We’re supposed to trust the World Health Organization to save us from pandemics like the one we’re experiencing right now. Inexplicably, given the woeful performance of the global body in the face of an existential threat, liberals howled when the Trump administration announced last month we were pulling out of the WHO, effective July 6, 2021.
In fact, on the day the Trump administration made the announcement, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden assured Americans that he would rejoin the group on his “first day as president.”
“Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health,” he tweeted July 7, promising that membership in the WHO would “restore our leadership on the world stage.”
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) July 7, 2020
As an argument, this is problematic. We’re already the WHO’s largest donor and, well, look where that’s gotten us.
If you need an elevator pitch as to why we should be withdrawing, consider a recent appearance by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Fox News in which he pointed out China knew about human-to-human transmission of the virus before telling the world and that the WHO had been “co-opted” into the effort to hide it.
Pompeo made those remarks specifically in response to a question about Dr. Yan Li-Meng, a Hong Kong virologist who fled to the United States. Yan has said Beijing knew about human-to-human transmission three weeks before it told the world.
The Associated Press had already reported in April that the Chinese government knew about human-to-human transmission before it shared that information externally.
However, that report indicated top Chinese officials had only reached that conclusion six days before they informed the WHO, significantly expanding the period in which China and the WHO could have acted.
While the AP noted there was an additional two-week period in which China’s Center for Disease Control didn’t report any cases from local officials while hundreds of COVID-19 patients had gone to hospitals across the country, the report said it was “uncertain whether it was local officials who failed to report cases or national officials who failed to record them.”
Addressing Yan’s assertions, Pompeo said while he hadn’t seen her remarks, the basic premise of her accusations was accurate.
“It is the case that the Chinese Communist Party was aware of human-to-human transmission before they shared this with the world and that the World Health Organization itself was co-opted into the same effort to deny the world the knowledge it needed to respond to this threat, to this threat from the virus that emanated from Wuhan, China,” Pompeo said.
And yes, while China may have been complicit in actively covering up the human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus, it’s not as if the WHO was prying. As Jack Crowe noted in an article for National Review published June 26, part of the reason the WHO didn’t learn of this is that they weren’t pressing too hard.
“[Chinese] authorities learned on or before December 30 that a number of doctors had been infected with the little-known virus, which amounts to clear evidence of human-to-human transmission, but insisted until as late as January 14 that no such evidence existed,” he wrote.
“The WHO credulously repeated the claim until January 22, when they finally admitted what CCP authorities had known for at least a month. During his briefing on January 29, after precious time had been wasted, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, touted China’s handling of the virus, calling it ‘incredible.’”
Credulousness in the face of a potential pandemic is one thing, but active duplicity is another — and in the Fox News interview, Pompeo said the world would hold China to account.
“I can see nations who are doing business in China who are rethinking about how to do that,” he said.
“If you are buying products that are a result of the slave labor that’s happening in the western part of China,” Pompeo said, “if you’re a country that’s bent the knee to China because they tried to come fish in your waters that are rightly yours … I can see nations all around the world that are reasserting their claims, reasserting their sovereignty.
“And of course President Trump’s done that here too. For 40 years … we’ve had administrations that have just looked the other way and allowed China to trample on us. President Trump said, ‘No more.'”
“We’ve seen a virus that started in Wuhan, China, cost the globe hundreds of thousands of people and trillions and trillions of dollars, and I believe the world is going to unite to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for having covered this up when they could have prevented so much of this tragedy,” he added.
As Biden and Trump try to outdo each other in terms of how tough they’re going to be on China — on human rights, the coronavirus and trade — it’s worth noting that holding global actors accountable for how they acted in the face of the coronavirus includes the WHO.
Merely rescinding Trump’s decision to withdraw on his first day in office, as Biden vowed, wouldn’t hold the organization accountable for its poor performance in the face of the crisis.
When it’s the WHO’s role to prevent pandemics, being credulous is being complicit.
Something has to change — and if that involves the United States leaving, then so be it.
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