Factor II: Power Politics
In a major crisis of epidemic, a nation or group of nations holding the capability to produce a vaccine can produce ‘power dependency’. Much of the ongoing research and development related to lethal pathogen worldwide is occurring within this framework. According to Dr. Francis Boyle, a vaccine to cure the 2019-nCoV already exists in the United Kingdom (Pirbright Institute) and has been patented in the US. The element of power manifests itself in first creating a crisis through genetic re-engineering of a pathogen (weapon grade) and followed with a vaccine to stabilize the crisis. The difference in-between the two manifestation of power results in economic and political power benefits.
It is to be noted that the Ebola outbreak is not associated to West Africa alone, historically the Ebola type of virus first broke out in Germany (Marburg Virus) followed by Reston in the United States ( Prof. Horace Campbell). Hence its outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was perhaps a result of human intent given that it occurred close to an American laboratory in Uganda near DRC border. An outbreak that began with an 18 month old index patient in Guinea (December, 2013), ended after two and a half years with more than 28,616 cases and 11,310 deaths. An additional 36 cases and 15 deaths occurred when the outbreak spread outside of the three West African countries (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone). Some experts believe the outbreak of Ebola is directly linked to the US bio-warfare labs on West African coast. There has been an exponential increase in the number of American bio-labs mostly in Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, DRC, Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Egypt) in last ten years – from 20 to 400.
History of biosafety incidents involving the US bio-labs worldwide forced the U.S. Government to pause new government funding for gain-of-function research on influenza, MERS or SARS viruses in October, 2014. Following this The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) in its May 2016 report – Recommended Policy Guidance for Departmental Development of Review Mechanisms for Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight–lifted the pause on gain-of-function research.
While all major powers are signatories of Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) – the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the production of an entire category of weapons – originally drafted by United Kingdom (10 April, 1972) and entered into force on 26 March, 1975, sovereignty and absence of formal verification regime limits the effectiveness of the convention. According to an unclassified (24 February, 1977) Department of the Army (US) report – US Army Activity in the US Biological Warfare Programs – the US biological warfare (BW) program began amidst the Second World War and was banned by President Nixon in November, 1969. However, the report states – “….because a potential BW threat still exists the US still maintains a defensive BW program in accordance with the 1969 Presidential policy statement.” Furthermore, the report states that the US policy regarding BW was to first deter its use against the US and its forces, and secondly to retaliate if deterrence failed.
Given this dimension of power politics and quest for superiority in the domain of BW should not surprise anyone of the similar efforts made by rising powers such as China. On 13 March, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman [ deputy director general of the foreign ministry’s information department] Zhao Lijian through his tweets has provided official support to the theory that the origin of the COVID-19 may not be Wuhan, but the United States. Such a view was based on reports that suggest the US Army’s participation in the international Military World Games held in Wuhan in October, 2019 to be the original cause of the pandemic. It is quite clear that in the absence of credible evidence and pending investigations theories based on counterfactuals will remain in effect. Human intent going wrong cannot be ruled out for the time-being as the chief cause for this global crisis.
Professor of international law at the University Of Illinois College Of Law.
On 12 February, 2020 the World Health Organization renamed 2019-nCoV as – COVID-19.
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