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 a Contributing Editor 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 and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.




Every action has a reaction although the reaction may be unanticipated. The Syrian civil war is being waged between forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime, the Free Syrian Army, the Kurds, Hezbollah and ISIS/ISIL and the many other fractional participants too numerous to mention. All of these players have their foreign sponsors, supporters and enablers. That is why the civil war has lasted for five years and is ongoing.

You can’t wage war without money and munitions. If you ain’t got the stuff someone has to make it available so that the fighting continues. This has been going on overtly or covertly in Syria and parts of Iraq for years. Just 13 days ago the United States announced that it was giving $100 million in aid to Syria’s “rebels” - whoever or whatever these may be – bringing the officially disclosed total so far to $500 million since 2002, while the unofficial, soft number is anyone’s guess. Since 2013 the US has trained and equipped “moderate rebels” in Syria with disastrous results – all of them being killed or captured within days of deployment and clandestine operations shrouded in secrecy.

As counterpoints there is the “axis of resistance”, the alliance that Syria and Iran forged to blunt Western influence in the Middle East after the US led coalition 2003 invasion of Iraq. Now Russia has weighed by lending tactical support to the Assad regime. Russian war planes have struck ISIS targets and, according to some reports, Kurdish and pro-Western rebel positions.

Forget post World War I history and the decades of intervention by foreign powers in the Middle East and concentrate on the here and now.

Starting in September France launched air strikes on ISIS targets in both Iraq and Syria. France’s President Hollande has demanded that Assad be removed from power as a prerequisite to any political settlement of the civil war. In 2014 Russia stepped up military support of the Assad forces by delivering armored vehicles “surveillance equipment, radars, electronic warfare systems, spare parts for helicopter, various weapons including guided bombs” and on September 30 with approval of Parliament “Russia started a military intervention in Syria consisting of air strikes against ISIS, the Al-Nusra Front and other perceived enemies of the Syrian government.”  Russia will soon have boots on the ground to counter America’s advisors and trainers.

The United States led air campaign in Iraq, Syria and Libya has resulted in 8,100 strikes in the last 15 months. This Saturday the Pentagon announced that two F-15 fighter jets launched an air strike that killed Abu Nabil ISIS’ top commander in Libya whose death “… will degrade ISIL’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Libya, including new ISIL members, establishing bases in Libya and planning external attacks on the United States.”

Europe, the United States, Russia and even Iran have declared war on ISIS but in doing so all of the foreign players are sharply elbowing each other in support of their pet surrogates in Syria and Iraq and in doing so they shove, kill and maim the opposition and as collateral damage the innocent civilian population without accountability and with impunity.

Is it any wonder then that ISIS, or for that matter any of the warring factions shove back? This is a base application of the “every action has a reaction” principle, the most notable being last Friday night’s callous, despicable murder of 129 civilian innocents in Paris. While no one can justify this attack it ignores the cause - was the attack provoked by state action?

When viewed from the perspective of the local Arab population that has witnessed the death, murder and maiming of over 500,000 Iraqis and the displacement of more than two million Syrian refugees the Parisian death toll is totally irrelevant and of no consequence, a mere bagatelle.

Provocation is not justification but it is an explanation of the brutal response to the state of affairs unfolding in Syria and Iraq. Without an air force or naval power a ground attack is ISIS’ sole available response.

As I write Reuters reports that 10 French fighter jets have launched the biggest raid to date on an ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, Syria destroying “a command centre, recruitment centre for jihadist, a munitions depot and training camp for fighters” and how many civilians I ask? ISIS will no doubt retaliate, a tit for tat; how many more civilians will die in France next week, next month?

This is a harsh view of today’s foreign affairs real politik and my personal view of the Paris massacre. It will anger many. To continue to deny that a country’s actions in Syria and Iraq will result in reactions is to deny reality. Better to accept reality as it is and act accordingly, perhaps by letting the Middle East to its own devices.  



A version of this article was published as “Are They Migrants, Refugees or Deserters?” in Britić, October 29, 2012

You can deny the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide – that’s buried in yesterday’s history - but you cannot deny the reality of the thousands of Syrians, Libyans and Afghanis scrambling to safety and overwhelming Europe limited resources. It’s a crisis that has caught the world’s attention, a world that as of today has not come up with a viable solution. I am troubled by the demographics of today’s refugees on which any long term solution must be based.    

In the interest of full disclosure I was a refugee in 1946 escaping on foot, at night from communist Yugoslavia straight to confinement in a guarded refugee camp in Graz, Austria. From 1946 until 1955 I was stateless, a boy without a country. I have experienced the life of a refugee. As a result, I am sensitive and highly sympathetic to a refugee’s plight. 

But not all refugees deserve a free pass and safe haven. A refugee escaping the raging civil war in Syria must be treated differently from a migrant seeking to enhance his financial future moving from an economically depressed yet relatively safe country. The application of the old “all animals are created equal but some animals are more equal than others” rule.  

I have not personally experienced today’s refugee crisis. I rely on newspaper and television reports, images and statistics compiled by humanitarian organizations and the United Nations. What becomes clear is that the refugees are predominantly male in their twenties and thirties and that is what gives me pause. I find their plight wanting and motives questionable.

Every country has examples of sacrifice for God and country. The Alamo and Nathan Hale are America’s favorite - Hale the young man who said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” before being hung for a spy. Russia has the Battle for Leningrad, France the Battle of Verdun, England its Agincourt and Battle of Britain, Cuba the Bay of Pigs and Serbia Marš na Drinu. They all represent a collective will to do and die for one’s country, something worth fighting and dying for.

To some this idea of sacrifice and commitment may be outmoded and of no application in today’s global economy but it is the foundation of a modern state. Lose that will to work towards a collective end and the notion of a sovereign state becomes irrelevant.       

Syria’s educated 18 through 40 year olds have jumped ship. They have concluded that Syria is not worth fighting or dying for. They have deserted Syria at the very time that Syria needs them and their sacrifice the most. Should this loss become permanent Syria will not recover. It will cease to exist, to be partitioned off among the squabbling tribes of the region.

What can the European asylum countries expect from these prospective permanent residents? Not much, I think. They have proven unwilling to stand up and fight for their rights. They have exhibited a selfish streak - individual wants outweigh common good. They come with a long cultural history of refusal to assimilate or accommodate.      

I suggest that we think of Syria’s migrant population not as permanent refugees but as displaced persons seeking temporary refuge and grant them temporary safe haven subject to return once peace is established. Failure to do so will guarantee Syria’s demise and the continued instability of the region.





A version of this article was published in Britic on October 8, 2015 and in Pecat on October 13, 2015

I have a working knowledge of war crimes. I spent five years defending two men accused of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions - simply put “war crimes” - before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. That experience left me with a jaundiced view as to how war crimes are dealt with by the international community. My sad conclusion is that war crimes are only prosecuted if they are committed by others and not by us or our friends – a reprise of the old German “Gott mit unz” syndrome, our cause is just, God or Allah willing. 

History is not written by the victor. History is written by those who control the media and are able to censor and silence anyone who has a different version of the truth. War crimes become war crimes only if they have they have been officially declared as such, vetted by gullible public opinion and not measured by objective standards of behavior. Failing that the crimes are just business as usual soon forgotten.

War crimes and crimes against humanity appear to be restricted to marginal bit players in distant conflicts. Major players in wars being waged worldwide, the United States, NATO allies, Russia and their proxies are immune from prosecution. Since coming into being in 1998 the International Criminal Court has indicted only 29 individuals citizens of Angola, the Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Ivory Coast and Mali. With war raging worldwide you would think others would be charged, but that’s not been the case.    

I am prompted to make these comments in light of the deadly airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders [MFS -Médecins Sans Frontières] Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on October 3 which killed 22, including 12 doctors, nurses and 3 children.

America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, questions how the MSF Hospital, protected by international law, came to be bombed by United States forces. From the outset the Times obfuscates, hides a clear violation of international rules of war. The Hospital was not “bombed”, as the Times claims, it was attacked by an AC-130 gunship, a ground attack aircraft, with a “wide array of anti-ground weapons that are integrated with sophisticated sensors, navigation and fire control systems … [that] relies on visual targeting.” That gunship targeted the Hospital for a full hour, notwithstanding telecommunications demanding immediate stop to the attack.

