Imagine if countries put aside their differences in order to mount an effective international campaign against Covid-19? If they stopped shooting one another and fought the virus instead? If instead of sending aircraft carriers around the world in a show of strength, they competed to see who could supply more face masks and ventilators?
Wouldn’t that be terrible? Wouldn’t it be a sign of a dangerous new threat?
It would be – if you’re the kind of raging paranoid who projects his psychosis onto others. But if you’re a normal person, you’d take it as evidence that nations are capable of putting aside difference in order to focus on a mutually beneficial goal. After all, containing the disease in one country is the best way of insuring that it doesn’t hop-scotch to others such as your own. So helping others is a means of helping yourself.
Unfortunately, Trump is not part of this enlightened camp. Defunding the World Health Organization is only his latest atrocity. Instead of fighting the disease, he and his team have seemingly doing everything in their power to spread it by:
Mounting an inconsistent and ineffective containment effort that has allowed the virus to spread like wildfire at home.
Blocking aid to nations that are also hard hit.
Trying to stop countries it doesn’t like from providing assistance and blasting recipients for accepting it.
And threatening military actions that will spread the virus even more.
Even though it accounts for just 4.2 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has thirty percent of total Covid-19 cases thanks to Trump’s disastrous domestic response. That’s better than seven times the global average. But now with an assist from European allies and ultra-hawkish allies in the corporate media, his administration is trying to drag others down by promoting pro-war policies that disrupt the international effort.
Washington has thus ratcheted up economic sanctions against hard-hit Iran despite Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s heartfelt plea that the restrictions “were making it virtually impossible for us to even buy medicine and medical equipment.” Even more cruelly, it has blocked a $5-billion emergency IMF loan to help Iran fight the virus because the country’s officials “have a long history of diverting funds allocated for humanitarian goods into their own pockets and to their terrorist proxies,” as one administration officials put it.
In mid-March, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien reportedly pushed a bonkers proposal for a military offensive against pro-Iranian militias in Iraq that was guaranteed to unleash chaos and turmoil. But with the Iranian leadership preoccupied with the health crisis, it was too good an opportunity to pass up even though the virus would undoubtedly spread the more than five thousand U.S. troops stationed in Iraq plus more than forty thousand others based elsewhere in the Persian Gulf.
Since those troops will likely spread the virus to friends and family once they rotate home, it’s a crystal-clear case of the U.S. shooting itself in the foot again and again.
Pompeo has also offered to lift sanctions on Venezuela if President Nicolàs Maduro agrees to step down. But now that Maduro has said no to Washington’s outrageous violation of national sovereignty, the sanctions will remain just as the coronavirus is poised to overwhelm Venezuela’s depleted healthcare system.
Then there’s the question of preventing certain countries from helping others. One, needless to say, is Cuba. After the Trump administration lashed out at fourteen countries for welcoming Cuban medical teams, the Cuban ambassador to Canada tweeted angrily in response:
“Shame on you. Instead of attacking Cuba and its committed doctors, you should be caring about the thousands of sick Americans who are suffering due to the scandalous neglect of your government and the inability of your failed health system to care for them.”
Quite right. On the other hand, administration officials didn’t have to respond when Russia sent aid to Italy. Nineteen members of the European Parliament – most of them pro-American conservatives from the former Soviet bloc – did it for them by signing a blistering letter denouncing the aid as a typical Russian trick aimed at persuading the European Union to lift anti-Russia sanction. “[A]n immense Russian disinformation campaign aim[s] to discredit the EU and to divide our Union from within by questioning our solidarity and ability to tackle this crisis together,” the MEP’s said. “Such disinformation and fake news cannot be ignored and left without an appropriate response from the EU side.”
When European nations aren’t stabbing one another in the back by refusing to share aid, they should now supposedly stab others for daring to step into the breach.
And then there’s a slew of corporate media outlets that, as usual, are trying to outdo one another to see who can more anti-Russian or anti-Chinese, whatever the consequences. The Washington Post slammed Russia for sending an Antonov-124 cargo plane to the United States loaded with medical goods and then sneered at Trump for describing the effort as “very nice.” It quoted a former U.S. Army general calling the delivery a “hoax,” an analyst at the (misnamed) Carnegie Endowment for International Peace denouncing it as “nuts,” and “an expert on disinformation” at the Wilson Center declaring that it was “mind-boggling” that Trump would accept it at all.
Foreign Policy magazine, a Washington Post spin-off, went even farther. In a feverish article entitled “Beware of Bad Samaritans,” Elisabeth Braw of Britain’s rightwing Royal United Services Institute accused both Russia and China of “using their ostensible assistance for geopolitical gains” and compared the Russian presence in Italy to “Occupied,” a hit Norwegian TV series about a Russian takeover.
Russian aid “will damage NATO in the long run,” she warned. As for China, she said, it plainly sees medical aid “as a public relations opportunity” and a means “to both sell goods and pry countries away from EU and NATO solidarity.”
That’s right: attack other countries for offering to help and then attack them again for causing international tensions to soar. Not surprisingly, China, Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela are among eight countries that have appealed for an end to U.S.-imposed sanctions on the grounds that they’re impeding the anti-Covid effort while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued an eloquent plea for a global truce.
“The most vulnerable – women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced – pay the highest price,” he said. “They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19. Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed. Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted. Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable. The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.”
It does – except that those in charge of U.S. foreign policy are too smart to fall for such sentimental guff about peace and international cooperation. Instead, they’re determined to beat the Russians, Cubans, and Chinese to the punch. The proper response to Covid-19, evidently is to encourage international conflicts that cause it to spread.