By Morgan Wirthlin
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is right — the World Health Organization’s (WHO) investigation into the origins of coronavirus will be “whitewashed.”
Despite receiving $2.4 billion per year to “safeguard world health,” the WHO has spent the 2020 pandemic covering for China instead of containing the outbreak, according to investigative journalist Claudia Rosett in a new book Defending Against Biothreats.
For months, China refused to participate in an international investigation. In May, President Trump told the WHO the U.S. would cut their $450 billion in funding unless the organization demonstrated independence from China. The next day, the European Union sponsored a resolution at the World Health Assembly (WHA) for an investigation by an “independent and impartial panel” on the origins of coronavirus and a review of the WHO response.
Given that the resolution was supported by Russia and Turkey, in addition to European and African countries, it was hard for China to resist. China ended up supporting the resolution, likely because it makes them appear transparent and cooperative. But the resolution did not mention Wuhan or China and does not propose to review countries’ handling of the outbreak or that the virus was man-made in any way.
On July 9, the WHO announced the “independent and impartial” panel mandated by the resolution will be co-chaired by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Clark headed the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for eight years and ran for Secretary-General in 2016, with Xi Jinping’s support. Sirleaf is a WHO Goodwill Ambassador, alongside Xi Jinping’s wife, Peng Liyuan.
On July 15, Clark said evaluating the WHO’s response is important, but it is ultimately up to the member states to follow WHO guidelines. This echoes WHO Director Tedros’ comments on July 13, blaming world leaders for failing to contain the virus.
While world leaders thought they were getting reliable WHO guidance, in fact, the WHO was merely echoing talking points produced by Beijing. Perhaps most egregious is a January 14 tweet, where the WHO claimed the virus was not spread by human-to-human contact.
“Had China’s propaganda mills simply tweeted directly that the virus was not very contagious, they might have drawn more skepticism. But channeled via the WHO, China’s mortally dangerous malarkey carried a whiff of due diligence. As it turns out, that was wrong,”
Rosett notes the January 23 lockdown of 11 million people in Wuhan – only necessary for contagious diseases — would have been a good time for the WHO to warn the world. Instead, Tedros praised Xi’s handling of the epidemic. It was not until January 30 that the WHO declared a global health emergency.
After praising Beijing for brutal lockdowns, Tedros said President Trump’s ban on flights from China, was “unnecessary.” Tedros did not declare a global pandemic until March 11, which drastically changed how most countries were handling the virus.
Perhaps not following the WHO would have produced better results – currently, 591,000 have died and 13.8 million have been infected.
Taiwan, not a member of the WHO at China’s demand, took action in late December, months before the WHO encouraged other countries to do the same. Their efforts, informed by experience with the SARS outbreak in 2002, were highly effective – only 451 cases and 7 deaths. Taiwan tried to share their knowledge with the WHO but was ignored. When asked by a reporter if the WHO would reconsider Taiwan’s status, WHO official Bruce Alyward refused to answer and then hung up.
“Assuming the WHO’s top brass have any ability to distinguish fact from fiction – which they surely do – their priorities appeared to have less to do with disease control than with legitimizing the actions of China’s ruling Communist Party, whatever those might be,” Rosett writes.
If Rosett is right, we can expect the WHO investigators to continue to shift blame and ultimately exonerate both the WHO and China’s handling of the pandemic. Any and all failures cited will likely be blamed for a lack of funding. The Trump administration is right to be removing U.S. participation in a system rigged for China’s benefit, and other member states would be wise to do the same.