DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.





Image from the motion picture "The Stoning of Soraya S" [2008]

Lead Opinion Article EKurd Daily [Iran Iraq Syria Turkey] June 17, 2016

Last week’s Orlando shooting had everyone saying again - “guns kill, we must do something”. Today it’s Orlando that prompts the politician’s comments. Yesterday it was Charleston, before that San Bernardino, Boston, Columbine and Sandy Hook. Need I remind you that guns do not kill? It is people that kill, some driven by mental illness and some driven by religious zeal.

I do not imply that religion is a mental illness. I state as fact that these are two separate, distinct and independent reasons that have resulted in these mass killings. Yet, they are sometimes somehow connected.   

I was driving the morning after that night’s shootings with the news of the mass killing at a LGBT nightclub on the radio. The initial reports were sketchy and contradictory. It was 20 dead, then 50. There was one shooter maybe more. The shooter was a Muslim, perhaps not; he was an American, native born, perhaps not. He was an Al Qaeda guy, a Hezbollah wannabe or an ISIS mole or none of the above. It was a terrorist attack, a gay bashing killing or who knows what demented craziness.

As the news were sifted and facts verified it was established that the sole shooter, 29 year-old Omar Mateen was a twice married native born United States citizen born of Muslim Afghani immigrant parents. He had been investigated twice by the FBI for making “inflammatory comments claiming connections to overseas terrorists … [and hoping to die in an FBI raid] so that he could become a martyr”. He had visited Pulse, a notorious gay and lesbian nightclub numerous times. According to his father “he was a homophobe” yet had made homosexual advances, a closet case and according to his wife “a deeply disturbed man”.    

My question: Was the massacre an act of a mentally deranged man or was it an act of a religious man and his political ideology?

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Full disclosure: I have not voted in a Federal, state or local election since 1970 – see “To Vote or not to Vote – That is the Question” column. I am not a member of a political party or political organization.

It’s finally done. After a year of painful, ludicrous electioneering Hilary and The Donald are the 2016 candidates for President of the United States. I hurry to write this column well in advance of the November elections, the January Inauguration, the First 100 Days and the inevitable voters’ remorse that will follow. This is my pre-emptive strike column, my premature, yet timely “I told you so column”.

It matters little who will be the next President of the United States because the status quo will remain unchanged. It will be business as usual, and the changes that have been promised this election cycle, that have been made in past elections, will remain as always broken campaign promises.

All the presidential candidates – 6 Democrats and 17 Republicans - promised to address the inequality of income and wealth distribution. The two candidates left standing will not make good on their promises. They are cut from the same bolt of cloth. Both are millionaires many times over. The Donald boasts of being worth $10 billion while Bill and Hilary earned $163 million in the years 2002-2012. For the 16 months just before Hilary’s announcement of her candidacy their reported income was at least $32 million. It doesn’t matter which one, Hilary or The Donald, will sit in the Oval Office on January 21, 2016 – twiddle dum and twiddle dee of the 1%.

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Published as featured Op Ed Article Ekurd Daily [Iran Iraq Turkey] June 2, 2016; a version published as lead front Page Op Ed Article Britic June 2, 2016 and Pecat June 2, 2016.

The road from Doboj to Sarajevo winds along the Bosna River through bucolic farmland and then miles of barren landscape destroyed by strip coal mines. I was driving through Bosnia and Herzegovina after that country’s civil war. I was defending a war criminal and interviewing victims in that three sided – Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic - religious civil war.

The road’s ditches held the debris of war, a rusted military jeep, a burned out troop carrier, a blown up tank. As I rounded a curve in the road a tall white minaret behind a solid walled compound dominated the green valley. In the open square women in black hijabs were herding kids into what had to be a school. Armed men, many with beards and assorted headgear, were scattered among them. A read and white gate manned by sentries barred entry. The installation was devoid of identifying signs – there were no flags flying.

I turned to my driver, a local and asked “What the hell is this place?” The laconic answer was “That’s the leftover Mujahedeen who married locals and were ordered to stay and help the Muslims out.” That was my first and only first-hand experience of a foreign religious force in local politics.

