The pandemic, a weapon?

Juan Diego García 20/03/2020
The coronavirus pandemic, given its size and unpredictable evolution, receives the most informative attention in the world today. It is difficult to add to what has already been said by governments and the media. However, two quite significant aspects can be highlighted: the real origin of the pandemic and the benefit that some governments are taking from it.

Tradotto da Fausto Giudice
As for the origin of the coronavirus, the Chinese government (officially) points to U.S. military personnel visiting China (for the Military World Games in October 2019) as the initial carriers of the disease, based on the U.S. military’s own statements to a congressional inquiry committee. According to it, the disease had already been recorded in a camp, precisely the one of the military personnel who traveled to China to participate in the sporting event. Everything would indicate then that they were the carriers of the virus that after China has spread all over the planet. The pandemic would then not be “Chinese” as the media and the same U.S. government insist on disclosing, but would have its origin in their own country. 
Something similar happened with the so-called “Spanish flu” in 1918, which produced between 20 and 40 million deaths worldwide; such a label that demonized Spain was due to the neutrality of this country in the First World War, since there was no previous censorship among the contenders, the press in Madrid was the first to give extensive information about it. But the “Spanish” flu had really started in a camp of USAmerican soldiers who came to fight in the old continent. The military leaders at the time rejected the U.S. president’s proposal not to send troops to the Old Continent to prevent the spread of the flu, arguing that it would be interpreted as a withdrawal of their country from the then-allied side. The results of that decision are now widely known.
Neither the flu at that time was “Spanish” nor the current coronavirus would be Chinese, pending the necessary clarification from the U.S. government. In both cases, Washington would have used in an irresponsible and immoral manner a pandemic that then cost millions of deaths and could now produce similar results. At the moment, no one dares, responsibly, to predict the possible evolution of the phenomenon.
The issue undoubtedly takes on political dimensions. The fact that the United States accuses China serves to evade its own responsibilities and, in the process, makes the great Asian power, which is already the United States’ main competitor in the world economy, look bad to the world. It is no coincidence that two days ago Beijing expelled all the US press correspondents precisely because they lacked professionalism, reported in a biased way and spread lies, in line with the Washington government. It is a coincidence, no doubt, that in both cases – 1918 and 2020 – it was US soldiers who were the initial bearers of evil and their government that was directly responsible for the global contagion. Decades passed before the true origin of the so-called “Spanish flu” was known; today it seems that the same thing will not happen; today’s China is not the Spain of then.
For some governments the pandemic is convenient. This is clearly the case of Piñera in Chile or Duque in Colombia, who are beset by a thousand problems. In Santiago they are calling for the resignation of the government and a new constitution (to replace the one left by Pinochet), while in Colombia, similar mobilizations are demanding an investigation into the alleged electoral fraud that brought Duque to power, and solutions to the misery of broad popular sectors. With the coronavirus, in both cases public attention is diverted and, above all, the streets are emptied and the protest will be limited to the so-called cacerolazos (banging on pots and pans) for the relief of the two questioned rulers. But it is not only them; others also take advantage of the pandemic to relieve themselves of the pressure of public opinion: Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is going through a moment of great difficulty? Macron in France, who is unable to quench the citizen protest? Or the same Trump whose clumsy management of the pandemic puts him in great trouble?
The coronavirus is not only affecting the population, but also challenging the neoliberal model that is reducing the public health sector and diminishing or cancelling out social control over private entrepreneurs (the same ones who are now rushing to ask for state aid). The case of Colombia is very striking; the neoliberal policies completely dismantled the public health system while its privatization has only brought corruption and infinite inefficiency. If the pandemic strikes this Andean country with forcefulness the effects will be catastrophic. The same can be said – while maintaining the proportions – of the United States where a significant sector of the population is completely uninsured and a good part of the rest is not properly protected either. The consequences would be equally catastrophic. Certainly more so than in Europe which, despite the far from negligible cuts brought about by neo-liberalism, still has reasonably good health systems.
The coronavirus also raises a very disturbing question: the pandemic as a weapon of war. Did any laboratory manipulate the common dengue virus so that it became haemorrhagic and caused serious damage in Central America (and continues to cause them in South America as well) ? Did someone bring a deadly virus to Cuba a few years ago that ruined pig farms? Who is in a position to carry out such manipulations and, above all, what interests does it benefit? Weapons like the coronavirus can ruin a particular country or the world economy as a whole.
But there is room for further reflection. It is not only the great powers that are in a position to carry out such genetic manipulations; and as with atomic weapons, it is possible to break the monopoly of the great powers and balance the forces (the so-called “balance of terror”). It cannot be ruled out that access to lethal viruses or atomic bombs will multiply by equalizing forces, effectively neutralizing their potential, since “if I destroy, they destroy me”, would be the logical deduction. Let us hope that there are no rulers so stupid that they ignore it.