As the coronavirus pandemic rips its way through the United States, it is painfully clear to the entire world that stunning incompetence and possibly deliberate inaction by the Trump administration has made the crisis much worse than it ever had to be. Epidemiologists project that tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if only the Trump team had taken the warnings — of which there were plenty — seriously and followed up with decisive action when they needed to.
But the sociopathically selfish Trump didn’t want to have to deal with a crisis that could damage his re-election chances, so America dragged its feet and is now paying a deadly price for it.
With the crisis out of control, his attentions and energies have been focused on convincing the public that none of this is his fault. His latest effort to do so is the distressing decision on Monday to cut off all funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), accusing the United Nation’s health wing of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the COVID-19 virus and depriving it of desperately needed resources at a time it needs them the most.
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Since the coronavirus crisis began in Wuhan, China, American conservatives and imperialist liberals have worked relentlessly to weaponize the pandemic and turn the crisis into an indictment of the Chinese Communist Party.
WHO has been dragged into the mud for its work in China, accused of helping the Chinese government “cover-up” the extent of the pandemic by using the data provided by the government and slammed for WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s praise for China’s harsh but effective containment efforts.
In particular, the right-wing has been obsessively misrepresenting WHO’s criticism of Trump’s efforts to ban Chinese citizens from traveling to America, even though WHO has simply been pointing out that the move violated the International Health Regulations of 2005, which were put in place in order to encourage countries to report pandemics without fear of being ostracized and losing needed economic resources to travel and trade restrictions by other nations. These are regulations that the United States itself helped to write.
Criticism of the move erupted immediately. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates slammed the move for being as “dangerous as it sounds.” Former Clinton comms director Joe Lockhart mocked the Trump administration for being the only country in the world “so insecure it needs to find so many scapegoats for their failings.” Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce trashed the move as being “not in the U.S.’s interests given the organization’s critical role in assisting other countries.”
Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) April 15, 2020
As far as I know, there is not a single country in the world that has cut off funding for the WHO. No other country is so insecure that they need to find so many scapegoats for their own failings. Trump redefines American exceptionalism.
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) April 15, 2020
US Chamber of Commerce pushes back on President Trump’s effort to hold funding for the WHO: “cutting the WHO’s funding during the COVID-19 pandemic is not in US interests given the organization’s critical role assisting other countries — particularly in the developing world…”
— Eamon Javers (@EamonJavers) April 15, 2020
American citizens and presidents alike largely view the United Nations and its organizations as tools of hegemony that should exist solely to advance American interests and deserve to be punished or ignored whenever they fail to do so.
But the World Health Organization operates on the principle that every life in every country is of equal value — sadly an incomprehensible idea to most Americans, their minds permanently addled by grandiose delusions of exceptionalism — and they will do whatever they need to do in order to save the most lives it possibly can.
If that involves not recognizing the independence of Taiwan and treating the Chinese government with something other than open hostility then they will do so if it means the continued cooperation of the Chinese government and a chance to keeping helping the 1.4 billion people who live there, then they will do so, even if it means provoking the ire of the monocled jingoists at the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
WHO unfortunately does not have nearly as much power as its critics claim it does and must work with what it is given; like the rest of the UN missions, it adheres to a strict mandate of neutrality and is not in a position to publicly challenge the figures provided by the Chinese government or make a big stink about Taiwan no matter how much Extremely Serious Foreign Policy Experts Who Advocated For The Iraq War And Now Reluctantly Admit They May Have Made A Mistake think they should.
The campaign to smear the World Health Organization by the Trump administration is nothing more than a repulsive excuse for the Trump administration to further neglect its duty to the international community and to propagate a bad faith smear campaign dedicated entirely to re-electing Donald Trump.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.