The Times calls for an investigation by General John Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, who initially called the attack a “mistake … [that] accidently struck civilians” and the killings “justified collateral damage”.  He then claimed the attack to be a “U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command”. The Times wants the investigation to be headed by a man they have just branded a liar by quoting him as saying “we do not strike those kinds of targets, absolutely” while at the very same time admitting the target and the killings, adding that “we would never intentionally target a protected medical facility”.

Using my 10 year old Dell computer I accessed Google Maps and I was able to bring up on screen a recent satellite image of my home in rural Washington, Connecticut as well as a recent image of downtown Kunduz with the Central Traffic Square, Kabul Bank and Salam University clearly noted and identified. The Times published today a “DigitalGlobe via Bing Maps” crystal clear image of downtown Kunduz and the DSF Hospital compound, a “huge” medical facility.

If the Times reporter and I could access these images with clicks of a mouse you would think that the boys in Air Force blue could do us one better. Only two conclusions are possible: the attack was either the result of criminal negligence or a premeditated war crime, you choose.

The first “war criminal” I defended was accused of torture, beatings, forced sodomy and one death by physical assault over a span of a couple of years in a small village in Bosnia during an internecine civil war. Not much of a transgression by international standards. As Dick Cheney would have it “shit that happens”, but certainly no excuse. My second “war criminal” was a politician far removed from the battlefield without any physical presence on the ground or in the conflict. He was indicted and charged as being part of a “criminal enterprise”, a co-conspirator. Not much of a smoking gun. Nevertheless both were indicted, branded war criminals and served 10 year prison sentences.

It took Edward Snowdon, WikiLeaks and the disclosure of 400,000 United States Army reports to document war crimes in Iraq for the period 2004-2009. London’s Guardian newspaper then reported that its review disclosed “a grim picture of the US and Britain’s legacy in Iraq … [detailing] torture, summary executions and war crimes… [t]he war logs, seen by the Guardian, contain a horrific dossier of cases where US troops killed innocent civilians at checkpoints, on Iraq’s roads and during raids on people’s homes. The victims include dozens of women and children”.

Even with the public disclosure of this information, the documentation of war crimes made by United States armed forces' own personnel, no one has been charged, indicted or prosecuted. The criminals have not been brought to justice and remain unpunished.

“There can be no justification for this horrible attack” said Christopher Stokes, the general director of Doctors Without Borders. I agree. It’s high time that we acknowledge either culpable negligence or criminal premeditation and prosecute those responsible no matter how high up the chain of command we have to go. War crimes should not remain unpunished.





In today’s presidential horse race “The Donald” proposes to build a Mexican border wall some 2,000 miles long and somehow have Mexico pay the bill. Trump believes that “there must be a wall across the southern border” and that this “permanent border wall” will stop illegal crossings and “cut down on crimes committed … by people in the country illegally”.

The Donald forgets that between 2006 and 2009 the US spent $2.4 billion to build 670 miles of useless fences that have not stopped the illegal rapists and murderers he wants to keep out. He ignores that Congress found that the “… cost of pedestrian fencing ranged between $400,000 and $15 million per mile with an average of $3.9 million …” and that $58 million was set aside to build just for 3.5 miles in San Diego.

How he expects to strong arm or euchre Mexico into paying $5.3 billion to complete the wall and secure the border is ignored and left to our imagination.

Not to be outdone another Presidential hopeful Scott Walker last week said that “building a wall along the U.S.-Canada border was a ‘legitimate’ issue [for] the United States to consider”. That border is 5,500 miles long and crosses rugged terrain including 1,500 on Alaska’s border. At $3.9 million a mile that’s a potential $21.5 billion dollar tab that taxpayers would have to pay, good luck.

If the presidential hopefuls are serious about keeping out illegal immigrants just building walls won’t do, so I suggest that they support a cheaper, more efficient, effective alternative - a state of the art, digital, chip embedded thumbprint/photograph biometric national identity card.

