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.

 

 

Past Entries
Media
Wednesday
Mar142018

I WAS NOT A NAZI POLKA

PUBLISHED BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM] AND EKURD DAILY [TURKEY IRAQ SYRIA] MARCH 15, 2018    

My generation flirted with communism and had some one-night stands with the idea. We fucked socialism every chance we got and with every imaginable variation of the idea. Some embraced communal living and joined the Hare Krishnas and dropped off the grid. Ultimately, as we got older we married in traditional ceremonies in white dresses and dinner jackets to a capitalist reality and lived more or less happily ever after. But never, not once, did my generation ever kiss, embrace or consider holding hands with far-right fascism.  

Back then I lived in a broken down fifth floor tenement walkup in New York’s Carnegie Hill. One Saturday morning on account of nothing at all we started drinking gimlets, the cocktail that is half gin and half lime juice. After having replenished the gin and juice we were whiling away the afternoon listening to WBAI, the antiestablishment voice of the left when it played Chad Mitchell Trio’s I Was Not a Nazi Polka.

The alcohol, the tune and the lyrics combined into an uncontrollable mix of hysterical laughter. WBAI was in the midst of a never-ending pledge drive for survival – it is still going strong 50 year later. We kept pledging money we didn’t have and asking for a replay of the Nazi Polka tune. Each time it played we drunkenly rolled on the floor, howling at the lyrics: “Each and every German dances to the strain … All without exception join in the refrain, I was not a Nazi Polka … We all thought Dachau was just a nice resort … I never shot a Luger or goosed a single step … Did you not love Ilsa Koch? I did not love Ilsa Koch … Did you not despise the Jews? I did not, some of my best friends … I was not a Nazi Polka”.

Back in the sixties Fascism and Nazism had been so thoroughly discredited that we reveled in the parody, it was a joke, not to be taken seriously, something to laugh and guffaw at. Not so much today, I am afraid.

I Was Not a Nazi Polka is replete with historical references that resonates with my generation and the generation that fought World War II. Ask today who was Ilsa Koch and you will be met with a blank stare. Ilsa Koch, the sadistic “Bitch of Buchenwald”, the Nazi concentration camp, has faded from our collective memory as has Dachau - definitively not a summer resort.

It is this “widening historical distance from any direct experience of the horrors of German Fascism or Soviet Communism … [that explains] … the indifference to democratic rule … [and] the rising enthusiasm for authoritarian alternatives”. I would call it just plain ignorance, a refusal to acknowledge the lessons of history.

The result is that “[i]n France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, far right parties and faction have not yet taken power, but they are contenders to do so, and they influence the debate on everything from immigration to foreign policy.” If that be a fair statement then this should scare the bejesus out of you.

This resurgence of rampant nationalism tinged with racial xenophobia has faces and names: Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, the United States’ Donald Trump and Donald Duke, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Poland’s Jaroslav Kaczynski, France’s Marine Le Pen and many others too numerous to name. They all sprout the same dangerous dogma.

You cannot create memory that never was. My memory of bombed cities will never fade. My memories of refugee camps are forever. My memory of the Gestapo searching our home is indelible. Memories of concentration camps and of the evils of Fascism and Nazism belong to the few remaining survivors. Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion Posts are deserted, forlorn and closing and are no longer a political force. These memories are no longer current or of interest.

How do you veer away from this march to totalitarian madness? Frankly I do not have an answer except to sound the alarm and hope for the best. Perhaps the answer is to go out and buy a bottle of Tanqueray London Dry Gin and one of Rose’s Lime Juice, mix a couple of gimlets and play I Was Not a Nazi Polka once again.

Wednesday
Feb282018

JARED AND THE GOLDEN FLEECE

PUBLISHED PEĆAT [SERBIA] AND BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM] ON MARCH 2, 2018; PUBLISHED FEATURED ARTICLE EKURD DAILY [TURKEY IRAQ SYRIA] MARCH 4, 2018        

The ancient Greeks had a myth for all occasions and for all human temptations. We are all familiar with the lessons of Jason and the Argonauts and the search for the Golden Fleece, the myth of Phaethon and the Sun Chariot, the never-ending travails of Atlas and the soaring flight and spectacular fall of Icarus. Think of those ancient myths when pondering Jared Kushner’s future at the hands of the Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller.  

Last May I wrote that Jared Kushner’s education and training put the lie to the myth that his failure to disclose meetings with foreign officials including those with Russian Ambassador Kizlyar, Russian banker Goroka and Chinese insurance giant Anbang and many others, were inadvertent.  His education and training suggest that his actions were a series of felonies made with the intent to deceive and conceal. Jared Kushner is too smart to be stupid, so I called for his arrest and prosecution.

