.” And Biden had a record as a voice of comparative restraint in the Obama administration to give that pledge some credence, as campaign pledges go. In those years as vice president, he opposed the surge in Afghanistan. He was also against U.S. regime change in Libya, and he was willing to accept a federalized Iraq to reduce violent internal rivalries with less U.S. involvement.

We'll wind down with this from Human Rights Watch:

On February 15, Iraqi authorities detained at least four men, with alleged ties to a unit within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashad, formally under the control of the prime minister) who are alleged to have killed at least four protesters in the southern city of Basra in January 2020. One of the detained men holds a senior police position. These arrests represent an important step in government efforts to fulfill its promise to hold accountable those who have abused or killed protesters, but authorities should take swift action to carry out further arrests of abusive forces where there is evidence that they are linked to recent attacks, Human Rights Watch said today.

“These arrests in Basra may represent a real change in the government’s willingness to hold its own forces accountable for perpetrating serious crimes and will help deter such abuses in the future,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government should also ensure that the trials of the men are fair and devoid of any political influence.”

Protests broke out in south and central Iraq in October 2019, with violence and excessive force killing at least 487 protesters and wounding thousands more. At the same time, a range of armed forces targeted protesters with harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearances. In May 2020, then-newly appointed Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced the creation of a committee to investigate killings and other attacks on protesters but until now no information has been made public about the work or findings of the committee.

On February 15, al-Kadhimi announced on Twitter that “The death squad that terrorized our people in Basra, and killed innocents, are now in the hands of our heroic forces, on their way to a fair trial.” On the same day, a local media outlet publicized the names of four men detained for their alleged role in this death squad linked to the PMF Hezbollah Brigades with potential ties to another PMF unit as well. According to other media coverage, authorities arrested them for their roles in the killings of Jinan Madi, a paramedic who had been treating wounded protesters at demonstrations when she was killed, Ahmed Abdessamad, 37, a journalist, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali, 26, who had been covering the protests for Dijlah, a privately owned local station, and Mojtaba Ahmed al-Skini, 14, a protester. A source close to the government said that authorities had identified 16 men implicated in the killings, but most had already fled the country.

Given extensive documentation of the unfair nature of Iraq’s criminal justice system, which often relies solely on confessions to convict, the government and judicial authorities need to preserve the credibility of measures to rein in abusive security forces by ensuring that these trials are fair, Human Rights Watch said.

While the Basra arrests mark a positive step when it comes to accountability, PMF attacks on protesters have continued. Ali Naseer Alawy, 25, a prominent member of the protest movement in Najaf, told Human Rights Watch that on February 12, four armed masked men in black uniforms picked him up off the street within view of a police patrol, which did not intervene, at around 6:30 p.m. He said they put him into a white pickup truck with no license plate and drove him to an office where they blindfolded him and started beating his back and legs with the butts of their guns. He said,

I could tell there were many men in the room who were asking me all sorts of questions about other activists’ names and who was leading the protests in Najaf. They saw I had tattooed October 25, the first day of protests in Najaf, on my arm and they tried to remove it with an acid mixture. They also attached electric cables to me and shocked my chest and legs before I fainted.

Alawy said that when he regained consciousness, he found himself lying on a highway outside the city near his house. It was about 1 a.m. He went to the hospital where he spoke to police but said that because he did not know who the kidnappers were, there was no point in filing a complaint. He said he believes that they must wield power since nearby police had done nothing to intervene in his abduction. He shared two photographs with Human Rights Watch that show bruising and blood on his face and scarring on his shoulder and back around his tattoo. Alawy is currently in hiding and said he still receives threatening messages on Facebook.

In addition, there has been no accountability for other killings of protesters in Basra since 2019, despite the government’s commitments. For example, on October 3, 2019, Hussein Adel Madani was shot dead along with his wife by masked gunmen who stormed their house. The couples were taking part in ongoing protest. On August 14, 2020 two masked armed men in civilian dress shot and killed activist Tahseen Osama Ali, 30, in his apartment. On August 19, 2020, Reham Yacoub, a doctor and activist in the local protest movement since 2018, was shot by an unidentifiable armed man on the back of a motorcycle. As far as Human Rights Watch is aware, the authorities have yet to arrest any suspects of these killings.

“The government can prove there has been meaningful change only when protesters no longer fear getting hauled off the streets in broad daylight and held and tortured with impunity,” said Wille.

The following sites updated: