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



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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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.    



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.




Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Public Law 88 - 352

Every so often something happens that makes people take notice of misogyny, sex discrimination and sexual abuse. For a brief moment this abuse becomes a cause célèbre. The will to do the right thing prevails, laws are passed, perpetrators punished, damages paid and amends made. Then things go back to normal - men go back to abusing women with impunity.

Things in the United States are now at such a tipping point. It started with the firing of Roger Ailes and his precipitous fall from grace as head of Fox News. He was soon followed by Bill O’Reilly’s demise as star television anchor after disclosure that he had settled a sexual harassment suit for $32 million dollars. Then in quick succession came movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, United States Senator Al Franken’s resignation-to-be and a bevy of Congressmen John Conyers’, Matt Dababneh’s, Trent Franks’, Blake Farenhold’s actual resignations, including Dan Johnson’s self-inflicted by gunshot suicide.

Throw into the mix Donald Trump, a sitting President, Roy Moore, a political candidate for Senate, Louis C. K., a comedian, a brace of television pundits, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, a couple of high profile restaurateurs, Mario Batali and Brett Ratner, Silicon Valley honchos – the list keeps growing by the day and seems never ending.

You would think that this would be the moment that marks the end of misogyny and abuse. Think again, don’t hold your breath. Things will soon revert back to normal until religion is made to toe the line, address the problem and finally treat women as man’s equal, make Title IX of the Civil Right Act of 1964 applicable to religion, as a matter of conscience not of law.

This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine tried to answer the “How did we get here?” and “Can work place culture really be changed?” questions. A number of women tried to answer and suggest a way forward. They failed because they did not address the underlying, cultural root cause of the problem, religion.       

The world’s major religions were invented by men with women, by design or chance, minimalized. Judaism, today a minor religion, was devised by God, a father figure, with Adam in the lead role and Eve, the ingenue distraction, playing a second fiddle. The Old Testament is replete with instances of blatant misogyny, if not abject slavery – Exodus declares a woman the property of her father, with marriage transferring title to the husband to do as he sees fit. So, what’s new?  

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It’s curtains for Slobodan Preljak, the Croatian General convicted of war crimes. He’s done dead, committing suicide by publicly drinking poison during an open court session last week. It’s also curtains for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [“ICTY”], a court of dubious validity. The suicide took place as that Court was reading its very last judgment before expiring, now scheduled for December 31, 2017. A fitting end for an ill-begotten exercise in selective prosecution designed to salve the conscience of forces that instigated and facilitated the breakup of Yugoslavia, once a nation state member of the United Nations. Good-by and good riddance.    

War is a messy business, a business that deals in death and destruction. The wars that tore former Yugoslavia asunder were no exception. The ethnic parties to the wars, the Serbs, the Croats, the Bosniaks, were all guilty of war crimes. By definition war is a crime. The only issue that needs be addressed is magnitude – culpability is a foregone conclusion, with only identification, arrest, conviction and sentence left to be determined.        

The Bosnian Wars resulted in the reported deaths of more than 104,000 soldiers and civilians, some say 200,000, including 12,000 children. At least an additional 137,000 people, some say more, were wounded and maimed. An estimated 20,000 women, some say 50,000, were raped or otherwise sexually abused. An estimated 2,200,000 of the populations of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia were forced to “flee their homes, making it the largest displacement of people in Europe since the end of World War II”, abandoning and losing their homes, lands and possessions. The financial costs of the war in cost of munitions and military hardware, destruction of property, lost economic opportunity and cost of reconstruction is in the billions of dollars.

Yet for all that mayhem and havoc the ICTY, established by a resolution of the United Nations’ Security Council, in the 25 years of its existence has indicted only 161 individuals, prosecuting and convicting some but not all. The political elite of the warring republics was never indicted except for the Serbs - Karadzic, Milosevic, Krajisnik, Plavsic and Seselj - while noticeably absent without leave were the Croats and Bosniaks - Izetbegovic and Trudjman.

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