Netherlands | February 1917 | Morocco | USA

Jon Henley: Dutch PM Mark Rutte sees off election threat of Geert Wilders (Guardian)

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has seen off a challenge from the anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders to claim a resounding victory in parliamentary elections widely seen as a test for resurgent nationalism before other key European polls.
With nearly 95% of votes counted and no further significant changes expected, Rutte’s centre-right, liberal VVD was assured of 33 MPs, by far the largest party in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, the national news agency ANP said.
Wilders’ Freedom party (PVV) looked certain to finish second, but a long way behind on 20 seats, just ahead of the Christian Democrat CDA and liberal-progressive D66, which both ended third with 19 seats.

Jon Henley: GreenLeft proves to be big winner in Dutch election (Guardian)

The big winner of Wednesday’s election – and now the largest party of the Dutch left for the first time – was GreenLeft, headed by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, hailed by his enthusiastic supporters as the “Jessiah”…
[T]he party – formed 25 years ago by a merger of communists, pacifists, evangelicals and self-styled radicals – boosted its MPs from four to 14 after a storming campaign by [Jesse] Klaver.

Kevin Murphy: The Story of the February Revolution (Jacobin)

That the most important strike in world history started with women textile workers in Petrograd on International Women’s Day 1917 (February 23 in the old Julian calendar) was no coincidence. Working up to thirteen hours a day while their husbands and sons were at the front, these women were saddled with a life of singlehandedly supporting their families and waiting in line for hours in the subzero cold in hopes of getting bread… “No propaganda was necessary to incite these women to action.” …
By evening, the Vyborg side was controlled by the rebels. Demonstrators had sacked the police stations, captured revolvers and sabers from tsarist sentinels, and forced the police and gendarmes to flee…
The paradox of the February Revolution was that while it swept away tsarism, it replaced it with a government of unelected liberals who were horrified by the very revolution that had placed them in power.

Aidan O’Brien: The Empire’s Fifth Column in Africa: Morocco (CounmterPunch)

In 1984 Morocco turned it’s back on Africa because the Organisation of African Unity refused to support it’s 1975 conquest of Western Sahara. For the next few decades Morocco followed the example of apartheid Israel and looked only towards Europe and America. Morocco, for example, applied (and failed) to join the European Economic Community in 1987. While today (since 2008) it is considered an “advanced” EU neighbour. And militarily it became a NATO partner in 1994 and a major non-NATO US ally in 2004.
Morocco in other words did everything it could to be an honorary white man: it shamelessly raped part of Africa and looked down on the black man. And the white man rewarded it by investing in it.
A few weeks ago however (January 31, 2017) Morocco suddenly rejoined Africa. In Addis Ababa the African Union decided to accept Morocco as a member, even though Western Sahara remains in Moroccan hands. Why the sudden change of policy in Morocco and in the African Union? In a word: the killing of Muammar Gaddafi.
The present scramble for Africa is the overall reason. But Gaddafi was the last pan African barrier to Western imperialism 2.0 in Africa. His removal opened the floodgates to 21st century Western power in Africa. The French are now back in Mali. AFRICOM (the US military) is all over the place. And now Morocco wants to be African again.

Dave Lindorff: WikiLeaks’ Latest CIA Data Dump Undermines Case Against Russia Election Hack (CounterPunch)

The so-called Deep State and Democratic Party campaign to demonize Russia for allegedly “hacking the US election,” and delivering the country into the hands of Donald Trump suffered a huge and probably mortal blow this week with the release by WikiLeaks of over 7000 secret CIA documents disclosing secret CIA hacking technologies.
The case being made against Russia as being the source of leaked emails of the Democratic National Committee and of Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta — documents that proved that the DNC had been corrupting the primary process in favor of corporatist candidate Hillary Clinton and undermining the campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and that also revealed the embarrassing contents of Clinton’s highly paid secret speeches to a number of giant Wall Street banks — had always been tenuous, with no hard evidence ever presented. All the intelligence agencies would say was that they had a “high degree of certainty,” or “strong reason to believe” that the Russians were the source of the deeply damaging documents late in the campaign season.
Adding to doubts that Russia had actually hacked the DNC was WikiLeaks itself, which insisted that it had obtained the DNC and Podesta emails not from a hack of computers, but from an internal DNC staffer who actually pulled them off computers with a thumb drive and provided them to the organization — a person later identified as Seth Rich, who was mysteriously murdered on his way home from DNC headquarters in Washington, shot in the back at night in an unsolved case that the local police quickly labeled a “botched burglary,” although nothing was taken from his body by his assailant — not his wallet or watch even. (Wikileaks has offered a $20,000 reward for information that helps solve that uninvestigated case.)

