The Trump administration’s scapegoating of China over its own disastrous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic has relied on baseless conspiracy theory, unscientific claims and hyperbole. This week the president’s National Security Advisor went further by comparing the virus outbreak to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
In a U.S. media interview, Robert O’Brien repeated baseless claims that China was guilty of a “cover up” in responding to the disease. And he likened it to the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union where the authorities were also accused of concealing the initial severity of the accident.
O’Brien added: “They unleashed a virus on the world that’s destroyed trillions of dollars in American economic wealth that we’re having to spend to keep our economy alive, to keep Americans afloat during this virus.”
It is a transparent attempt to make China liable for reparations.
The politicization of the coronavirus global pandemic by the Trump administration is unprecedented. It’s not just a feckless, demagogic administration engaging in delusion, denial and China-bashing. A growing bipartisan consensus in Washington is blaming China for having responsibility for spreading a communicable disease. This is in spite of the public record on the timeline of the pandemic and the early response from China and the World Health Organization to alert the rest of the world to potential consequences.
But Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have taken the anti-China rhetoric to reckless extreme by leveling unsubstantiated claims that the Chinese government weaponized a virus to inflict damage on the U.S.
This unhinged logic is a dangerous slippery slope towards conflict. By comparing the coronavirus pandemic to Chernobyl, the Trump administration is gas-lighting the American public into viewing China as the source of their woes and all the terrible fallout from the disease. With over 100,000 dead Americans in four months – the world’s leader in this grim toll – and with 40 million American’s unemployed, the Trump administration is cynically seeking to turn public anger against China as a deflection from its own criminal incompetence.
The image of Chernobyl is a handy, if specious, mechanism by which to incite American anger even more against China.
Ironically, this gross distortion of events is willfully propagated by an American president who has made a signature cause against “fake news media”. Trump this week signed an executive order clamping down on social media platforms which he accuses, with some validity, of censoring certain viewpoints such as his claims about voter fraud using mail-in ballots.
Yet these U.S.-owned social media platforms do not “fact check” when it comes to Trump’s much more dubious and incendiary allegations against China. The president and his men have been freely vilifying China for allegedly unleashing the virus, weaponizing the pandemic and wreaking havoc and suffering across the U.S. – without any “checks” by his favored Twitter platform flagging such slanderous nonsense.
It should be disturbing too that Trump’s top National Security Advisor is so bereft of judgement and facts that he makes such an absurd comparison between the biological pandemic and an industrial accident. If this so-called security expert can be so imprudent with facts then it is appalling to consider how other important global issues, such as nuclear arms controls, will be likewise distorted and politicized for self-serving purpose.
Since Robert O’Brien took over the National Security Council from John Bolton at the end of last year it has taken on a noticeably more hawkish stance towards China in what seems to be a career-furthering choice of direction. His Neo-imperialist and “American exceptionalism” views set out in his over-rated book, While America Slept, show O’Brien to be an empty vessel intellectually and having a thoroughly propagandized mind.
Going nuclear over the pandemic is a sure sign that the Trump administration is desperate to replace rational argument with reckless rhetoric. Because it does not have a rational argument.