Since then many an angry and irrational tweet has rolled off Donald Trump’s stubby fingers requiring that I revisit Jared Kushner’s past, present and possible future.

To fully understand the Jared conundrum, you have to accept that he and Donald share deep character flaws. The first is genetic – they just ain’t that bright. Yes, they attended good schools – the University of Pennsylvania for Donald and Harvard for Jared – yet their admission was based on large donations and not SAT scores. I welcome the publication of Donald’s New York Military Academy academic transcript and his SAT scores and full disclosure of Charles and Seryl Kushner’s multi-million dollars gift to Harvard to support my argument. As for Jared, to lie on his SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions four time is proof positive of his innate stupidity. As for Donald, to openly boast of grabbing women by the pussy and sexually assaulting them, need I say more?

A more nuanced, existential flaw – the Curse of the Outer Boroughs – mars Donald and Jared’s psyches. This affliction is peculiar to the greater New York City area. In the 70’s and the 80’s it was known as a dismissive slight – you called people “BBQ’rs”, as in Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens. It’s an inferiority complex, a state of being where you never fit in.

Donald may have left Jamaica Queens, crossed the East River, rented a Manhattan apartment and embarked on bachelor-in-paradise odyssey. You would think that he would play the field with domestic contemporaries as female trophies. Not so, he gravitated towards the newly arrived Eurotrash crowd where he could dominate with his father’s money. His family was never accepted by the Manhattan establishment. His mother might have travelled by chauffeured Rolls Royce limousine, but her travels took her to Fred’s apartment house laundry rooms where she collected the tenant’s quarters.

Likewise, Jared Kushner fled the sterile wasteland of the Jersey suburbs, crossing the Hudson and landing on Manhattan’s fabled isle. But he arrived as the son of a convicted felon who had turned on his own kith and kin under intense lurid tabloid scrutiny. He bought his way into the graces of a rootless society of dubious morality led by Rupert Murdoch and his then wife Wendi. He bought Arthur Carter’s pink broadsheet The New York Observer using it as a bully pulpit to curry favor.

Jared and the Donald were never invited to join the right clubs, the Union League, the Union, the Colony or the Knickerbocker Club. The best they could do was to frequent pay-to-join joints, the Mar-a-Lago Club and Trump National Gold Club – Bedminster. The resentment must be galling to egos easily bruised.   

Donald and Jared share another character flaw, that of greed and avarice – let us grab Paris’ Golden Apple, seize the power and riches of the Golden Fleece. Donald had his greed and avarice curbed by bitter experience. His initial success with the old Commodore/new Hyatt Hotel was made possible by his father Fred’s money and political clout with an assist from Roy Cohn, the ultimate fixer but it was soon wrested away from him. His loss was followed by an unpreceded string of financial defeats: he lost control of the General Motors Building, then the Plaza Hotel, then the Trump Shuttle, then his interest in the Empire State Building, followed by the serial bankruptcies of his Atlantic City casinos and, lest we forget, his ouster from the far West Side Penn Central rail yard project. 

Today, Donald has to be satisfied with leasing his name, promoting his image and avoiding the pitfalls and risks of actually owning property, letting that risk to others, calling them “suckers”.

Jared has yet to learn that bitter lesson. His personal Waterloo is bound to be the fight for control and ownership of 666 Fifth Avenue. Jared bet the family farm when he bought the building in 2007 for the astronomical price of $1.8 billion dollars putting the family fortune at risk. He sold chunks of the building to keep it afloat yet the building is 25% empty and the $1.2 billion-dollar mortgage is due in a year’s time.

I am convinced that Jared’s clandestine meetings with the Russians, the Chinese, the Saudis, the Emirates and who knows who else were desperate attempts to leverage his position as Donald’s son-in-law and factotum plenipotentiary to arrange for financing for that soon to implode real estate investment.

I leave it to others to decide if this course of action violated the law. Last May I came to the conclusion that Jared was too smart to be stupid. I stand corrected. He is just too damn stupid to be smart.

Friday
Jan122018

THE SHITHEEL AND THOSE SHITHOLE COUNTRIES

 

Photo: Press Photograph Ku Klux Klan Parade 1926, Washington DC - Pennsylvania Avenue with Capitol in background - National Photo Company Collection, courtesy Library of Congress

Once again, I rise in partial defense of Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States. He is being excoriated for calling an end to the protection of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries and asking “Why do we want all these people from these ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” He is a rabid unrepentant racist and dead wrong in matching immigrants with countries from the Africa or black and brown like Haiti elsewhere.