Oliver Ortega: Before Trump, the Border Wall Was a Bipartisan Project (CounterPunch)

Rightwing fantasies of a southern border wall are not new. Nor are they limited to Republicans or Trump supporters.
When President Trump signed an executive order last week to complete a wall along the 2,000 mile border with Mexico, he was building on decades of bipartisan consensus among lawmakers.
In fact, Congress had already approved a border wall not too long ago. In 2006, legislators—including many Democrats—passed the Secure Fence Act, which called for 700 miles of double-fence construction along certain stretches of the border. Trump cited the Bush-era law in the first paragraph of the executive order he signed Wednesday as rationale for his executive authority to order a wall be built.
Many of the same democratic leaders now bemoaning Trump’s wall voted for one at the time— Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein.
Then-Senator Barack Obama, who as President would later deport a record-high 3 million people during his two terms, lauded the bill on the Senate floor, saying it would “help stem some of the tide of illegal immigration in this country.” …
Some on the left have taken the border with Mexico as a given. Rather than focusing on whether it should be a wall or a fence, its length or thickness, a more useful exercise would be to reframe the parameters of debate by asking whether there should be a border at all.

Melvin Goodman: Return of the Torturers: Back to the Crime Scenes of the Past (CounterPunch)

The Trump administration has signaled that it is willing to return to the heinous crimes of the past two decades, including torture and abuse, secret prisons, and extraordinary renditions. …
Perhaps if former president Barack Obama had sought accountability and responsibility for the crimes of torture, then we would not be witness to the return of war criminals to positions of responsibility.

USA | Syria | Morocco | Thailand

An article by Yoav from Haifa:
Yoav Haifawi: Sorry America, It is not YOU, it is US (*) … (Free Haifa)

The coming elections in the US supplied an extraordinary drama, watched with both trump-vs-clintonenthusiasm and disdain almost all over the world. If this is the most important democratic election for the most influential leadership position in the world, the scarcity of the debate about the real issues at stake must make people ask substantial questions about democracy. The identity and performance of the candidates, especially Republican Donald Trump, and the fact that an enormous establishment, with millions of people and billions of dollars, couldn’t produce a more respectable candidate, must raise even more substantial soul searching questions about the human nature.

A few more:
Jeffrey St. Clair: The Cataclysm: Notes on Election Day and the Politics of Hubris (CounterPunch)

Of course, the System adapts and absorbs. That’s the malign genius of late-capitalism. The elites prefer Hillary, but will warp the unruly Trump to their purposes. Trump is a narcissist, not an ideologue. The system fosters and feeds on narcissism…
Hillary Clinton has completely rejected even the pretense of class-oriented politics, in favor of targeting discrete demographics of voters, sending coded messages through the color and cut of her pantsuits to suburban women in Philly suburbs and insurance brokers in Tallahassee. This is the politics of identity, where your working conditions are less important than where you shop and what you buy. There is no unifying message to her campaign. Instead there are thousands of messages, each individually tailored and targeted like those stalker ads on Google and Amazons. It’s politics by algorithm.
Meanwhile, Trump’s blue-collar voters are condemned by the liberal elites as neo-Nazis and Klan-like automatons. Over the last few weeks, MSDNC has devoted much attention to the imbecilic David Duke’s attempt to ride Trump’s coat-tails. Duke is polling at less than 5 percent among Republicans in his vainglorious run for the Senate in Louisiana. What about the Trump voters who reject Duke’s racist bilge? How do the Democrats explain them? They don’t even try. The American underclass, both black and white, those marginalized by globalization and a government that works only to further enrich the rich, are viewed by the Democrats’ leader as a collection of “deplorables” and “super-predators.”

