Rethinking Mauritania Policy Over Human Rights Abuses

After some deliberation, I’m moving links off of the main page. While I have added a menu option for links that is more prominent and they will still appear in the RSS feed, I removed them for a couple reasons. They are usually not directly related to the photos or journal posts and they are often extended quotes with a bit of my own commentary.

But that won’t stop me from sharing what I read. With reduced time in the my own vampire castle, I prefer the open spaces of the independent web even more.

I might occasionally bundle some diverse links together without any relation to each other, which is pretty in-character for me. But not today.

Amandla Thomas-Johnson, a Dakar-based journalist for Middle East Eye, is very reliable for Mauritania news in English. His piece about five Republican congressmen’s letter to the Secretary of State Pompeo warning of the human rights situation could be a good place to start for people unfamiliar to the country’s issues.

These efforts to lobby what are two of the country’s most stalwart allies come as Mauritanian activists make renewed calls for the government to address racial injustices amid a global groundswell of Black Lives Matter protests.

Mauritania is a key ally for the United States in its ’war on terror’ and hosts the second-largest diaspora community for Mauritanians, despite Trump’s ICE going after some of them.

Mauritania has a deep racism problem embedded into the fabric of society, so much so that even well-meaning people who are not subjected to second-class citizenship often fail to see the problem. Does this remind you of another country? I should hope so.

The congressmen’s letter said: “Mauritania has a long history of hereditary slavery based on ethnic and racial discrimination against Black Mauritanians.” The country formally abolished the practice in 1981 but criminalised it only in 2007, and in 2018 the Global Slavery Index estimated that 90,000 people in Mauritania were living under modern slavery.

On top of the vestiges of slavery that does not look like the chattel plantation slavery system of the America, Mauritania

The congressmen also criticised the lack of accountability for purges by state forces of Black African Mauritanians between 1989-1991, in which tens of thousands – about eight percent of the community – were deported or forced to flee to neighbouring countries. “Mauritania has not provided accountability for mass murders, repression and unwarranted deportations,” their letter said.

Most of those purged from the country were subsistence farmers working on the little arable land Mauritania has, which lies along the Senegal River valley in the south. Others were intellectuals, businesspeople and professionals, members of the thriving urban elites who were pushed out as the government pursued a sectarian Arab-nationalist ideology.

Black Africans make up about a third of the country’s population, as do Arab-Berbers, the dominant group. Haratin, the Black descendants of slaves once owned by Arab-Berbers, account for the rest.

Despite the violence, a law was passed to shield the perpetrators from justice and an amnesty was granted to the security forces involved.

Mauritania has been described as the other apartheid for its treatment of Afro-Mauritanians. As many in the the United States wake up to our own failings, it’s a small but positive step that some in Congress, from the own president’s party no less, are speaking up.

Minneapolis Rebellion

Source: Josh Hild via Unsplash

“A riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear?” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

This country cannot change.

There will be no appeals by me to stop the protests or the looting in Minnesota, as the the people react to the murder of George Floyd. Black and brown people in the United States have been murdered for centuries with impunity by the state apparatus or with its blessing, while whites look on from the sidelines, wringing our hands, squawking about civility and discourse.

America needs to atone for its sins. Maybe it needs to burn?

No More “How Will You Pay For It?”

Stony Brook University professor of economics Stephanie Kelton wrote about the recently passed $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus for the Intercept:

Congress has ignored millions of people who have existed in a state of crisis for decades. The people of Flint, Michigan, (and elsewhere) still do not have safe drinking water. Millions of kids go hungry each day. Half a million people, before the pandemic, were homeless on any given night. And on it goes. There has been no multitrillion-dollar spending bill to combat these and other domestic emergencies. Instead, lawmakers have deprived communities of critical investments that could have attenuated their emergencies, often hiding behind the excuse that there isn’t enough money in the budget to deal with problems like these.