This is nothing new, Trump has held that point of view for decades. By repeating it yet again he has donned the Ku Klux Klan’s hood and white robe and after tar and feathering should be burned at the stake for heresy. However, he cannot, and should not be faulted for calling a good number of African countries “shitholes”.

For the semantically challenged non-English speakers the definition of a “shitheel” is a “low, stupid, mean, dishonest, despicable person” as in “he’s so low that he’s like the heel of a shoe dragging in dog shit” which defines Donald Trump to a “T”. Trump is the epitome of a shitheel and he lives up to that name in every one of his tweets.

Likewise, a “shithole country” is defined as an “extremely, dirty, shabby, corrupt or otherwise unpleasant place”. There is no question that many of the countries on the African continent are just so – corrupt dictatorships with no future that people are desperate to flee. Calling them out should have been the duty of earlier Presidents.

However, President Trump’s use of the term “shithole countries” is fortuitous. To continue with manure metaphors, he stepped in shit and came up smelling like a rose for speaking the truth about the political reality of many of oppressive regimes. He experienced a stroke of good fortune even though he didn’t really know what he was doing.

The “shithole countries” of Africa are the makings of internationally powerful countries. In fact, they are now participating in making major new “shitholes” in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea as well as right across the Gulf of Aden in Yemen.

In Yemen, the Shia version of Islam, backed by Iran, is confronting the Sunni version backed by Saudi Arabia and supported by the U. S., the U. K. and France – the preordained outcome - yet another shithole country in the making.

As for the others and the historical legacy of failed international policy and nation building, I remind you of Liberia a country established in 1947 as home for America’s free blacks. It started decades long downwards spiral first with a coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, then Charles Taylor. Hit by the Ebola virus it still hasn’t recovered. In this hemisphere we have Haiti, if ever there was a failed state with its Papa and Baby Docs and would-be Docs.  

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Monday
Jan012018

SYRIA - A NATION BUILDING SYNDROME

PUBLISHED AS LEAD ARTICLE BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM] AND PEĆAT [SERBIA] ON JANUARY 1, 2018; PUBLISHED AS FEATURED ARTICLE EKURD DAILY [TURKEY IRAQ SYRIA] ON JANUARY 2, 2018    

Syria” is a country in distress. A “syndrome” is a bunch of symptoms pointing to a particular social condition, a disease or disorder that is debilitating and most often fatal. “Nation building”, the other words in the title, is a failed attempt to rebuild a once stable country that you and your meddling buddies have just laid waste to.  We keep getting the countries, the cause and the cure all wrong.

Two recent nation building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are ongoing without an end in sight. Nonetheless, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis just announced that “US diplomats and contractors … [will] … return to the war-torn Middle East country [Syria] as the focus turns to reconstruction and security.” It appears that the United States, still suffering from a “nation building syndrome” is about to launch another effort that is sure to fail.

Mattis said that “[w]hat we will be doing is shifting from what I call an offensive, shifting from an offensive terrain-seizing approach to a stabilizing [effort] … you’ll see more diplomats on the ground.” In order to nation build “[t]here is international money that has got to be administered, so it actually does something, it doesn’t go into the wrong people’s pockets”. Another cycle of using colonial solutions on a sullen, rebellious conquered population.    

I confess to a profound dislike of Jim Mattis. Any asshole who proudly sports a Rifle Expert Badge [4th Award] and a Pistol Expert Badge [2nd Award] among the multi colored chest candy on his dress uniform – I note none for valor - does not deserve much respect. His service in Afghanistan earned him a “nickname and call sign, ‘CHAOS’, an acronym for the ‘Colonel Has an Outstanding Solution’”, definitively a put down by the very troops he led. As to his efficacy as military commander, I note that American troops are still mired in that mess of a would-be country still under reconstruction.

I further resent that he, a retired Marine Corps General, a career military man, now occupies a post that should be manned by a civilian. He achieved that post with false intellectual camouflage - a poseur wearing battle fatigues with a copy of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations in hand preening for numerous photo opps for journalists and the gullible public. His supporters are forever boasting of his personal library of 7,000 “important” books at his command.

