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Politics Behind The Wuhan Covid Lab Leak Theory – OpEd

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I was under the impression that the Wuhan Covid lab leak theory was more or less discredited by the scientific community except for the usual exceptions who cling to what looks like “evidence,” mostly derived through the application of deductive logic in the most implausible circumstances. In fact, the lab leak theory in the public imagination was largely associated with the ex-president Donald Trump’s racism, especially his use of the phrase “the China virus” for Covid-19. 

A report from The Washington Times dated January 26, 2020 said that the coronavirus could have originated in a Wuhan Virology Institute 20 miles from the Hunan Seafood Market which is generally believed to be the place of origin of the virus. The report was based on the opinion of an Israeli biological warfare expert, who observed that, “In principle, outward virus infiltration might take place either as leakage or as an indoor unnoticed infection of a person that normally went out of the concerned facility. This could have been the case with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but so far there isn’t evidence or indication for such incident.” Interestingly, an editor’s note for the same article, dated March 25, 2020, said: Since this story ran, scientists outside of China have had a chance to study the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They concluded it does not show signs of having been manufactured or purposefully manipulated in a lab, though the exact origin remains murky and experts debate whether it may have leaked from a Chinese lab that was studying it.

Since the editor’s note from The Washington Times, more than a year later, in a WSJ article dated May 23, 2021 the reporters made reference to a “State Department fact sheet, issued during the final days of the Trump administration, which said that several researchers at the lab, a center for the study of coronaviruses and other pathogens, became sick in autumn 2019 “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.”” This was refuted by the director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory as “groundless.” 

In an article dated May 5, 2020 none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci himself said with the utmost conviction, ““If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.” As recently as May 23, 2021, the very same director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden is quoted as saying that he was not “convinced” that the virus developed naturally. Dr. Fauci further added, “I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened.” 

On May 26, 2021 President Joe Biden released a statement which said, “shortly after I became President, in March, I had my National Security Advisor task the Intelligence Community to prepare a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”

At this point, I merely am looking at the politics behind this sudden compulsion to explore the possibility of a “lab leak” of the coronavirus after an entire year has passed by. 

Dr. Fauci, for instance, when a Republican president was in the White House, called the lab leak theory a “circular argument.” Now, all of a sudden, without giving specific reasons, he says that he is not convinced. Dr. Fauci is a physician-scientist whose views are taken seriously by a lot of people, including myself. A person occupying a position that involves public trust just cannot change his or her mind on an important subject without giving reasons for doing so. It is not right that Dr. Fauci should react to a newspaper report on the possibility of a lab leak after an entire year and simply say that he is not 100% sure. What does that mean? Who can be 100 % sure about anything? I want Dr. Fauci to define what is 100 % certainty. Why was he so certain one year ago and not so certain at this point in time? Just because he is Dr. Fauci, it doesn’t mean that we have to believe everything that he says, especially now, when his integrity is seriously in question. 

First and foremost, I want to know what this so-called “previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report” that the WSJ article is referring to, all about. Why was it “previously undisclosed” and what makes it relevant all of a sudden?

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Look at the whole narrative closely from Jan 26, 2020 to the present. As both George Orwell and George Carlin point out, you must examine the language carefully in order to figure out the motives of the person making the statement. Nothing in the entire article from the Wall Street Journal gives substantial reasons for President Joe Biden to ask intelligence agencies to “redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information” leading to “a definitive conclusion” on the origins of Covid-19 within 90 days. In fact, the statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) says, “While two elements of the IC lean toward the former scenario (naturally from human contact with infected animals) and one leans more toward the latter (lab accident) – each with low or moderate confidence – the majority of elements within the IC do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.” There is nothing in this statement either to say that the propaganda machine also known as “western media” should start working overtime for the next 90 days to prove to the world that there is indeed a strong case for the lab leak hypothesis. If we took the language of the intelligence report seriously there is no reason why China should be wrong in suggesting the possibility of Covid-19 originating in a US military lab. If this possibility seems incredible, I see no reason on earth why the Chinese lab one should be credible. 