She would know. Kelton served as the chief economist for the DNC on the U.S. Senate Budget committee (2015/2016). This article elucidates the methods Congress uses to pass a budget that is ‘paid for’. But the stimulus is not paid for.

That is not what Congress is doing today. Instead of writing a bill that would send two sets of instructions to the Fed, Congress is pushing through a $2 trillion spending bill that will send just one set of instructions. No one is bothering to try to offset — i.e. “pay for” — that spending, because the goal is to get lots of money to people (and companies) without subtracting a lot away.

I keep thinking about republicans and liberals hyperventilating about the ‘cost’ of some of the progressive movement’s policies: Medicare for All, cancelling student debt, tuition-free college, etc. Many of these could be ‘paid for’ yes, by raising taxes on the wealthy. Or they could have been wiped away with a stimulus similar to this one. Arguably keeping money in everyday working people’s pockets during a crisis would have eased the trauma.

A Republican Plutocrat Tries To Buy The Democratic Nomination

Bloomberg does not see anything wrong with trying to purchase the presidency for a billion dollars. When asked about whether this is fair, he has become annoyed, as if it is a stupid question.

I’ll link this exposé of Michael Bloomberg by Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs here, but obviously it won’t do much to the people on television or in town halls across America jumping on board the Bloomberg 2020 train.

Mask off for American democracy.

The Unraveling of Legal Asylum

In October 2013, 368 mostly Eritrean migrants died after their ship sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Italy honored them with honorary citizenship and a memorial broadcast on state television. The 155 survivors were detained for illegal entry at an overcrowded holding center and excluded from the ceremony to honor the dead.

This is how Noah Lanard starts his Mother Jones interview piece with David Scott FitzGerald about his book Refuge Beyond Reach: How Rich Democracies Repel Asylum Seekers.

This interview struck a chord. A global tide of isolationism and strongman despotism is growing. The United States has an soulless authoritarian president who uses his platforms to dehumanize immigrants, people of color, and Muslims. His base, mostly white voters experiencing changing national demographics, loves it. But Europe is also dealing with far-right political parties rattling their sabers, with some in power refusing to offer safe harbor for migrant boats in the Mediterranean, or using their parliamentary seats to change agreed-upon norms.

And here I sit this morning in my flat in Cologne. A white Muslim with a strong Californian accent, I will never experience the fear my brothers and sisters feel from Honduras, Somalia, Western Sahara, or Kurdistan, at home under occupation in some circumstances or abroad in foreign countries. Though I receive many looks from Kölners, I pass. I walk around town with some general ambiguity (language and cultural norms), but I do not live with the dread of encountering PEGIDA members while grocery shopping.

The ruling class has been dismantling a system of asylum created after our moral failings to help Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler. Now, the system does everything to deter the people who need help the most. The ones fleeing violence or famine just want a normal life. It is incredible that in the 21st century we still place so much importance on imaginary borders. If we removed all of them, the world’s GDP would double.

Here are two quotes from FitzGerald, about Europe and the United States that speak volumes about our culpability.

“One of the perverse things about the system of control [in Europe] is that it’s undermined the basic principle of the law of the sea, which is that mariners are obligated to give aid to other mariners in distress. Because a lot of the ship crews that have rescued people at sea have been prosecuted by the Italian government, in particular, it has created a disincentive for mariners passing through those waters to help people who are drowning. We know that the result is that those people are being abandoned to drown.”

“[The United States] is the wealthiest country in human history. We have the technical capacity to move hundreds of thousands of troops around the world in fairly short order. The idea that we don’t have the capacity to deal with people asking for asylum, I think is simply false. Maybe on day one you don’t. But if you care about it, within a few weeks, the capacity would be developed to do that. The fact that we don’t have this system that is able to effectively process asylum seekers and determine which of them have legitimate claims is a failure of political will.”

We should also direct our rancor at Australia as well, who lock asylum seekers up in open-air prisons on Nauru, or any number of countries such as Israel, Libya, Turkey, and Mexico who help facilitate the West’s desire to keep people out.