Mattis was studying Marcus Aurelius’ musings on of the use of brute military power in a pre-industrial revolution world when he should have been reading Graham Greene’s novels, his “entertainments”: The Confidential Agent, Our Man in Havana, The Human Factor, The Third Man, The Comedians, The Honorary Consul, studies in “the workings and intrigues of international politics” in today’s theatres of war, dictatorships, revolutions and social upheaval.

Before committing more troops, diplomats and money in Syria I urge Mattis to read The Quiet American, Graham Greene’s prescient allegory of failed nation building. Published in 1958, well before the start of America’s military adventure in Viet Nam, it details the futility of a colonial power’s efforts to alter the course of history in French Indochina 1951-1954. Greene was there as a war reporter for The Times and Le Figaro with a ringside seat to urban terror, civil war, political infighting, corruption, the monumental siege and defeat of the Battle for Dien Bien Phu, as well as the now forgotten insignificant skirmishes in the middle of nowhere.

Unlike Mattis’ one note military grooming, Graham Greene’s education was multi-disciplined – he was recruited to work undercover for MI6, the British spy agency and was posted to Sierra Leone and Africa’s West Coast during the Second World War. He was friends with and worked with Kim Philby, another secret agent who proved to be a Soviet spy. He played a small role in Fidel Castro’s revolution and overthrow of the Batista regime. He knew first-hand of Papa Doc’s reign of terror in Haiti as well as political assassinations and innocent civilian deaths in Saigon, French Indochina now Ho Chi Minh City, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The novel has unforgettable characters a great plot, a plot good enough for two major motion pictures. It is, however, Graham Greene’s platform, his megaphone to accurately predict the outcome of foreign intervention, the French defeat and retreat, and the ultimate outcome of America’s Vietnam War adventure and the arc of America’s foreign policy in Southeast Asia from the late 1950’s to the present.

Should Mattis read and take to heart the teachings of The Quiet American he would lobby the Trump administration to heed to its non-intervention campaign promises. He would confirm that Indochine/Vietnam intervention by France and the United States [1946-1976] ended in chaos and defeat, followed by 20 years of international quarantine and isolation. Left to their own devices, the Vietnamese initiated economic and political reforms and fully rejoined the international community and world economy. “Since 2000, Vietnam’s economic growth rate has been among the highest in the world, and, in 2011, it had the highest Global Growth Generators Index among 11 major economies.”  

Applying the Vietnam cure to the Syria mess Mattis should order a hands-off, non-intervention policy urging Russia, Iran, the Kurds, the Saudis, and for that matter anyone else, to back off and let the locals sort things out, no matter how messy the sausage making process proves to be. If you follow Mattis’ just announced cure you are courting another Afghanistan, a man and money eating, never ending nightmare.    

Thursday
Dec212017

ALAN DERSHOWITZ IS BEYOND HIS “PAST USE BY” DATE

Alan Dershowitz is a retired constitutional and criminal law professor who made his bones defending the likes of Mike Tyson, Patty Hearst, O. J. Simpson, Jim Bakker and Claus von Bülow. He is now gratuitously defending Donald Trump in the press and media.

Over decades he championed many a good cause, some I supported, others I did not. In the past, I had high regard for his legal acumen. As of now, I harbor doubts as to his mental state.

Appointed in 1967 at the age of 28, the youngest ever full professor at Harvard University Law School, he is now in the throes of dotage - the poster child for the proposition that old age may bring on senility. His recent comments on the controversies surrounding President Trump, his campaign and the current administration proves that he is well past his “due”, “use by” or “pay attention to” date.

Recently he made the following pronouncement: As a matter of law “sitting presidents cannot be indicted, prosecuted, or tried while serving in office”. Dershowitz further posits that before indicting a president he “must first be impeached and removed from office before … [being] … charged with a crime”.   

Taken at face value, his legal opinion insulates a sitting president from prosecution. Bullshit, says I! Should Donald Trump in a jealous rage kill Melania in the Oval Office, Dershowitz believes him immune from prosecution. Bullshit, I repeat!  

The murder would be in violation of Title 18 United States Code 1111 [Murder] and/or ¶22-2201 District of Columbia Code [Murder in the First Degree]. Trump would be arrested, indicted and tried. To suggest that President Trump would first have to be impeached and removed from office is patently ridiculous on its face.

The impeachment provision of the United States Constitution provides for the removal from office of a sitting president and other high federal officials. It does not speak to the prosecution for crimes committed while in or before assuming office.

The same should hold true for any crime committed by a sitting president. To claim otherwise would bring us back to a “l’état, c’est mois” rule, certainly not a democracy where all are equal before the law.

 

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