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.

 

 

Media
Friday
Jan062017

WAR CRIMES IN THE AGE OF CYBERWARS

PUBLISHED AS LEAD ARTICLE PEĆAT [SERBIA] AND LEAD OPINION ARTICLE EKURD DAILY [TURKEY IRAQ SYRIA] ON JANUARY 6, 2018

Rx to prevent cyberwars:  Declare cyberattacks war crimes and all state sponsored cyberattack participants personally liable.

The world is dependent on computers and the internet. This has changed the way we think, work and interact including the way nations make war and maintain peace. The term “cyberwars” has entered our lexicon. New norms of behavior have to be agreed upon and new criminal statutes enacted to respond to this change, including a new definition of “war crimes” for the digital world.     

A war crime is a disregard for human life, a serious violation of the law of war [a true non-sequitur] which, in the context of cyberwarfare, includes the intentional killing of civilians, destruction of civilian property, the use of weapons causing superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering, causing great suffering or serious injury to body and health which, most importantly, gives rises to individual criminal responsibility.

Cyberwars are no longer hypothetical war games, they are real. In 2006 a joint US Israel program used computer cyber-weapons to attack, disable and delay Iran’s nuclear program. That year Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company was attacked and 30,000 computers were compromised and rendered inoperative; in the United States a denial of service attack froze the operations of major financial institutions; between 2010 and 2014 the US Department of Energy computer systems were “successfully compromised … more than 150 times”; in 2007 “the government of Estonia was subjected to cyber terrorism … by the Nashi, a pro-Kremlin group from Transnistria.”

In October, 2013 the Secretary of Defense warned that the United States was facing a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” that could destroy our communications systems, power grids, financial networks, military defense networks, basically the whole shebang by compromising our computers using cyber weapons and the internet. “An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these … cyber tools to gain control of …” critical assets, wreak havoc and “let loose the dogs of war”.

That December The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported that their websites, editors and reporters had been hacked by the Chinese government, its agencies or by individuals under their control “seeking to control the free flow of information”.

Also in 2013 Germany, our NATO ally, formally announced the establishment of a 130 hacker-strong “Computer Network Operations Unit”, part of the BDN, the intelligence agency, which would act as a cyber defense unit and have “enhanced capabilities” presumably offensive in nature.

In retrospect, the era of the “drone war” was short and geographically limited to low tech regional conflicts, Somalia, the South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia. There are new weapons to deploy. The New York Times reported [“Broad Powers Seen for Obama in Cyberstrikes”, February 4, 2013] that “a secret legal review on the use of America’s growing arsenal of cyber-weapons has concluded that President Obama has the broad power to order a pre-emptive strike”, a marked escalation from the severely limited capabilities of a drone attack now that we have abandoned the folly of inter-continental ballistic missiles.  

Not all cyber actions are designed to destroy; some are limited to propaganda, mischief and misinformation. The 2016 presidential election has demonstrated the ability of a foreign power to influence and manipulate the course of domestic events. No one was killed, no property was destroyed but nevertheless this was an attack on the sovereignty of a nation state. Yet even when designed not to bring about physical harm a cyber-attack can inadvertently cause disaster. “Olympic Games” the joint US Israeli effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear program used a cyber weapon, a “worm”. The “worm” went rogue and went on a rampage infecting computers worldwide. Had the rogue worm sabotaged a nuclear device Teheran would have been a new Hiroshima.      

Governments have adopted a “if you fuck with us and our computers, we will fuck with you and yours” attitude. Once a cyber incursion has been detected, such as the hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails or the Grizzly Steppe Russian malware detected on Vermont’s Burlington Electric’s electric grid, traditional diplomatic sanctions are brought into play – in exchange of volleys, diplomats are expelled, economic restrictions imposed, a tit for tat response that gets the guilty participants off the hook.

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Friday
Dec302016

YOGI BERRA’S TRUMP TWEETS

Yogi Berra and President George W Bush 2001 – Photo courtesy Paul MorseDonald Trump, once a joke of a candidate but now the President Elect, brings to mind the astute malapropism of the political sage Lawrence “Yogi” Berra [1925-2015] who, if still alive, might have included the highlighted comments in his tweets during the campaign.

