By Jayasri Priyalal
Weapons of Mass Destructions (WMD) were something that USA and UK coalition forces were trying to find in the armouries of Saddam Hussain in Iraq in March 2003. Anglo-Saxon media was painting the fears of death, destruction and sufferings to humankind unless those weapons were destroyed – justifying the illegal invasion of the allied forces into a sovereign Iraq, violating all international laws and order.
They found neither any evidence of WMD nor chemical weapons for justifying the invasion. Will the COVID-19 too, become an invisible WMD with the ongoing global pandemic which has locked down nearly the entire world economy?
I would like to discuss the historical backgrounds of similar pandemic outbreaks and the geopolitical impacts that may unfold in response to various schools of thoughts and conspiracy theories. As the saying goes, worries are an abuse of imagination.
Misunderstanding, fake news, propaganda to stimulate election campaigns could overnight become breeding grounds for hostilities, unless we dispel the myths, ill-conceived perceptions pro-actively to avert unintended consequences.
Plagues and pandemics have brought miseries to all living beings, including humans throughout history. The earliest in recorded history is in Europe, suspected as black death like the Bubonic Plague, that hit Europe in the 14th century AD, wiping out half of the population across the continent.
Then comes the Spanish Flu (H1N1) in 1918 across the continents with many nations embroiled in World War I. The origins of the Bubonic Plague in 1341 is suspected of having originated from the trade routes on the Silk Road spreading through fleas hosting in rats. Still, the origin of the H1N1 Flu remains a mystery, although it is known as Spanish Flu.
Why was it then known as Spanish Flu? Again, a twist between real news and propaganda. Spain was not directly involved in the WWI as such, and the newspapers were freely reporting the facts describing the misery cautioning the public to take preventive measures to mitigate the infection.
Other nations, embroiled in war, have been battling the “disease-carrying viruses” through the soldiers and the refugees across the countries. Yet, they concealed the details to boost the morale of the fighting soldiers. So, the news agencies attributed the origins to Spain and the Flu to get the name as Spanish Flu. Between 20 to 50 million people lost their lives due to this pandemic, including 675,000 US soldiers. H1N1 Flu spread across every other part of the planet within a matter of months.
What is quite interesting to note, is that natural disaster emerged as a pandemic at the penultimate year of the WW1. Although no armed conflicts were running as great wars of the 21st century, there was a considerable trade war between the United States and China, just ended with some agreement in January 2020. As per historical records, reports that the then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who was a signatory to the Versailles Treaty, which ended the WW1, too contracted with the H1N1 Flu.
If one analyzes the historical facts and the significant causes and effects that have led to many wars in the past, one can always find a dominant ideology that has triggered such human catastrophes. These ideologies are possible to grow in the minds of human beings due to their superior ability derived and acquired since the cognitive revolution.
We can also draw useful conclusions about myths. These illusions led to human catastrophes resulting from different guiding ideologies with positive and negative experiences attributing to nature and all living beings.
In this context, we need to exert all our collective efforts to find out a scientific medical solution to wipe out the vectors spreading the COVID-19 pandemic urgently. False assertions of the origins of the virus as biological weapon finger-pointing and blame games are useless self-serving ego-boosting propaganda that needs to be dispelled and defeated.
The Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, ending the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers, was a failed peace treaty that paved the way for another catastrophe for the whole world, the World War II. The Economic and Trade Agreement between the USA and China signed on January 15, 2020, should not meet the fate of the Treaty of Versailles.
It is a known fact that there is a Cold War underway between China and the United States, each contesting for priority, as China has proven to be a rising power. Moreover, the accusations and blame games and emotions between the leaders and the citizens of the two nations are running significant hurling accusations with each other, even before the ink is dried off the trade agreements.
The civilised right-thinking world and the universal multilateral agencies cannot allow either country to “Weponise” the COVID-19 as a contest of will to emerge as a geopolitical and geoeconomic powerhouse.
Six billion people living outside the USA and China need to unite and defuse the unnecessary tensions building up in world politics. The whole world needs to deploy all resources and efforts at its disposal to overcome the common challenge, to fight out the unknown virus that has taken over two hundred thousand lives across all regions disregarding the geographical boundaries or the superpower status of the nations.
“If you want to live in this world peacefully and happily, allow others also to live peacefully and happily, so that you can make this world something worthy of life,” wrote late Dr Kirinde Sri Dhammananda Thero, in his book, ‘You and Your Problems’, which I thought to quote as my concluding phrase.