John Chuckman



American intelligence warned the White House in November, 2019, about the outbreak in Wuhan, China. The warning had a number of specific observations about the nature of what was happening and was not theoretical.

Trump ignored the warning and took no action to prepare the United States, as at least making sure stocks of medical supplies were in order, which later very much proved not to be the case.

In late January, 2020, here was Trump being interviewed at Davos, Switzerland: “It’s going to be just fine,” Trump assured the interviewer. “We have it totally under control.”

In a speech in late February, 2020, Trump told a crowd, “Now, the Democrats are politicising the coronavirus… this is their new hoax.”

Imagine using the word “hoax” for a disease? One that would shortly infect 2 million of the world’s people and kill at least 150,000?

By the third week of February, 2020, advisers made a list of measures they thought would soon be required, measures such as school closings, sports and concert cancellations, and stay-at-home orders, but Trump did not act on them until mid-March.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview recently that imposition of those policies sooner would have saved lives. It made Trump and his followers very angry, and Trump may just have toyed with idea of firing Fauci, but Fauci has held his position for thirty-six years and received many high honors, and firing him would bring tidal waves of criticism.

In April, 2020, at a briefing, Trump used the smarmy methods of gossip to spread the unsupported notion that the coronavirus pandemic began when the pathogen accidentally escaped a Chinese laboratory, saying, “more and more we’re hearing the story.”

Note that contrived language, “more and more we’re hearing the story.” Yes, indeed, and the “more and more” is from Trump’s own shabby crew retailing exactly the same gossip.

It is also very much from Trump’s old favorite news source, China-hating Fox News, a network which has earned a reputation for undependable reportage, rumor-mongering, and playing to fears to boost ratings. It is the “yellow rag” (an old newspaper expression for publications with low-grade, cheap journalism) of television news networks.

Imagine the leader of a huge country depending, in any way, on that kind of source for information? And on top of the fact that he previously ignored accurate reports of intelligence professionals? He understands the difference of course. He is just being vicious. It just comes naturally to him.

Chinese experts say that although the novel coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, there are no facts to support that it originated there. A gene sequence in the virus, compared to a world database of related viruses is said to demonstrate that the virus was imported to Wuhan.

The US National Institutes of Health had awarded a $3.7million research grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for work on such viruses. They certainly don’t do that for second-rate outfits. Top-level science is of course international in character, just as we see with the CERN particle accelerator or the International Space Station and the world’s huge network of international collaborations and conferences.

Yuan Zhiming, an expert from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said in an interview that it is absolutely impossible for the virus to have been leaked from the institute. The standards maintained there are world-class.

Dr Gerald Keusch, Professor of Medicine and International Health at Boston University, said that no release of virus from a high-level lab, such as the one in Wuhan, has ever happened. He added, “The Wuhan lab is designed to the highest standards with redundant safety systems and the highest level of training. Many of its research faculty trained at a similar laboratory in Galveston, Texas.” Note again, with the reference to training, the international nature of high-level science.

Trump’s many references to the “Chinese virus” and the “Wuhan virus,” instead of using the proper scientific name, is a direct appeal to prejudice and just one more in his long series of public efforts to denigrate and attack China – all of course reflecting resentment of Chinese economic success and competitiveness and not any wrongdoing. Trump’s effort was coordinated with the graceless Mike Pompeo, who tried imposing the same language on the G-7’s foreign ministers in a tele-conference. They declined to do so.

The White House was asked through diplomatic channels to stop using the terms, but when they wouldn’t, China took the unusual step – unusual, given that country’s quiet and respectful ways of conducting its affairs – of rebuking the American government in a public statement.

At the same briefing where Trump gossip-mongered about the virus’s origin, he also said with absolutely no evidence, “It took them a long time to realise what was going on, but I have a feeling they knew exactly what was going on.” He added, “Tragically, other nations put their trust in the WHO.” That from the man who shortly before had cut funding to the WHO (World Health Organization) in an effort to deflect public attention from his own blundering.

It would be hard to recall statements and acts by the leader of a major nation which were more irresponsible than Trump’s towards the world’s most important health agency at a time of global crisis.

Here’s Trump again, at this writing, “A lot of strange things were happening, but there is a lot of investigation going on, and we are going to find out,” Asked to comment on the likelihood of leaking from the Wuhan laboratory, he said, “All that I can say that whatever it came from, it came from China, in whatever form. 184 countries now are suffering because of that. And it’s too bad, isn’t it?”

All diseases arise somewhere. Evolution at the micro- and macro-level never stops anywhere. Studies of the devastating viral disease, AIDS, suggest it arose in what today is the Democratic Republic of Congo, then the Belgian Congo, likely in the 1920s, the virus changing form and passing from chimpanzees to humans. Is Belgium or the DRC to be held accountable?

Trump’s suggestions of blame for China are those of a vicious, ignorant man. Unfortunately, judging by the number of his followers, there are a good many such people in the country.

Dr. Fauci was asked to comment about a possible artificial origin for the virus. He said “There was a study recently that we can make available to you, where a group of highly qualified evolutionary virologists looked at the sequences there, the sequences in bats as they evolve, and the mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with the jump of a species from animal to human.”

Posted April 19, 2020 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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