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.





Neo-Nazis marching in Chicago 1978 - Photo courtesy Chicago Tribune

I went to Skokie, Illinois four times in 1977 and 1978. Each time I flew into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, rented a car and drove to Skokie, a Chicago suburb that called itself “The World’s Largest Village”. It was then predominantly Jewish with six thousand Holocaust survivors calling it home. It was also the home of the bowling operations of the Brunswick Corporation, the sports conglomerate headquartered in nearby Lake Forest, Illinois, where I would spend the night.

My visits were with Brunswick’s legal team trying to resolve a New York piece of litigation, a dispute over a bowling lanes contract. The dispute was not acrimonious, it was over money. It was “just business”, one side trying to screw the other, “nothing personal”. After the theatrics staged for our respective clients the attorneys would socialize over drinks at White Hart Pub in Lake Forest’s posh Dear Park Inn.

During one such pleasant chat we discussed the legal issues of the then raging controversy over a proposed political rally of the Nazi Party of America – originally the National Socialist White People’s Party but then Frank Colin’s National Socialist Party. While I had been aware that there was a Communist Party in America – its home being in New York City’s Astor townhouse on West 26th Street directly across the street from the Serbian Cathedral of St. Sava, the church I attended - the existence of domestic Nazis in the United States in 1977 was news to me.

I have a history with the Nazis. Six months after I was born Hitler invaded Yugoslavia and my life would take “a road less travelled”, eventually to the United States. That life was in jeopardy when the Gestapo raided, then searched our house in Belgrade failing to find incriminating documents hidden in my crib. My father was arrested and jailed by the occupying Germans twice escaping execution by a stroke of luck. As a result, my sentiments are understandably not pro-Nazi.

As for the political rally, it seems that the Nazis, some 30 of them had sought a permit to march the streets of Skokie in make believe uniforms complete with red, white and black swastika armbands, unfurling huge swastika adorned flags that would flap in the wind and in the residents’ faces.

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Norman Rockwell Election Day 1944

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch and there ain’t no such thing as a free and fair election here in the United States or for that matter anywhere else in the world.

That’s because the system is rigged, the house always wins, the deck is loaded and the roulette wheel and the music stops when the croupier decides. Just consider the elections that brought Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Afghanistan’s Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, England’s Theresa May and Congo’s Joseph Kabila to power.

Elections are far from perfect. They reflect the societies in which they operate. Recognizing them as flawed human endeavors allows one to guard against their misuse.   

I am infuriated by the multiple interviews of two bit, second rate politicians voicing indignation over Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential election in response to a conclusion made by America’s intelligence agencies. To hear them spout platitudes and extoll the sanctity of America’s election process you would think that the Virgin Mary had just been gang raped when the real state of affairs is that a madam has been called just another whore.

Bernie Sanders, the independent senator and presidential contender, in a high dungeon mode rants against Russian cyberwars that hacked the National Democratic Committee’s computers. He calls them acts of aggression, of war yet he remains mum and silent about the domestic sabotage by Democratic Party officials who favored Hillary Clinton and denied him the nomination and possibly the presidency. Apparently for Sanders only foreign interference taints an American “free and fair” election.      

He and his brother senators and representatives confirm ignorance of post-World War II history and deny the reality that numerous foreign elections were compromised by our government. For a start need I remind them of the 1948 Italian general election? The National Security Act of 1947 allowed CIA covert operations in foreign elections – in Italy millions of dollars in cash were delivered to our guys, forged letters were concocted compromising opposition leaders and a major media campaign was funded. Of course, the Russians reciprocated in kind. Was that a “free and fair” election? I think not.   

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I ain’t got no quarrel with ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but should “we” support the war against it in Mosul and Raqqa? I don’t know. As for me, the jury is still out, deliberating.  

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, was a man of strong convictions. His convictions were so strong and steadfast that he was convicted fifty years ago last month by an all-white jury of refusing to fight and die for the United States in Viet Nam. He famously said “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong…” adding “…no Vietcong [ever] called me a nigger.” He refused to put on a uniform and travel “10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam”. For that principled stand, he was sentenced to five years in jail and stripped of his world championship boxing titles.

Today Donald Trump, a man without any conviction, is faced with foreign policy decisions that he is ill prepared to make. Some decisions involve issue he inherited – Afghanistan and Iraq thanks to George W. Bush; North Korea, a war still in progress courtesy of Harry S. Truman. Some are Trump made – the North Korean escalation, the Iran nuclear deal reboot and the Syria line in the sand made by Ivanka’s distaste of barrel bomb chemical weapons.

Today’s fucked up world is not all of Donald Trump’s making. That downward spiral started in Yalta in January, 1945 when three guys, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, without as much as a how-de-do divvied up the world. That was followed by the Truman Doctrine of the 1940’s and 50’s that morphed the benign Marshall Plan for reconstruction into a bellicose NATO mindset for military intervention, followed by other foreign adventures stacked one upon the other, all initiated by the world’s major powers. 

The total failure of intervention, meddling in a country where one has no quarrel was Vietnam. Vietnam, like most wars, was a war of choice not of necessity. Viet Nam was the perfect storm where personal and national hubris merged with financial greed that drove America’s failed effort – an effort doomed from the get-go since America had no interest in that quarrel.

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Turn on the evening news and listen to legal pundits speak of “what to do with Donald Trump”. The comments make “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” a no brainer. Legal scholars have a way of making simple answers complex, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

The nightly gaggle of pundits is made up of eminent law professors. I love law professors because I was one once. We preen, pronounce and pontificate. Constitutional scholars like Harvard’s Larry Tribe and Alan Dershovitz are in demand, but not the likes of me - a guy who thought trial practice and procedure at a second-tier law school. Yet I am the one to ask what to do when you don’t know the answer, because I dealt with nuts and bolts of the law, not the philosophy behind it.  

What do you do if Donald Trump is found to have violated the law? Can you arrest him? Can you indict him? Can you try him before a jury of his peers? Can you jail him? Can he be subject to supervised release? Does he have immunity? Can he pardon himself? Can any sentence be commuted and if so, by whom? Can he be impeached and tried for a crime other than a high crime or misdemeanor?

You have as many answers as you have bobble head law professors asked – none of them on point or in full agreement. 

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