We should in fact start checking the military labs of every country beginning with Israel since the person who first proposed the lab leak possibility was a former Israeli intelligence officer studying Chinese biological warfare. The report said, “Mr. Shoham holds a doctorate in medical microbiology. From 1970 to 1991, he was a senior analyst with Israeli military intelligence for biological and chemical warfare in the Middle East and worldwide. He held the rank of lieutenant colonel.” My point is: How would Mr. Shoham know about biological warfare or be interested in it unless Israel itself has a covert bio-weapons program. Where is the evidence to suggest that China has such a program and not Israel and the US!

I, of course, concur with the view that China is neither an honest nor a transparent government. At the same time, I despise what the journalists and reporters of the western media are doing by leading their readers and viewers to believe that China is guilty of the virus outbreak. I mean, some of these journalists would put Pavlov’s dogs to shame in the way they repeat the lies and bullshit of their governments and their corporate bosses. 

For two reasons I disagree with the lab leak hypothesis, both non-logical. One is that the hypothesis sounds too much like a Hollywood script for a movie that cannot think of nature as a potential source for a disease; everything has to be human-motivated and political, often revolving around the good old binary opposition of good versus evil or hero versus villain. Another is, I don’t think that China would deliberately do something like that – which is sort of subtly implied in the so-called “accident” – only to put humanity in trouble. I don’t think that the US or Israel would do something like that either. Call it my faith in human nature despite historical evidence to the contrary! The third reason, which is more like a comment, is that doctors and scientists should not delude themselves into thinkng that they could know everything beforehand. Nature has its ways of surprising people; the coronavirus pandemic is one such surprise. I think we can live with that while doing our best to combat the virus.

Again, I am no fan of China. China is an extremely repressive country with imperial ambitions. Its obsession with land-grabbing along India’s borders has made it a consistent thorn in the flesh for every government in power. But, there are things we need to admire about China. From a largely backward country in 1949 when it was declared the People’s Republic of China to May 2021 when they sent a rover to Mars, China has shown what can be accomplished through patriotism, single-minded dedication to progress and a modern, scientific temperament. 

The system works in China and day-to-day life is secure for common people. Their streets are not unclean and there is a fair amount of order in their political and social life. Compare China to its neighbor India: zero patriotism except among the poor; the roads are as unreliable as the politicians, the air and water polluted, people dishonest both by choice and also for lack of alternatives, an unaffordable parliamentary democracy where we elect leaders and administrators who are corrupt to the core, day-to-day life is insecure as hell and the only system that seems to be thriving in the midst of the chaos is caste system. All that an average Indian needs is organized religion, sitcoms and films and a free messaging app to while away the hours. Unlike India, China became a formidable nation through hard work and a collective vision.

If I am opposed to western propaganda against China, it’s only because it is clear that there is a political agenda to defame the Asian superpower without anything that remotely looks like plausible evidence except for hearsay from an intelligence agency that nobody knows about or trusts for that matter. This is the same media that went full throttle to say that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction thus justifying the 2003 invasion of Iraq that lead to inhuman suffering and deaths of countless people. Why should we take this so-called intelligence community or the media seriously, just because China is their target now, with the virus pandemic giving a context to the anti-China sentiment? Whether we like it or not China is actually the first nation from the non-western part of the globe that is going to write the obituary to white supremacy on this planet. We can be deeply thankful to China for that, even if we must eventually confront it for other reasons.

Truth is truth in the end and there has to be a globally accepted methodology for arriving at the truth. It certainly cannot be from an intelligence agency that works at the behest of a powerful state such as the US. It cannot be what The Washington Times and WSJ reporters and their bosses want it to be. Maybe a couple of decades ago this kind of propaganda would have worked: now we happen to know a little better. 

Prakash Kona

Prakash Kona is a writer, teacher and researcher who lives in Hyderabad, India. He is Professor at the Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad.

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