James Luchte: Trump vs. the National Security Establishment: Will There be a Revolution in US Foreign Policy? (CounterPunch)

Since the beginning of his presidential campaign, Trump had been savaged by the National Security establishment, castigated as unfit to lead, dangerous, incompetent, and ignorant. These criticisms were woven together in an August 8 letter signed by fifty former National Security officers, denouncing a possible Trump presidency…
Putting aside these castigations, Trump’s most egregious national security faux pas is his contestation of the Russophobic paradigm that has dominated US foreign policy since the end of WWII and the establishment of the National Security Act of 1947. Trump’s contestation further amplifies his purported hubris to even raise the question of NATO – and his contemplation of the end of the seven decade US occupation of Europe (“We cannot afford it”). Such perspectives fly in the face of the entire history of the National Security establishment, which, since the founding of the National Security Council (NSC), has sought to contain its former allies (Russia, and then, China) and maintain US hegemony on the European continent.

Gary Leupp: Standing Rock and Imperialism Itself (CounterPunch)

The Dakota Access Pipeline was originally scheduled to cross the state of North Dakota north of Bismarck, the state capital (pop. 70,000). But then the route was shifted 40 miles south, to the south, to pass by the Standing Rock Sioux reservation (pop. 8200). This is sovereign territory of the Sioux, whose reservation straddles North and South Dakota and whose members include Hunkpapa Lakota (Húŋkpapȟa) and Yaktonai Dakota (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna).
The Sioux are a nation of about 170,000 people, divided linguistically into the Lakotas, Dakotas and Nakotas concentrated in what are now North and South Dakota…
The Standing Rock Reservation’s boundaries are defined by the Fort Laramie Treaty (or Horse Creek Treaty) of 1851, which exchanged Sioux recognition of “the right of the United States Government to establish roads, military and other posts, within their respective territories” on their territory for a U.S. commitment “to protect the aforesaid Indian nations against the commission of all depredations by the people of the said United States, after the ratification of this treaty.” They are confirmed by another treaty signed in 1868…
Back to the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to the Bismarck Tribune, the route was changed due to concern that the DAPL, built by Sunoco and projected to send 500,000 gallons of oil every day from North Dakota to Illinois, would endanger the water supply to the city’s residents.
(These by the way are 92% white, 4% Native American, 4% other…) …
The water issue is the first issue (of two) raised by those protesting the DAPL raise. The Missouri River that constitutes the reservation border is the people’s only source of water. (Specifically, Lake Oahe, which is a large swelling within the river straddling the two Dakotas.) It is at present quite pure. The pipeline will flow beneath it. The Army Corps of Engineers has assessed that it will pose no threat to the water, but the people point to reports that pipelines leak. The Standing Rock Sioux are arguing in court that the pipeline directly violates the tribe’s rights as a sovereign nation because it will hurt its drinking water resources…
The second issue is that of sacred burial sites. This might seem less important, especially to the irreligious outsider. But the ongoing protest observances conducted by representatives of many tribes in North Dakota involve many religious practices related to identity: sacred songs and dancing, prayers, peace pipes, sweat lodge meetings, water protection rituals. They believe strongly in the appropriate handling of the burial grounds…
But the main reason for opposition is not water purity, nor even respect for one’s ancestors, but the Sioux tribes’ aspirations for sovereignty, on land assigned them by violated treaties, as they come up against capitalist imperialism itself.

Miriyam Aouragh, Amy Goodman: Morocco: Massive Protests Against Neoliberalism, Privatization Follow Death of Fish Seller (Democracy Now)

In Morocco, thousands of people have been protesting across the country after a fish seller was crushed to death in a garbage truck trying to retrieve fish confiscated by police. Video circulating online appears to show Mouhcine Fikri jumping into the back of the truck to rescue his swordfish, before being crushed to death by its compactor. According to local reports, Moroccan authorities prohibit the sale of swordfish at this time of year. Activists have accused police officers of ordering garbage men to crush Fikri. His death in the northern town of Al Hoceima has elicited widespread anger on social media. The weekend’s rallies were called by activists from the February 20 movement, which organized demonstrations during the Arab unrest of 2011. Fikri’s death drew parallels to that of Tunisian fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi in 2010 whose death sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

Aida Alami: Morocco’s Al-Hoceima protests reflect ‘a heavy legacy’ (AlJazeera)