In the Republican debates Donald Trump told his opponents to “shut up and talk” because “it was hard to have a conversation with anyone – there were too many people talking”. In any event, Trump “really didn’t say everything [he] said”. After each debate he declared that the candidates had a “good time together, even when we were not together”.

The other candidates [Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz et al] “can run anytime [they] want [for President] I am giving [them] the red light”. As for Ted Cruz, remember that “anyone who is popular is bound to be disliked” and “Texas has a lot of electrical votes”.  

At each debate and campaign rally Trump promised to “make America great again” because the “future ain’t what it used to be” and “if the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” 

In the national debates he accused Clinton of having “made too many wrong mistakes”. He cautioned that “If you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you will end up somewhere else” and that “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there”. As for himself he assured voters that when hecomes to a fork in road … [he will] take it”.

His policies were broad and undefined for “if you don’t set goals, you can’t regret not reaching them” and as for his lack of experience “you can observe a lot by just by watching”. He refused to campaign in California because “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” and while It’s not too far, it just seems like it is”. 

After all was said and done Donald Trump was elected President and we are in a transition mode with cabinet and presidential appointments making headlines, “we’re lost, but we’re making great time”. It will be “It’s deja-vu all over again” for “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over”. Updates will be posted periodically.   

Written with homage, thanks and gratitude to one of the great masters of English Letters, the incomparable Yogi Berra. The words in quotations and in bold are Yogi’s, not mine. 

Wednesday
Dec142016

THE ILLUSION OF SECURITY

South Korean Special Police anti-terrorist exercise 2014 Seoul, South Korea subway station – Photo Lee Jin-man, Courtesy Associated Press

A VERSION PUBLISHED AS “THE ILLUSION OF SECURITY” LEAD ARTICLES IN PEĆAT [SERBIA] AND BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM] DECEMBER 12, 2016.  

No matter where you go today false illusions of security are in your face. In New York’s Grand Central Station, Paris’ Gare du Nord and Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof you are confronted with the black helmeted and Kevlar cossetted uniforms of the police and security services. The uniforms are complemented by assault rifles, automatic weapons and other bellicose gear. Occasionally they are enhanced by eager German shepherds straining at their leash. This is supposed to make you feel safe. Far from it, this instills fear in my heart.

This modern phenomenon has been replicated world-wide and to quote Cole Porter: “Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.” And so, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Spain and even tiny Montenegro, population 650,000, all boast special anti-terrorist police units and forces. Their appearance with all their gear and weapons is awe inspiring and for me, frightening.

 Keeping order in peace time is no longer the job for the local police - the police precinct down the street, the Irish cop on the beat. That role has been usurped by special elite units that are not answerable to the usual chain of civilian command authority, the governor, the mayor, the city council or the city manager. These forces while under the nominal control of local authorities, are controlled by the national government’s military security apparatus.       

Ever since September 11, 2001 and more recently since the Nice terror attack and the Paris killings at the Stade de France and the Bataclan Theatre government security forces worldwide have become more visible, more assertive, more militarized. In the United States, they have been deployed for 15 years against terrorist forces that never seem to materialize. Internationally they have been used to justify the never-ending wars in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, while accomplishing little if anything at home.

In the United States since 1997 with the “1033 Program” the Department of Defense has transferred $5.1 billion dollars of military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. Last year the Department of Homeland Security supported local law enforcement with $1 billion dollars while the Department of Defense made an additional $449 million contribution.

Likewise, the European Union military and the defense departments are funding and equipping their special forces in response to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and the Additional Protocol of 2015. These measures are not funded by the cities of Paris, Rome or Podgorica, they are funded by national treasuries.

The present expenditure of money and resources reminds me of the Cold War and Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, the multi-billion-dollar Star Wars farce. The fear of the Soviet Union propelled the United States into a binge of defense related projects that far exceeded the actual threat that they were supposed avert. We had the Strategic Air Command, the Major Air Command and hundreds of other acronym designated entities doing all “kinds of mean, nasty, ugly things” at great expense while the Russians were doing their best to do the same.

