In an article Truthful Observer printed earlier this month, reflecting on the conundrum of Ukraine, John Feffer pertinently asks the query, “when will the remainder of us study the teachings of Bosnia?” Delicate to the complexity of historical past, he properly speaks of “classes” within the plural. It however leaves us questioning why he chooses to attract just one lesson from Bosnia’s tragedy, which additionally occurs to be the tragedy of the previous nation referred to as Yugoslavia, and past that, of Europe itself.

Feffer is totally proper to note a parallel between Bosnia and Ukraine in the present day. However why cease at just one? Describing his response at that second in historical past, Feffer recounts that he “roundly criticized the knee-jerk ‘pro-Serbian’ analyses of some leftists who parroted the propaganda of strongman Slobodan Milošević’s authorities simply as naïve leftists unwittingly comply with Kremlin speaking factors on Ukraine in the present day.”

Feffer makes no clear case to justify his characterization of leftists as naïve, nor does he clarify why those self same leftists “comply with” reasonably than merely occur to share what he calls “Kremlin speaking factors.” His shortcut shouldn’t shock us. That imagined connection has grow to be a fixture of the pervasive “Russiagate tradition” that has contaminated a lot of US media since Donald Trump’s election in 2016. It depends on accepting a pseudo-logical rule that if two individuals present the identical evaluation of any political scenario, one should be echoing the opposite or, worse, be programmed by it. That form of guilt by coincidental settlement and “associative xenophobia” are well-known signs of a deep-seated pathological pattern in the direction of binary considering on the core of US tradition. It systematically seeks to polarize each distinction of opinion or perspective.


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An astute reader, inquisitive about logic and semantics, may even ask what it actually means to “unwittingly comply with.” In the event you don’t know you’re following somebody, can it actually be referred to as following? In evoking the “naïve leftists,” Feffer himself appears to be following the often-cited thought of “helpful idiots,” a phrase historically attributed to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Within the previous sentence, I used the verb “to be following” within the strictly chronological sense. It signifies that one occasion occurred later in time (Lenin’s phrase got here earlier than Feffer’s evocation of it). It doesn’t essentially indicate that the second occasion relied on, was impressed by and even linked to the preliminary occasion for its formulation. Propaganda typically exploits this ambiguity of the verb comply with that confuses its chronological and causal sense.

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Evaluating totally different classes

Feffer’s article clearly explains the lesson he claims to have realized from the historical past of Bosnia. However different observers, not essentially “naïve leftists,” have taken away very totally different classes. It may also be instructive to contemplate these when trying to decipher the modern scenario in Ukraine.

The perfect place to begin can be the letter Sir Alfred Sherman, an adviser to Margaret Thatcher, despatched to the UK Prime Minister. That is how he summed up the Bosnian struggle for Mrs Thatcher:

“The struggle in Bosnia was America’s struggle in each sense of the phrase. The US administration helped begin it, stored it going, and prevented its early finish. Certainly all of the indications are that it intends to proceed the struggle within the close to future, as quickly as its Moslem proteges are absolutely armed and educated. The way it did so is frequent information. Why it did so, and the implications for American protection and overseas coverage typically stay to be elucidated.”

Feffer may have used the chance to satisfy Sherman’s want and elucidate American coverage then and now. However that is likely one of the classes Feffer prefers to go away to others, maybe to naïve leftists who seem, paradoxically, to be “following” the right-wing Alfred Sherman’s speaking factors.


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Then there’s the evaluation of Sean Gervasi, considered one of John F Kennedy’s financial advisers, who wrote a e-book with the title, NATO within the Balkans. In it he explains the basic logic of your entire Yugoslavian drama.

These powers fastidiously deliberate, ready and assisted the secessions which broke Yugoslavia aside. And so they did virtually the whole lot of their energy to develop and extend the civil wars which started in Croatia after which continued in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They have been concerned behind the scenes at each stage of the disaster. International intervention was designed to create exactly the conflicts which the Western powers decried. For in addition they conveniently served as an excuse for overt intervention as soon as civil wars have been below method. Such concepts are, in fact, anathema in Western international locations. That’s solely as a result of the general public within the West has been systematically misinformed by struggle propaganda. It accepted virtually from the start the model of occasions promulgated by governments and disseminated via the mass media.

Can any open-minded reader of those strains in the present day not see doable parallels with the scenario in Ukraine? This may be value debating, however it seems that there aren’t many individuals within the West in the present day curious sufficient to publicly interact in such a debate. Gervasi’s remark in regards to the function of the mass media is echoed by modern commentators. Critics similar to former New York Instances journalist Patrick Lawrence or the previous diplomat, Chas Freeman. Medea Benjamin and Nicolas Davies quoted the latter of their latest e-book on the Ukraine struggle: “This struggle in Ukraine is probably the most intense info struggle humanity has ever seen. There are such a lot of lies flying about that it’s completely unattainable to understand the reality.”

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In one other paper introduced in 1996 with the title “Why Is NATO In Yugoslavia?” Gervasi wrote: “By any requirements, the sending of a big Western navy power into Central and Jap Europe is a outstanding enterprise, even within the fluid scenario created by the supposed finish of the Chilly Battle.” So why did this occur? Gervasi explains that “the sending of NATO troops into the Balkans is the results of huge strain for the overall extension of NATO eastwards.”

What can Bosnia’s destiny actually inform us about Ukraine?

May any of Sherman’s or Gervasi’s remarks have any bearing upon the occasions in Ukraine? Not for John Feffer. Maybe he considers these two males from the previous examples of naïve rightists (Sherman) and leftists (Gervasi) bent on following Kremlin speaking factors. Since he’s all in favour of “classes,” does Feffer even acknowledge that the problems they increase advantage evaluation and dialogue that could be utilized to the scenario in Ukraine in the present day? Apparently not. There are US State Division speaking factors he prefers to comply with.


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In 2015, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed stood out as somebody who had taken the difficulty to course of the testimony of Sherman and Gervais. He synthesized it in these phrases: “Crucial lesson from Yugoslavia is just not solely that every one NATO nations lied in probably the most totalitarian method, used false flags, fabrications and extremist Mujahideen mercenaries there. Crucial lesson is that the Battle in Yugoslavia made NATO and the Western nations right into a single utterly cynical totalitarian info- and struggle machine.”

Feffer can be proper to sign that such a judgment, made within the 12 months following the February 2014 Maidan revolt that ousted an elected president, may solely please the Kremlin. However does that imply Ahmed was “following” the Kremlin? Award-winning British writer and journalist, Jonathan Prepare dinner describes Ahmed as “that uncommon breed of journalist who finds tales everybody else both misses or chooses to miss; he often joins up the dots in a world system of company pillage.” In different phrases, not the form of journalist individuals contained in the Beltway are more likely to “comply with.” They like to comply with the New York Instances, all the time attentive to themes outlined by the US safety state.

However even the NYT had this to say again in 1993:

Virtually a 12 months and a half in the past, the US opposed a partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina that had been agreed to by leaders of the republic’s Serbs, Croats and Muslims. The concept was to stave off a civil struggle.

Now, tens of 1000’s of deaths later, the US is urging the leaders of the three Bosnian factions to just accept a partition settlement just like the one Washington opposed in 1992.

Can anybody miss out on a parallel right here with Ukraine? It was a Ukrainian information service, Ukrainska Pravda, that exposed in April UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s strict directions to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to not negotiate a peace take care of the Russians. Will the deal that’s finally signed to finish the struggle two or three years down the road — following tens of 1000’s extra deaths — be a carbon copy of the one Johnson rejected?

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Nobody is aware of the reply to that query, simply as we don’t know whether or not such a dramatic scenario, if compelled to proceed, could not descend into nuclear struggle, properly earlier than any negotiation begins. The truth that selections are made in Washington DC means we must wait. Generally for many years, as we did in Afghanistan. The George W Bush administration may have accepted in 2001 the provide of the Taliban authorities to cooperate in arresting Osama Bin Laden as a response to 9/11. It didn’t as a result of it noticed the assaults on New York and Washington not as a criminal offense to be solved however as a pretext for overthrowing the Afghan authorities. As an alternative, 20 years of struggle performed to unfold the truths NATO believes in ended with whole victory for the Taliban, and in totally degraded circumstances. 


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Bosnia’s political troubles in the present day, which John Feffer precisely describes, could, as he concludes, be the results of a foul peace settlement, however the two years of extra battle brought on by US Ambassador Zimmerman’s refusal to contemplate a peace settlement actually contributed to the hopelessness of the present scenario. Harvard Legislation Faculty summarized the fact of that episode in a case examine with the title, “Battle Decision: Classes from the Dayton Peace Course of.” The writer of that examine makes the purpose that, whereas at first of the struggle, 20% of Bosnians had “ethnically blended dad and mom” and “as few as 17 p.c of Bosnians thought-about themselves non secular,” the unnecessarily extended struggle had long-lasting deleterious results. The case evaluation concludes with this devastating remark: “fueled by propaganda, the Bosnian Battle reconstructed BiH’s identification teams.” It’s that identification battle that explains the dire state of up to date Bosnian politics that Feffer precisely describes.

The Minsk accords have been formally meant to search out a way of attenuating the cultural divergences between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russian audio system. They aime at fostering circumstances of mutual tolerance by granting autonomy to the Donbas. We now know, due to the confession of Angela Merkel, that regardless of sponsoring these accords, Germany and France had no intention of making use of them. They have been designed to achieve time for a NATO buildup in Ukraine. The end result: eight years of sporadic civil struggle degenerated right into a full-fledged struggle initiated by Russia. So, sure, all of us must comply with Feffer’s lead and take into consideration when the remainder of us may study the teachings of Bosnia. And after doing that maybe additionally apply them to Ukraine. The controversy is open. Let’s begin by going after all of the information, not simply those which are handy for anybody’s argument.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Truthful Observer’s editorial coverage.