By Allawi Ssemanda.
In 1907, then United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States of America (US), Lord Bryce is quoted to have observed; “The subject of foreign policy in the United States is like the subject of snakes in Ireland. There are no snakes in Ireland.” This statement has been described by several foreign policy scholars to have meant that in the US, foreign policy making has no style, and a designed process but rather national interests which is purely politics of promoting US’ global hegemony.
Indeed, after several hours of closed-door meeting with Russian president, Vladimir Putin on 16th June, 2021, US president Joe Biden told journalists that there are no secret codes to foreign policy, that it is all about personal relationships, and about human nature. In the same week, shortly after the G7 summit in the United Kingdom, president Biden told journalists that he had given Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 90 days to investigate the origin of Coronavirus. Biden supported this arguing that in the US, there are two elements of the intelligence community one believing the virus had a natural origin while the other leaned towards a lab leak theory.
Important to note is that while president Biden ordered CIA led inquiry on origins of Coronavirus, an on-the-ground investigation lead by experts from World Health Organization (WHO), a body mandated to carry out such inquires earlier this year concluded their phase one findings, observing that it was “extremely unlikely” that coronavirus started in a laboratory. Upon this background, one can reason that with WHO primary report out and their investigations ongoing, any country to announce a parallel investigation lead by political appointees should not only worry us but inspire us to ask more questions.
As Indira Ghandi taught us, questioning is the basis of all progress, and those who don’t question are condemned to live in bondage. With that in mind, we must question president Biden’s intentions and interest in ordering a parallel inquiry. Is it that the Biden administration does not trust WHO which the US joined on his first day in office after reversing his predecessor’s decision to withdraw U.S membership? How can we trust CIA report which receives orders from only Washington? Whose interest will their report be? Is President Biden continuing Trump era policy of America first which he often denounced for Isolating the US from international community? Is he declaring that anything done by international experts but without full say and control of the US is null and void? Is it that the US knows the origins of Corona virus and want to influence the findings to hide those “facts”? These are some of questions that we should put before the US for their uncalled-for path. There are several reasons to look at the move with scepticism;
First and foremost, president Biden’s ordered inquiry exposes hypocrisy in Washington and casts doubt in their readiness to support the world in confronting the pandemic. It should be recalled that shortly after taking over office, president Biden wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) withdrawing his predecessors’ decision to withdraw US’ membership from WHO. It was actually on his first day in office when he wrote and informed UN SG that; “The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization, …the WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly covid-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security. The United States will continue to be a full participant…,” read his letter in parts. Isn’t it surprising that just months later, the president is discrediting the very organization he praised?
Secondary, during his campaigns and his first days in office, president Biden promised the world that “America is Back” as he criticised his predecessor, Donald Trump of Isolating the U.S from international community which is exactly what he is doing by setting a parallel investigation against international community supported inquiry which is ongoing under WHO.
The other important issue we should note is that CIA which president Biden ordered to do investigations cannot be trusted to do an independent investigation free from lies and political influence. For example, during a Q&A discussion at Texas A&M university on 15th April 2019, then Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, told his audience that; “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole… we had entire training courses.” After an outburst of laughter from his audience, secretary Pompeo added: “It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.” With Pompeo’s admission’s that at CIA lying, stealing and cheating are part of their “training courses,” one wonders if their inquiry won’t be full of lies. It is not a surprise that the weapons of mass destruction CIA told the world that Iraq had to date cannot be traced.
All the above points at one key factor; politics. The U.S has always wanted to appear superior in global affairs. Put differently, they suffer from Libido dominandi, a Latin or the urge to dominate everything that they see a WHO lead inquiry with experts may not give exactly what they want. When covid-19 broke out, as Beijing took tough steps in containing the spread of the virus, Washington branded their efforts draconian measures. Instead of learning from measures China employed in containing the coronavirus, the US chose denial and as tens of thousands of people lost lives to covid-19, some pundits and politicians started blame game possibly to divert people from critiquing their weakness in containing the virus. After assuming office, president Biden promised to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days – a figure they missed. Instead of focusing on producing more vaccines and supporting efforts to contain the spread of the virus not just in the U.S but also in developing world, Biden administration is now choosing to concentrate on finding origin of coronavirus – work which is already in progress by respectable and mandated organization, WHO. Could it be that the administration is trying to hide from their failure to deliver on vaccinating 100 million people in 100 days?
Lastly, according to Dominic Dwyer, an Australian immunologist and a member of WHO’s team of expert, there is no evidence backing the “lab leak” theory and lab leak narrative is political and plays in interests of some countries. From the views above, a conclusion can be made that as president Biden announced that “America is back,” let Washington come back joining the world in fighting the spread of covid-19 by supporting other countries by making vaccines readily available, and supporting research and science.
Allawi Ssemanda is a Research Fellow with Development Watch Centre; a foreign policy think tank.