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.







United Kingdom release poster ■ Entertainment One ■ Staring & directed as noted ■ 2015

While a guest on Long Island’s North Fork I casually picked up Suite Française, a novel by Irène Némirovsky, my hostess’s current read, a paperback with a handsome Humphrey Bogart-Casablanca flavored World War II cover that had caught my eye.

As the back page of the dust jacket advertises Suite Française, like Casablanca, made it to silver screen complete with strafing Messerschmitt fighters, dashing Wehrmacht officers in dress uniforms, a soupçon of the Résistance to be and the tragedy of the loss of love in time of war, playing out in the beautiful, bucolic, romantic country side of Normandy.   

What caught my attention was that the novel, a romance of some sort, “chick lit” if you will, had an Appendix. Not one, but two. I was reading the Appendix at page 177 when the very first paragraph on the page caught my eye:

“The French grew tired of the Republic, as if she were an old wife. For them, the dictatorship was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not to kill her. Now they realize she’s dead. Their Republic. Their freedom. They’re mourning her.”

I thought of that day’s dinner conversation, about the present state of affairs with Donald Trump the President of these United States. In my mind, I altered Ms. Némirovsky’s paragraph to read:

“Americans grew tired of democracy, as if she were an old wife. For them, the Trump Presidency was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not to kill her. Now they realize that she’s dead. Their democracy. Their freedom. They’re mourning her.”

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In 1957 Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav dissident called the victorious post war communist elite the “new ruling class” and predicted that Communism’s eventual demise would be caused by it and its excesses. For that he was muzzled, silenced and jailed. In 1989 while predicting the disintegration and destruction of Yugoslavia he declared that economic “centralization will not succeed because it will run up against the ethnic-political power bases in the republics. This is not classical nationalism but a more dangerous, bureaucratic nationalism built on economic self-interest.”

Change Milovan Djilas’ “centralization” to “globalization”, “ethnic power” to “racist xenophobia” and you have our current state of affairs and predicament. The collapse that he predicted for socialist Yugoslavia came to pass in a bloody mess. Today the United States and the European Union, once democratic republics, are besieged by a far left and ultra-right coalition and in danger of becoming dictatorships.   

His prescient world view holds true. Yugoslavia in the 1940’s and 50’s experienced a transformation from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing one without regard to social and economic consequences and long term costs. The United States and the European Union have recently experienced a like change. The two have gone from labor intense manufacturing economies to a service and technology oriented ones with a major loss of jobs and job security. The result has been the elimination of the middle class with the control of power, political and economic, vested in corporate vested interests and the rich one percent.    

Djilas’ second catch word was “nationalism”. Nationalism for Yugoslavia was a word that had many definitions: it spoke to ethnicity as in Serbs, Croats and Slovenes; it spoke to racism as in Slavs, Albanians and Gypsies; it spoke to religious intolerance as in Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim; it spoke to culture and politics - the West for the Croats, Russia for the Serbs and Medina for the Muslims. It was nationalism writ small, no better than base tribalism.

The United States, the land of immigrants, has nationalism geographically defined by a 2,000-mile wall on its southern border, Presidential Executive Orders declaring Muslims persona non-grata and Mexicans rapists and criminals. Racism was front and center in the 2016 United States Presidential election with David Duke of the Ku Klux Klan running for office and African-Americans hectored to vote lest “a racist is going to be president” responding with a “Really? Again?”

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Guy Wildenstein at the Courthouse Paris [Eric Feferberg/APF/Getty Images]

“The rich are” - you don’t have to add Scott Fitzgerald’s words to make the point. Laws and rules are different for the likes of them when it comes to crime. Last July, I wrote about crime in the genteel, well-mannered world of art - forgery, money laundering, tax evasion and the like [“Art Crime Death and Taxes”]. Million dollar felonies by millionaires became mere accounting errors punished by the filing of amended tax returns and the payment of taxes due, without interest or penalties. Nice work if you can get it.

The lead case then pending was France’s $600 million tax evasion prosecution of Guy Wildenstein, his family, their bankers and retainers which had been ongoing since 2013. A blanket of silence had obscured the proceedings since that January and “[m]y inquiries about the resolution of the l’Affaire Wildenstein were met with stone silence.”

I believed and wrote that the prosecution would end with a whimper; the French authorities would apply liberté, égalité, fraternité, leavened with an ample dose of “the rich are”, and drop the charges. After all, Guy Wildenstein is one of the elite, a friend of President Sarkozy, a member of the Assembly of French Citizens Abroad, a Chevalier of the Légion D’honeur, a wealthy man, not a man likely to do time.

Last October I was gobsmacked to read that the prosecutor was asking France’s High Court for Financial Crimes to find Guy Wildenstein guilty of tax evasion and money laundering, sentencing him to four years in prison – with two years suspended – and fining him $275 million dollars.

I thought, finally France has declared open season on tax evasion by the rich and famous, justice will prevail. I started drafting a new conclusion to my article. Not so fast.

Last Thursday the French court applying a reverse variation of noblesse oblige acquitted M. Wildenstein and company of all criminal charges. Olivier Géron, the Presiding Judge read the court’s decision acquitting Guy, his family and retainers even though he found the judgment “defies common sense” and was contrary to the “clear intention [of the defendants] to conceal their wealth across generations”.

In other words, they are guilty as sin, they meant to do the crime but won’t have to do the time, proving once again that the rich are.   






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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