Located in the north of Morocco, the Rif region has always had a complicated history with the monarchy, marked by a violent rebellion in the late 1950s that attempted to get its independence from the rest of Morocco.
The Rif region, from where one of the most emblematic Moroccan leaders, Abdelkarim Khettabi, hails, has always been difficult to tame. In 1958, Hassan II, who was the 29-year-old crown prince at the time, crushed a rebellion by the Rifian Berbers in the north and severely punished leaders of the upheaval. During his reign, he neglected the region in terms of economic developments, leaving it lacking in infrastructure and access to services available in the rest of the kingdom. When Mohammed VI became king in 1999, one of his major projects was to open up the region, and many tourism and development projects were subsequently launched.
“The Rif has been structurally and symbolically severed from the rest of other regions in Morocco,” said Abdeslam Maghraoui, a Duke University political scientist and North Africa expert. “Language, geography, and the quest for some political autonomy has a lot to do with it.”
Maghraoui described King Hassan’s policies towards the Rif as neglectful, if not hostile.
“King Mohammed VI’s more personal and conciliatory touch didn’t change the deep structural problems. Today’s tensions reflect this heavy legacy.”

Morocco arrests 11 over fish-seller’s death in Al-Hoceima (BBC)
Greg Dunkel: Moroccan protests shake U.S. ally (Workers World)

According to Forbes magazine, King Mohammed VI of Morocco is the richest man in North Africa. He has control over and profits from phosphates, Morocco’s most profitable export, as well as the fishing industry.
Morocco’s main trading and diplomatic partners are France and Spain, its former colonial masters…

Robert Fisk: A view of the Syrian war from the Golan Heights (Independent)

One Syrian lieutenant described to me how he directed his artillery fire onto an Israeli jeep in the Jabhat al-Nusra occupied town of Al-Hamidiya inside Syria and destroyed it. The jeep might have been a gift or borrowed from Israel

Stephen Wright: Thai monarchy’s billions come from real estate, companies (AP)

Thailand’s king, who died Thursday, was reputed to be the world’s richest royal and one of the wealthiest people on the planet.
It was a status that clashed with the carefully managed image of a monarch intensely concerned for his people’s welfare and one that Thai authorities were always anxious to correct…
In 2011, American rich-list publisher Forbes tallied up the holdings of the Crown Property Bureau that answers to the Thai monarch and estimated Bhumibol’s wealth at more than $30 billion.

Thomas F. Rhoden: Death of a monarch or an oligarch? (New Mandala)

Thailand’s structure of oligarchy has also not changed recently. By constructing a specific Material Power Index (MPI) for Thailand and then comparing it to MPIs for other national states in East and Southeast Asia where data is available, Thailand’s top 50 wealthiest have an averaged MPI which is higher than that found in China, in Singapore, in Japan, in Indonesia, in Malaysia, in the Philippines and so on. Even if one were to exclude the monarch’s wealth from this averaged MPI calculation for Thailand, the country still comes out on top.
The following is simply an empirical fact: Thailand is the most oligarchic polity by this measure for this region of the world.

Lee Jones: The myth of King Bhumibol (New Mandala)

[S]uccessive military regimes built up a virtual personality cult around Bhumibol through the Cold War, establishing his image as a paternalistic sponsor of development projects, caring for his poor people. This massive propaganda effort – coupled with extensive state repression – turned a country that had considered abolishing the monarchy in the 1930s into one that largely worshipped its king…
In service of the anti-communist ruling elite, after 1973, Bhumibol sponsored right-wing paramilitaries terrorising leftist youths, culminating in the 1976 Thammasat massacre. Later, under Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Bhumibol publicly backed the ‘war on drugs’, in which over 2,500 people were extra-judicially killed. Then in 2006, a military junta overthrew Thaksin, promptly gaining the king’s endorsement of their coup. By the time of the latest military coup, in 2014, Bhumibol was arguably non compos mentis, but he was again wheeled out to sanctify the destruction of democracy.
So King Bhumibol was never a consistent supporter of democracy or even basic human rights.

David Streckfuss: Thailand’s peculiar interregnum (New Mandala)
Pavin Chachavalpongpun (ปวิน ชัชวาลพงศ์พันธ์ [pawin tɕʰáttɕʰáwapʰoŋpʰan]): A crown prince and German affairs (New Mandala)