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St Sava Cathedral May 2, 2016 Photograph Anthony Delmund courtesy New York Daily News

It was ugly, an ugly pile of dirty brownstone pierced by a round beautiful stained glass window surrounded by dozens of stores selling second hand sewing machines from the sidewalk. I first saw that homely church, later to be the Cathedral of St Sava on my first day in America. It was my personal landmark that remained constant for 65 years until destroyed by fire last week.

We came as refugees one cold November morning aboard the USS General Taylor, a navy Liberty ship. Our short journey from a Hudson River pier on West 23rd Street to the Arlington Hotel on 25th Street was in the back of a tan Studebaker convertible courtesy of one of my father’s pre-war friends. The top was down so that the five us and all our worldly belongings would fit.

The Arlington welcomed refugees. It was dirt cheap and it solicited guests from UNRRA and other religious relief organizations. It was directly across the street from St Sava which acted as our sponsor to our new country. It was a Serbian speaking safe port in a foreign land.

In the 1880’s Madison Square was a fashionable and upscale neighborhood. Wall Street’s Trinity Church built a Chapel on 25th Street to give parishioners who had moved uptown a place to worship. By the 1940’s it was a frayed adjunct to Manhattan’s booming garment and fur districts and the Chapel had been abandoned by its wealthy congregants who has moved further uptown; it was a moribund parish ready to expire.

Before the war New York’s Serbian community was one of recent immigrants, laborers, blue collar workers, barbers and butchers with the occasional stellar genius, a Nikola Tesla or a Mihajlo Pupin mixed in. The community struggled to establish a church and the best it could do was to hold services in a rented second floor social hall with plans to fix up a burned out tenement for their parish church.

The Second World War changed all that. The Yugoslav Information Center, really the Embassy of the Royal Yugoslav Government-in-Exile, opened at 812 Fifth Avenue. Important visitors Yugoslavia’s elite who had fled including King Peter II came to call. The New York establishment woke up to the fact that there was a Serbia and Serbians worth knowing. When Nikola Tesla died in 1943 his funeral was held at the Cathedral of St John the Divine with Bishop William Manning participating. 

In 1944 the Episcopal Diocese of New York unloaded the Trinity Chapel complex, an expensive liability, on a grateful Serbian parish for only $30,000 and that’s how a chapel for rich Protestants became a cathedral for poor Orthodox Serbs.

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Published as Lead Opinion Article Ekurd Daily [Turkey Syria Iran Iraq] April 26, 2016

I do not like the Saudis very much.  Saudi Arabia is a vile, evil, corrupt oligarchy calling itself a monarchical autocracy, whatever the hell that is. It is a brutal dictatorship no matter what name it goes by. Years ago the Saudi Royal Family made a devil’s pact with Sunni’s Imams to promote and protect Islam’s Wahhabi brand of religion in exchange for continuing political support. That allowed this version of Islam to morph into a repressive intolerant creed seeking acceptance in the rest of the Muslim world.

Saudi Arabia was Osama bin Laden’s place of birth and home to 15 of the 19 hijackers of the 9/11 attacks. Conspiracy theories abound in the press and on the internet as to who was ultimately responsible. Domestic and foreign intelligence agencies have conducted wide ranging investigations. A United States Congressional inquiry resulted in a “Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” [“The 9/11 Report”]. It suggested Saudi Arabia as a possible “source of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers”, however, 28 pages of the Report have remained classified and hidden from public scrutiny.

Members of Congress who have seen still secret portion of the 9/11 Report and anonymous sources have hinted that “the upper ranks of Saudi royalty bankroll[led] the attacks and facilitat[ed] the hijackers’ arrival in the U.S.” The information in the 28 pages “was suppressed to protect the United States’ relationship with oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which remains a key ally in the Middle East.” Money it seems is more important than lives.

Congress is prepared to pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, the new law that would allow the victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia if it “participated in terrorism …[then] … this bill would allow … victims of terrorism to go to court to determine if the Saudi government participated in terrorist acts. If the Saudis did….” as Senator Chuck Schumer puts it “… they should pay a price.”

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