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Monday
Dec122016

THE "LOCAL"

Thursday
Dec012016

CHUMLEY’S – NEW YORK’S LITERARY CAFÉ

Whenever anyone speaks of the heyday of literary Paris, Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore, the legendary watering holes of the literati on the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, take center stage. The conversation invariably becomes a joust to see how many famous writers you can name who, at one time or another, had a glass of wine, a cognac, an expresso, an assignation, gotten drunk or taken a piss in either or both of those cafés.

Invariably it starts with Hemingway followed by F. Scott Fitzgerald, André Gide, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Giraudoux, Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot. You can’t forget Albert Camus, James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht or Julia Childs. Then there is the second wave of Americans - James Baldwin, Chester Himes, Charles Sutherland and Richard Wright.

One of the stars of that literary set was Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre’s lover, philosopher, author and bohème par excellence. She knew well her literary roots and her literary cafés – the Deux Magots awarded a prize for the best novel of the year since 1933 while the Café de Flore followed suite only in 1994. No wonder she favored Les Deux Magots over the Flore, as Adam Gopnik elegantly writes in his essay “A Tale of Two Cafes” in his book Paris to the Moon.

Alexis de Tocqueville may have been the first Frenchman to study and write about America but de Beauvoir followed in his footsteps. In 1947 she “landed at La Guardia airport and began a four-month journey that took her from one coast of the United States to the other, and back again.” Her diary of that visit America Day by Day [L’Amérique au jour le jour] was published in 1954.

In her diary, she writes of stumbling into a café that is a room “… square and utterly simple, with its little tables lined against the walls, but it has something so rare in America – atmosphere … In Bedford Street is the only place in New York where you can read and work through the day, and talk through the night, without arousing curiosity or criticism: Chamby’s.”

There never was a “Chamby’s”[1] on Bedford Street but there was and is a Chumley’s on Bedford, not quite a café but a venerable bar, once a speakeasy, that serves bourbon and beer, a New York’s literary landmark.

Like Simone de Beauvoir, I stumbled onto and into Chumley’s by pure chance. I had just moved into a house that didn’t front on the street but on a cement backyard at 50½ Barrow Street around the corner from Bedford Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. The street entrance was an iron gate and a dark passage with a dangling naked light bulb that led to our courtyard. A couple of doors down the street was another, much nicer iron gate. On a Saturday night, soon after moving in, I walked by and there were people drinking beer in that courtyard with the gate wide open, having a grand time.

This was the overflow crowd at the back entrance of a bar. But this was not just any bar, this was that Chumley’s, the legendary speakeasy turned literary hangout joint, that Simone de Beauvoir had exulted about some 15 years earlier.

The door opening on Pamela Court, the courtyard on Barrow, was once the front door that the greats—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O’Neill, Edna St Vincent Millay, John Steinbeck, and Anais Nin—walked through. Some of the same bunch that had graced the tables and the terraces of Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore.

Back then in 1962 the unmarked front door was around the corner at 86 Bedford, that is if you could find it. From its inception as a speakeasy to this day Chumley’s front door bore no sign of any kind to keep the unwanted at bay. Urban legend has it that the term “86 it” for “kill it” comes from the heads up call that the cops would give the barkeep that a raid was about to take place and to have the speakeasy patrons escape by the “86” back door.

I learned of Chumley’s literary heritage. I marveled at the framed dust jackets of famous books, some that I had read. I was told that just prior to my time the Beat Generation writers - William S Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg - were regulars. I drank a toast to a number of authors whose books' dust jackets were joining the greats gracing Chumley’s walls.   

For the next three years, Chumley’s was my go-to-place. In the summer, I drank beer outdoors. In the winter, I drank by the fireplace, reading books by the guys who had their photos and dust jackets up on the wall. The cheeseburgers were great, the girls pretty. If I had the opportunity I am sure that I would have enjoyed Les Deux Magots even more.   

 

 

 

 


[1] de Beauvoir used “Chamby’s” as a pseudonym. “Chamby’s … was not an error or mistranslation. There was an unwritten rule … to never mention the bar by name, lest it become overrun by tourists. The Harlem Renaissance writer Richard Wright … recommended Chumley’s to Beauvoir … and passed on this code of secrecy…”   

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