In lecture titled “Misuse of history”, highly regarded professor from University of Belgrade, DubravkaStojanović closed one of her topics stating: “Then the war was produced.” and exactly that statement summarized the whole history of human conflicts into its essence. On the contrary to what popular media broadcast, in modern history not a single conflict has occurred all of a sudden even though there is constant tendency to assure public that certain event has triggered a chain of reactions. However, there is long and careful process of spreading propaganda, manufacturing consent and changing context of history in order to initiate and catalyse a conflict. That process might be referred to as designing a war.
Through past century, the history has been used as experimental science for preparing people for future conflicts. It was always necessary to change the past by all possible means in order to change the present. When it comes to area of Former Yugoslavia, propaganda has started years before actual conflicts. For years, intellectual elite of Yugoslavia, led by historians, was publishing articles with alternative history, discussed and developed new biased historical context during television debates and changed textbooks in order to prepare children for continuity of hatred. What is more, change of context of history was essential in order to explain the war. Such policy contained many examples of proof by assertions or commonly known as proverb that lie told long enough becomes the truth.
But why is changing of historical context necessary? A comprehensive understanding of conflicts between large groups must always include a psychological dimension. If we recall cases of conflicts in last century or even further in past, we won’t stumble upon a single event presented as aggression or invasion by leading military countries. There was no Russian invasion of Afghanistan, but rather Russian defence of Afghanistan; nor there was United States’ invasion of South Vietnam, El Salvador, etc. False representation went so far that concentration camps, surrounded by barbed wire and guarded with armed soldiers, were called “strategic villages”. War propaganda was advanced to that extent that even Orwell himself would be surprised. Yet, one of the main aims of war propaganda is self-victimization which Stojanović defined as crucial moment of history. Through self-victimization we create notion of political indulgencewhich liberates political future for further conducts. If public is presented as victim, then people are easily pushed into conflicts. Therefore, no matter which historical point of view we take, our nation never did anything wrong and every war is self-liberating and defending one.
Process of self-victimization has also taken place prior to Yugoslavian war, placing burden of aggression upon previous conflicts, going back to WWII, during Independent State of Croatia or even during Ottoman occupation. So, when it came to rising tendencies in 90s, the ultimate justification and unique explanation of the war have already been prepared. The history without responsibility was created and there was no doubt in just cause.A striking example of this is the behaviour of Slobodan Milošević’s reactivating the Serbs’ chosen trauma of the memory of the Battle of Kosovo (June 28, 1389).
After relatively brief description of designing a war, the following issue is related to aftermath. What happens after the war was produced? In order to again establish priority of human needs, we tend to create mentionedchosen trauma. The concept of chosen trauma is closely related to process of self-victimization and selective belief; and is often used as ground for further conflicts and political ideologies.According to Vamik, the term chosen trauma accurately reflects a large group’s unconscious “choice” to add a past generation’s mental representation of a shared event to its own identity. The chosen trauma makes thousands and millions of people designated – „chosen“ – to be linked together through their shared mental representation of that trauma. One of the most important parts of any reconciliation is overcoming chosen trauma and establishing a relevant truth. We might choose to endlessly accumulate pain, and scream for vengeance, or we might accept the loss, re-humanize the enemy and establish justice by provoking responsibility rather than guilt. Reconciliation can occur only in true peace, which is not mere absence of conflict but presence of genuine justice.
The importance of this text lies in understanding that every war is designed upon weaknesses of certain society, most commonly based on chosen trauma. Every single nation is carrying burden of history on its backs and observes a world through prism of preceding conflicts, innocent victims and undeserved suffering. Yet, every new conflict is step toward the abyss of humanity within nation. And people are not the ones to be blamed. Each war is part of grand design by intellectual and political elite of the nations, and by words of D. Eisenhower, every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.