13 Years after the NATO Aggression on Serbia - Why history reapeats itself?

by Ana Tsivdari 
The 13th anniversary of the NATO aggression on our country. This time, every year, some of us remember...Even if we wish to forget, it is almost impossible, since the history has a particularly annoying way of repeating itself and few people actually learn from the past and the mistakes of others. So, only if one is deaf, mute and blind these days, it is possible not to be reminded of our own sad past, or not to get angry that it is happening over and over again.

This time, I'm not going to give facts about the pretext for the bombing or the number of targets hit by the bombs, or the number of victims it resulted in, or the sad reality of our country after the bombing. You can find those facts here.

I recently had a conversation with a new friend from Syria, who told me that he, like so many others, have believed the lies he was told by the media about the situation in Yugoslavia, prior to the bombing. 
He believed it, until he saw for himself how the Western media war machine was able to distort the image of his country to serve the imperialistic pretensions of some member states of NATO. 

So, I've decided to try and find out why is it that we are able to believe the worst about others, but once we are targeted, we expect the others to believe our claims of innocence. 
If the method is the same, if the aggressors are the same, if the key words used to move the audience are same, if there is a geo-strategic interest of the NATO countries at stake, if the country that is behind the distorting glass of the media hasn't attacked another country, if it is apparent that regime change is one of the goals - can we not remember the multitude of times this pattern was used in the past? 
Why is our memory so short? 
Why is our empathy conditioned? 
Are we so enslaved by our preconceptions that we are able to empathize only with those who are "safe"?

When I say "safe", I mean those cases when we are not forced to re-evaluate the preconceptions that were engraved in us over the years, or fed to us with our mothers’ milk.
Per example - America and Israel are threatening Iran because of its alleged intention and capacity to build a nuclear bomb. 

Both of those countries are in possession of such a weapon, and America has already used it on another country, but still they use every media trick possible to discredit the government of Iran, to present them as the greatest danger to the World today. 
The irony is obvious I think...
Now, I have my negative preconceptions about Iran due to its involvement in the Bosnian civil war, where they armed the Muslim side and sent mujahedins to fight against Serbs. 

But should I allow these to guide my opinion on whether the ongoing media and potential military campaign against it are justified? No, because the point is not whether Iran is the good guy or the bad guy in my experience, but the fact that there is clearly a double standard in regards to who is allowed to possess and control the possession of such weapons. One fine example of how preconceptions affect our ability for empathy:
"It must have been late 1941 or early 1942. Jews were required to wear the Star of David and to obey a 6 p.m. curfew. I had gone to play with a Christian friend and had stayed too late. I turned my brown sweater inside out to walk the few blocks home. As I was walking down an empty street, I saw a German soldier approaching. He was wearing the black uniform that I had been told to fear more than others – the one worn by specially recruited SS soldiers. As I came closer to him, trying to walk fast, I noticed that he was looking at me intently. Then he beckoned me over, picked me up, and hugged me. I was terrified that he would notice the star inside my sweater. He was speaking to me with great emotion, in German. When he put me down, he opened his wallet, showed me a picture of a boy, and gave me some money. I went home more certain than ever that my mother was right: people were endlessly complicated and interesting (Kahneman, 2003, p. 417)." [5]

Another sovereign country was attacked last year under false pretext, its infrastructure destroyed, former government replaced with a more plausible, transitional one, over 60.000 people killed, national cohesion forever disturbed and bases for a free market economy firmly in place. 

The only difference in a way the NATO action was imposed was that this time the war machine, well oiled by the PR agencies, false reports from human rights organizations and social networks, was authorized by the United Nations Security Council

As I write this, there are still attempts to destabilize Syria, even though a large scale  military action was avoided due to the Russia's and China's positions
Israel and America are threatening to attack Iran because of its alleged intentions to build a nuclear weapon ( the same restrictions obviously don't apply to Israel, America, France...) and I wonder why the public always falls for the same tricks? 

Could we say it is the gullibility, ignorance, naiveté, indifference and malevolence that best describe the masses? 
The Greek philosopher Bias of Priene (Βίας ο Πριηνεὺς) said:"πλείστοι {άνθρωποι} κακοί", which could be translated as "most people are bad"
This phrase, either we interpret the "most" literally or as "masses of people", "people in large groups"... has the potential to demolish the foundations of democracy, or any other ideology, for that matter.. 

What is the fine line between the mass and the mob? 
If most of us are bad, did we bring this on us? 
Do we live the life we deserve? 
Can we speak of the collective responsibility or play the individuality card to resolve ourselves of it? 

There is also a famous Roman proverb to attest the nature of men:"homo homini lupus", meaning: "man is a wolf to [his fellow] man.". We must concede that is not always a case, cause humans are obviously able to enjoy periods of peace and cooperation either for greater good, or a common interest, so it seams this animosity is conditional, or should I say potential- "man is a potential wolf to his fellow man". 

It is clear that conflicts can be controlled if one deciphers the key code that is able to lock and unlock the "potential" animosity in man, and consequently in society, and conditions that keep it tamed. 

Are all our acts motivated by selfishness? 
Looking up on the Internet for some opinions, I stumbled upon one interesting answer:
"As all beings are selfish, why is has the word become such a pejorative? Why should we overcome selfishness? Selfishness is to have a chief concern for one's own interest. Any other addendum towards defining selfishness is just hyperbole, matters of opinion. To say we have a chief concern for ones own interest especially with disregard to others it to contradict the meaning. Our dependency on others is self evident and to show disregard for others is not in one's best interest. Selfishness is a virtue and not a sin, it is the very point in having a point of view. If you don't look out for your own interests then who will? Why should somebody else be a better judge of what's in your best interest, and how can we be sure his judgment of your selfish behavior isn't motivated by his own selfish nature? Be selfish, I say! Be who you are, look after yourself and always be your self." 

Why do I find this interesting? Because it argues that to act in our own interest doesn't mean having disregard for others. But for this to be true, one has to presume that:
a) People are well informed,
b) People know what's in their best interest,
c) People know how their actions affect other people,
d) People are aware that there is bound to be retribution when they disregard other people.

The thing is:
- most people are not well informed or they are deliberately misguided by the mass media,
- therefore they can not always comprehend what's in their best interest in the  long run,
- they tend to believe their actions are in other people's interest, even though it doesn't seam that way to the objects of their actions,
 - they often are totally unaware of the possibility of retribution by the people whose interests were disregarded.

But even in cases where all three of these presumptions are covered, what happens when there is a conflict of interests and what happens on a collective level, considering the fact that most systems that call themselves "representative" are anything but? 

According to the Game Theory there are four types of possible behavior directly impacting the welfare of the actors: selfishness, altruism, spite, and cooperation. 
Selfishness is harming someone else in order to help oneself; 
Altruism is harming oneself in order to help someone else; 
Spite is harming oneself in order to harm someone else; 
Cooperation is helping someone else and also helping oneself.

From an evolutionist perspective, nicely articulated by Elliot Sober and Robert Frank, three conditions must be met for compassion to evolve, for the emergence of human action that enhances the welfare of others at the expense of self-interest. A first is what I’ll call the principle of cost-benefit reversal. One constraint upon giving is the cost of helping. When these costs exceed the benefits of giving, we hold back. For compassion to emerge, there must be some mechanism that overwhelms self-interest, one that puts our own desire, pleasures, and pains on the back burner so to speak, and that prioritizes the needs of others. This process must transform others’ gains into one’s own and endow the act of helping with intrinsic pleasure.

The evolution of compassion is further enabled by the principle of contagious cooperation. Cooperative people are exploited in competitive contexts; nice guys do finish last in certain situations. Kind individuals do better if they were able to evoke goodness in others, and pursue cooperative strategies in more cooperative contexts. To the extent that compassion evokes beneficent responses in others, it should flourish. 

In a related vein, compassion is more likely to emerge when people can reliably identify good-natured people – the principle of reliable identification. Good-natured people fare better (and are more likely to pass on their genes) when they can find other good-natured individuals. This hinges on the ability to identify goodness in others, and, by implication, that compassion (and other virtues) will have reliable physical signs detectable by the ordinary eye. [4]

So, to conclude, the three conditions required for compassion to evolve are:
1) the principle of cost-benefit reversal.
2) the principle of contagious cooperation
3) the principle of reliable identification.

Studies have also shown that there is a strong biological basis for compassion. 
Apparently there is a circuit in the brain triggered by objects of compassion -- infants, harm -- that is old, fast, and associated with feelings of pleasure. 
Pictures of our own babies trigger unique regional activation in the brain that differs from the pictures of other infants than our own. 
The perceptual regions of the brain are finely attuned to the first objects of our compassion – our offspring. And in other studies, graphic scenarios depicting harm to others activate in similar regions of the brain, suggesting that more general portrayals of harm activate regions of the brain that trigger emotion and action. [4]

More about the use of children for propaganda purposes here

Governments, both in their internal and foreign policies, mostly represent the interests of the economic elite, rather than interests of its citizens, and consequently the interests of the former often comes at expense of the lives of the later, because it's usually the interests of the elite that lead to the military interventions in the first place. 
However, since in the so called "representative democracies" one can not lead wars without a majority of the public opinion being convinced it's a good idea, they spread PROPAGANDA trough privately owned media, PR agencies and NGO's to convince people that the war is necessary and unavoidable.
                         A German documentary- It started with a Lie - NATO Aggression against Serbia 1999 Part 1

We felt the power of propaganda during the secessions of Bosnia and Croatia, and later before the NATO aggression on our country, when former Yugoslav republics hired a public relations company Rudder & Finn to mobilize the public opinion in the West in favor of their employers, while depicting the Serbs as an aggressor, comparing us to the Nazis and linking terms such as "ethnic cleansing" and "genocide" with us forever in the minds of poorly informed western public, who wouldn't even know where Yugoslavia was if it weren't for their media campaign. 

                                      It started with a Lie - NATO Aggression against Serbia 1999 Part 2

 Here is an excerpt of an interview by Mr. James Harff 
(director of Rudder &Finn Global Public Affairs) given to the French journalist Mr. Jacques Merlino, in October 1993 [1]

Harrf: For 18 months, we have been working for the Republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as for the opposition in Kosovo. Throughout this period, we had many successes, giving us a formidable international image. We intend to make advantage of this and develop commercial agreements with these countries. Speed is vital, because items favourable to us must be settled in public opinion. THE FIRST STATEMENT COUNTS. The retractions have no effect.

Question: What are your methods of operation?
Harff: The essential tools in our work are a card file, a computer, and a fax. The card file contains a few hundred names of journalists, politicians, academicians, and representatives of humanitarian organizations. The computer goes through the card files according to correlated subjects, coming up with very effective targets.

The computer is tied into a fax. In this way, we can disseminate information in a few minutes to those we think will react (positively). Our job is to assure that the arguments for our side will be the first to be expressed.

Question: How often do you intervene?
Harff: Quantity is not important. You have to intervene at the right time with the right person... 

Question: What achievement were you most proud of?
Harff: To have managed to put Jewish opinion on our side. This was a sensitive matter, as the dossier was dangerous looked from this angle. President Tudjman [Croatia] was very careless in his book "Wastelands of Historical Reality". Reading his writings, one could accuse him of of anti-Semitism.

In Bosnia, the situation was no better: President Izetbegovic strongly supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in his book "The Islamic Declaration". Besides, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by a real and cruel anti-Semitism. 
Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps. So there was every reason for intellectuals and Jewish organizations to be hostile towards the Croats and Bosnians. Our challenge was to reverse this attitude. And we succeeded masterfully.

At the beginning of August 1992, the New York Newsday came out with the affair of (Serb) concentration camps. We jumped at the opportunity immediately. We outwitted three big Jewish organizations - B'Nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress. We suggested to them to publish an advertisement in the New York Times and to organize demonstrations outside the U.N.

This was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the (Muslim) Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind.

Nobody understood what was happening in Yugoslavia. The great majority of Americans were probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was situated. But, by a single move, we were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad guys, which would hereafter play itself.

We won by targeting Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear change of language in the press, with the use of words with high emotional content, such as "ethnic cleansing", "concentration camps", etc. which evoked images of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The emotional charge was so powerful that nobody could go against it.

Question: But when you did all of this, you had no proof that what you said was true. You only had the article in Newsday!
Harff: Our work is not to verify information. We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the circulation of information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in Bosnia, we just made it known that Newsday affirmed it.

Question: Are you aware that you took on a grave responsibility?
Harff: We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. WE ARE NOT PAID TO BE MORAL.

                                               It started with a Lie - NATO Aggression against Serbia 1999 Part 3

After reading this and watching the videos that I have posted above, it should be clear to all of us that human nature is no mystery to people who are paid to sell the war trough media. They know just when and what images to show to invoke the compassion in people and how to mobilize the mass support for their chosen cause, or anger against their chosen enemy. 
If you look carefully, you will see that every major media project that precedes military interventions or sending "peace keeping" troops to some far away country, is based on some or all the principles we have presented above. One fine example is the latest epidemic spread of support for KONY 2012 project.

"If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience." George Bernard Shaw

Read also:
CNN - The CIA's News Network? The propaganda group was involved in the Gulf war, the Bosnian war and the crisis in Kosovo 

[1] http://www.srpska-mreza.com/library/facts/pr-wars.html 
[2] http://plsullivan.web.unc.edu/files/2011/09/Sullivan_JPR_46_5_707.pdf
[3]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations#2000.E2.80.932009
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman

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