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.




May 16, 2014 will mark the 2nd anniversary of General Ratko Mladić’s ongoing trial to be followed by the 3rd anniversary of his arrest and transfer to The Hague on June 3, 2014. 

The true hallmarks of justice are a fair and speedy trial before an impartial judge by a jury of one’s peers. Well you ain’t going to get that in The Hague.

At the end of World War II the Allies settled scores and meted out justice. They did so “without undue delay”. The Nuremberg Trials took less than 1 year [November, 1945-October, 1946]. An additional set of war crimes trials, 12 to be exact [“The High Command Trial”, “The Krupp Trial”, “The IG Farben Trial”, “The Einsatzgruppen Trial” etc.] took less than 3 years ending in April, 1949.

By comparison the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the ICTY, established on May 25, 1993 by Security Council Resolution 827 will mark its 21st year on this month. The ICTY has only judges, some of dubious impartiality, and it surely ain’t got no juries.  

 Mladić was arrested and the media made him the world’s Monster

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This column is a purely personal view of events as I had no dog in that fight [the disintegration of ex-Yugoslavia]. The only allegiance I had in the events was to Bosco Radonjic, a long standing friend and client. See “Requiem for a Don”. The attorney/client privilege was extinguished upon his death on March 11, 2011.

I am moving offices next week. This is called downsizing these days and you throw out a lot of outdated stuff, old computer keyboards, dead mice, floppy disks that can no longer be read and cables that connect devices that time has passed by. There is also a lot of shit to shred, years of income tax returns no longer relevant, the statute of limitations has run, old cases settled long ago when I came across a thin blue file folder simply entitled “Carter”.

The blue file folder stood out like a sore thumb among the many tan legal folders I used practicing law. I opened it. It held but seven pieces of paper all dated September/October, 1994, almost twenty years ago, but these flimsy pieces of paper triggered memories.

History records that former President Jimmy Carter as a private citizen traveled to Sarajevo, Bosnia & Hercegovina in December, 1994 in an effort to bring peace and an end to the Bosnian War. The Carter Center notes that “[following extensive discussions with the White House and UN officials, and after a briefing at The Carter Center by representatives of the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the US State Department, President Carter sought approval from President Clinton to travel to Bosnia Herzegovina. His trip was approved, and the Clinton administration made arrangements for the Carter Center party to be transported by military plane from Germany to Zagreb, Croatia, and then by UN plane to Sarajevo.” Carter was “successful in brokering terms that resulted in a four month cease-fire agreement and a pledge to resume peace talks.”

What prompted Jimmy Carter to travel to Bosnia?

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“I am going to kill you for having joined Al Qaeda. While you are a citizen of the United States I wish to assure you that your death by drone is justifiable and perfectly legal but I will not tell you how or why.”

President Barack Obama’s message to Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born Yemeni imam in April, 2010, killed by an American drone strike on September 30, 2011 

Instead of addressing the lawfulness of the targeted killing of American citizens without due process of law or judicial oversight a federal appeals court has ruled this week that the Obama administration must disclose the legal justification for this unprecedented use of executive power.

It seems that the “why” is more important that the “what”. We are now debating the criteria for political assassinations and not the killings in violation of existing prohibitions against such actions.

“For years the Obama administration has been playing a self-serving and duplicitous game over its power to kill people away from any battlefield and without judicial oversight or accountability.” It has manipulated public opinion by making public statements that beg the issue. The administration will now have to come clean and make public the rationale purportedly authorizing “lawful” assassinations. The genie will be out of the bottle and countries will use the same arguments to justify their own justifiable and “lawful” murders.   

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Back in 1985 I was having dinner in a Japanese restaurant near New York’s Lincoln Center with my two teenage daughters back when they braced me with a question “Hey Dad, what does ‘Hey Babu Riba’ mean in Serbian?”. I sat there, a bump on a log, while I booted up my rudimentary dormant Serbian language skills. A quick scan of the vocabulary contents yielded that “hey” was the universal, good in any language call for attention; that “babu” was a variation, probably a corruption of “baba”, an old lady, a grandmother and that “riba” was “riba”  as in fish, after all we were eating sushi and that’s what was my translation.

I asked what had prompted the question and was told that they had noticed the phrase on a theater marquee for a movie then playing, a Yugoslav movie. Remember this was 1985 and Yugoslavia was alive and well, as well as can be under the circumstances. For me a Yugoslav movie playing in a legitimate theatre in New York was a first. In the 35 years that I had then lived in New York not once did I have a chance to see a Yugoslav film.

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The Litchfield County Times has covered the ongoing confrontation between United States lead NATO and Russia, the “invasion” of Crimea, the referendum on secession and its subsequent annexation; the ongoing unrest in the region with pro-Russian elements seeking control over territory formerly an integral part of the Ukraine. NATO is now threatening to deploy some 40,000 ground forces, including US soldiers, to Eastern European countries bordering Russia.

A speech by Thomas Graham, a managing director of Kissinger Associates, said to be an expert on Russia, was featured in an article in the Times last week. His comments and views as a former Presidential special assistant and National Security Council director were fully covered and need not be repeated except to note that he does not address the issue of a possible military response or fallout from economic sanctions.

The Times also published an interview last month with Gregory Feifer, another Russian expert and the author of “Russians: The People Behind the Power”. Mr. Feifer spoke of his observations of Russia and the course of events, historical, political and economic which have led to the present confrontation but categorically states that military action “is off the table”.

With this I agree, but as a casual observer of events without expertise I feel obliged to comment. 

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