Expect to hear howls of outrage from the left and the right. The specter of a totalitarian state will be raised. The NRA and the ACLU will join forces in opposition to a mandatory national identity card but that is just political posturing for we already have one, the Real ID Act of 2005 which requires the states to upgrade their drivers licenses and state issued identification documents to mandated federally imposed standards.

In order to get a new or replacement driver’s license you must present a photo or non-photo ID with your full name and birth date, a birth certificate, a Social Security number and proof of citizenship or legal status in the United States.

Starting in 2015 state issued driver’s license must have the bearer’s full legal name, current residential address, date of birth, gender, a unique license/identification card number, a digital front-facing photograph and signature. It must have a common bar code and approved security devices preventing counterfeiting and “must display a star in the right-hand corner signifying that your identification has been approved by TSA [Homeland Security] and that your identity has been verified” by the Federal Government.

Now, if that ain’t a national identity card I don’t know what is. It looks like a duck, walks like a duck, flies like a duck and quacks like a duck so it’s got to be a duck.

Seventy-seven countries worldwide have mandatory national identity cards yet the United States claims not to have one and not need one, but just try getting on a domestic or international flight without a photo id. You can’t open a bank account, buy cigarettes or alcohol, visit a casino, get married, apply for welfare and Medicaid or buy a gun without a photo id. In New York City you cannot get access to large office buildings without proper identification.

Now back to those walls waiting to be built to stop illegal immigration. Don’t build them, the cost is too high, they don’t work. Instead institute a biometric high tech national identity card, key it to a national data base and require all major transactions be verified.

Want a job, buy a house, rent an apartment, buy and register a car, enroll you kids in school? You have to prove your identity and status. Do not penalize jail and then deport those who lack authority to enter into such transactions. This has proven ineffective and costly.

Prosecute, jail, fine and penalize those of our citizens who facilitate and support illegal immigration, the suburban moms who hire Guatemalan nannies and cleaning ladies and pay them in cash, the suburban dads that have their grass cut and hedges clipped by Mexicans, the contractors who hire Central American day laborers outside Home Depots, the employers who hire illegals at less than minimum wage without benefits. They are breaking the law as well, benefitting and facilitating illegal immigration. Do this and your illegal immigration problem will solve itself.








It took The New York Times a full month to follow my lead and position of my July 21, 2015 column “Greece – The Right or Wrong Way”. The Times’ version follows:



The International Monetary Fund is doing the right thing by not participating in a deeply flawed loan agreement that European leaders have negotiated with Greece.

Years of misguided economic policies sought by Germany and other creditors have helped to push Greece into a depression, left more than a quarter of its workers unemployed and saddled it with a debt it cannot repay. The latest European attempt to bail out Greece will make the situation even worse by requiring the country’s government to cut spending and raise taxes while increasing the country’s debt to200 percent of its gross domestic product, from about 170 percent now.

The I.M.F., which joined European countries in their first two loan programs for Greece, says it cannot lend more money because Greece’s debt has become unsustainable. In a statement on Friday, the fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, said Greece’s creditors had to provide “significant debt relief” to the country. Last month, the fund said creditors needed to either reduce the amount of money Greece owes or extend the maturity of that debt by up to 30 years.

This is a much tougher position than the I.M.F. has taken before. In 2010, it did not insist that Greek debt be restructured. That was a big mistake because it left Greece with more debt than it had before the crisis and reduced the government’s ability to stimulate the economy. What Ms. Lagarde, a former French finance minister, says matters because European leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany want the fund to be a part of the loan program since it has extensive expertise in dealing with financial crises.

European officials have said only vaguely that they might be willing to consider debt relief. Many lawmakers and voters in other European nations oppose providing more help because they think the Greek government has failed to carry out the economic and fiscal reforms that would make the country more productive.

There is no question that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece needs to do more to raise economic growth. But even if he does everything European leaders are asking him to do — a list that includes cutting pensions, simplifying regulations, privatizing state-owned businesses — the country will still not be able to pay back the 300 billion euros it owes. Rather than go through a messy default in a few years, it is in Europe’s interest to heed the I.M.F.’s advice and restructure Greece’s debt now

Original Article At: