Prometheus & Pandora II: The West must not go gently into a COVID-19 goodnight
The value of peace must never exceed that of freedom or justice
-Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night-
The sun has not yet set on the West, nor is it inevitable - but if the West doesn’t hold China to the same standards of accountability that western civilization applies to itself now, IN THE MIDST of the 2nd truly simultaneous global pandemic in the history of mankind, then when? As it happens, the voice we should be listening to isn’t the World Health Organization, but it IS from someone within China itself:
"But this kind of cover-up propaganda, it can basically only cheat those who want to be cheated; there's no way it can cheat those who believe in facts and reality.”
That author of that quote disappeared 11 days after it was posted online, and the 38 million followers of his blog woke up to discover little evidence that it had ever existed. The COVID-19 origin story is peppered with evidence of the same phenomenon, but the sheer number and consistency of the ‘truth singularities’ has almost made it easier to discern the chapters of the story they were meant to conceal. The publication of this article, via exquisite serendipity, comes on the same day as the Wall Street Journal has a front 'page' story announcing a decision by the WHO COVID-19 origin investigation team to skip the publication of a partial review of their results, presumably to allow for some time to reflect on the potential impact of continuing to blatantly parrot Chinese assertions.
The real story, however, is in the byline - recognizing the importance of a letter written by dissidents beyond China’s reach - a group of scientists scattered across the globe, but united by the same passion for truth as Ren Zhiqiang, the wealthy real-estate investor who sacrificed his freedom to call out Xi Xinping directly, for his handling of the pandemic that exacerbated a nascent crisis and accelerated its spread across the globe. Their letter, published 8 days before the first anniversary of Ren Zhiqiang’s abduction, is a call to arms for diplomats, scientists and politicians to hold China accountable now, because the window of opportunity is closing, and the implications of innocence or guilt dwarf other geopolitical issues by gravity alone.
[*Note - for BLUF, click here]
“Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again.”
-Stephen King, The Stand (1978)
First, we must draw distinctions between the past and the present. The origin of SARS-CoV-2 isn’t a matter of blame - it’s a matter of perspective, and justice. China has been more dismissive and indignant than in 2003, during the original SARS outbreak, when China’s blatant refusal to share details of the situation hindered the global response attempting to help them contain the tragedy. Their behavior was so reckless [in humanitarian terms] that it sparked an urgent WHO update to the mandatory reporting requirements for any member nation-state, so that in the event of the future emergence of a pathogen with pandemic potential, the rest of the world wouldn’t be blind-sided…
The emergence of a new type of deadly viral disease was a shock to the international health community, which had historically focused on influenza, tropical diseases like malaria and dengue, hemorrhagic fevers including Ebola & Marburg, and smallpox. Until the global vaccination effort of the mid-20th century led to smallpox’s official eradication in 1980, it had been humanity’s most prolific pathogenic killer, with an estimated 300 million deaths from 1900-1977 alone.
What set SARS apart was its efficiency in transmission through respiratory droplets, which paired high lethality with rapid contamination/infectivity. This combination is what made a novel influenza or coronavirus strain the focus of planning strategies for pandemic preparedness, especially after the H1N1 ‘Swine Flu’ pandemic in 2009. The danger was highlighted by two locations in Hong Kong, when a single patient sparked an outbreak of 290 cases at a hospital and an apartment complex. Ultimately, the outbreak was contained through intense quarantine and strict protection measures implemented by the doctors and nurses.
China’s blatant refusal to cooperate with WHO investigators may be familiar, but it stands in stark contrast to the difference between their response to SARS in 2003 and COVID-19 in January 2020. The effectiveness of their brutal mitigation measures killed a full-blown epidemic in less than two months, and fewer than 5,000 cases have been confirmed in the year since then. China’s stunning achievements and intense diplomatic goodwill efforts muted criticism of their early actions, and the pandemic itself provided a convenient excuse to delay an investigation of China’s conduct during the initial outbreak in Wuhan.
But… viewing 2020 through the prism of 2003 is stupid, dangerous and short-sighted, and the WHO investigation must be understood as a wake-up call, not a diplomatic power struggle or as a cover for ‘embarrassing’ failures in China’s handling of Wuhan. If China’s answer to criticism [including from the US, which prompted Trump’s angry withdrawal from the WHO] was to commandeer the WHO, dictate the terms of its investigation, and brazenly withhold evidence while pushing theories rejected by the scientific community, then they are already ignoring established international precedent - and the real question is why.
Perspective - the more things stay the same, the more they change
It may seem crass to use Hannibal Lecter, but I’m confident that history will show that the WHO’s Wuhan investigation, if anything, contributed less to our knowledge of COVID-19’s origins than this fictional cannibal’s wisdom.*
[*I should note that my M.A. focus & thesis centered on aspects of Roman History]
It is fitting that Dr. Lecter quoted Marcus Aurelius, because it was during his reign as imperator [emperor] that the Rome Empire experienced its worst plague prior to the ‘fall’ of the western half c. 476 A.D. Given that he wrote his Meditations in the midst of that tragedy, which decimated his legions’ ranks enough to roll back military successes and create strategic weaknesses that his barbarian enemies could exploit, perhaps we should ask ourselves the same questions about COVID-19. And if we are to consider the ‘nature’ of SARS-CoV-2, our perspective must be founded on these first principles:
1) The scale of the SARS epidemic & and the COVID-19 pandemic are incomparable; all SARS confirmed cases would be equivalent to 7 thousandths of 1% of the current COVID-19 total. There’s actually been substantially less criticism from the scientific community so far, despite a pattern of misbehavior that contributed to the ultimate breadth of the pandemic.
2) China 2020 is not analogous to China 2003. In 2003, China’s economy was smaller than Italy’s and 1/9th the size of the United States’ - today, China’s economy is 7 times larger than Italy’s and 3 times larger than Japan’s, who sits at #3 in the world. They were able to marshal vastly greater resources to contain the pandemic, and are using the leftovers to distract from the criticisms concerning the cover-up in Wuhan.
3) The epidemiological characteristics of SARS & COVID-19 are fundamentally distinct; SARS-CoV-1 was highly contagious, but SARS-CoV-2 is exponentially more contagious, utilizes multiple pathways within its genome to attack cells, can spread with similar intensity before symptoms appear, during the clinical course of infection and even without symptoms at all, and these traits made early symptom-checks at airports a band-aid for a bullet wound.
4) The WHO’s treatment of China in 2003 & today is negatively correlated with the scale of the mistakes made and actions taken. In 2003, an emerging China was desperate to avoid embarrassment or open its country to critical analysis from international observers, in the wake of an epidemic caused by a truly novel virus. In fact, since the discovery of coronaviruses (CoV’s), no species was known to present mortal danger to humans. In 2020, however, China was not unprepared - it was home to the world’s most accomplished CoV researchers. No better situation could’ve played out for China, since its CoV experts ran a BSL-4 lab in Wuhan, which also stored the world’s largest collection of bat CoV samples, and had conducted groundbreaking research on dozens of species. With all of these resources, and with samples of an unknown viral pneumonia being collected as early as the 10th of December, 2019 [from a patient at the hospital closest to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, roughly 2 miles away], China didn’t even tell its citizens about the virus until 1/3/2020. Per Ren Zhiqiang, writing in the blogpost that led to his disappearance on 3/12/2020:
Just in the last few weeks, the WHO has admitted that much of the data they requested during their investigation was never provided; the Chinese refused to provide basic information and reportedly did 'little' to investigate COVID-19's origins. However, given that the high-technology police state tracks their citizens lives through a smart phone app that is set up at purchase, the odds of China having failed to investigate the ‘origins’ of a pandemic that started in a Chinese city of 11 million people seems unlikely.
5) Nearly every conceivable genome mutation that could’ve increased the R0 of SARS-CoV-1 appeared in SARS-CoV-2, and the technological ability to tweak the genome to incorporate such mutations [especially through passaging] was demonstrated by the WIV or its global research partners
6) China’s willful failure to comply with the WHO’s new reporting standards continues, even though doing so could prove their innocence [if innocent].
7) The WHO ‘investigation’ in Wuhan included a financier of the GOF research whose income is derived from attracting grant funding, and the NIH/NASEM report to the White House’s OSTP was ghost-written by said financier’s organization with the assistance of Dr. Fauci.
8) The weight of current evidence does not favor zoonosis; if COVID-19 began in Atlanta, Moscow, Paris, etc., would a WHO investigation have argued for an end to lab-accident hypotheses, and concurrently posit frozen-food transmission?
9) 1 year removed from the emergence of the SARS outbreak, all signs pointed to a natural emergence of the virus. 1 year removed from the emergence of COVID-19, all we know is that the WHO, NIH, and other entities actively worked to prevent serious inquiries into the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a non-zoonotic source, and they allowed the EcoHealth Alliance organization [who funded, among several projects, gain-of-function experiments in Wuhan] to shape their messaging in order to shield China, the WIV, NIH, WHO and EHA from criticism, while working to prevent publication of research that questioned their assertions.
-Old Age Should Burn and Rave at Close of Day-
The 21st century has seen the continued acceleration of technological advancement [most effectively predicted by Ray Kurzweil], along with the attendant dichotomy of remarkable progress towards the elimination of global poverty (down 90% in recent decades) and increasing social turmoil sparked [in part] by the disorienting impact of so much rapid change in so many aspects of daily human life.
The COVID-19 pandemic is, in many ways, as much a symptom of humanity’s growing pains as it is a consequence of the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Because of the stunning impact COVID-19 has had upon human civilization, superficial analyses of the pandemic’s origins are not just unsuitable - they could dangerously obscure the fundamental lessons humanity should be learning from this shared tragedy.
Such superficial treatment has allowed China to avoid any liability for its actions in the pivotal early weeks after a viral pneumonia of unknown cause was first detected in December 2019, in the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan. If anything, appreciation for China’s effective pandemic response has rested upon the willingness of some admirers to ignore the methods used to achieve those enviable results.
On March 1st, 2020, I was sitting in an economic brief within the US Embassy in Prague when the speaker was cut short because of the announcement of the Czech Republic’s first 3 confirmed cases of COVID-19. A year removed from that abrupt transition to an emergency footing, the world is now facing a decisive milestone on the path to recovery; as attractive as the thought of accepting China’s forced whitewash on the pandemic’s beginnings might be at the moment, the ultimate cost of blind acceptance would be much worse - a lesson best taught by a teacher like Ren Zhiqiang, who lost his freedom after publicly [and directly] speaking truth to the same power the rest of the world must now face.
The Emperor has no clothes
If you’ve never heard of Ren Zhiqiang, you shouldn’t feel too terrible - the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has expended a sizable amount of effort to remove his ‘stain’ from their ‘public’ discourse. Although Ren was a wealthy and vocal critic of the ruling party in China for many years, it’s been difficult to even narrow down his net worth or recent activities, even though he had previously been given the moniker “China’s Trump” because of his outspoken populism and real-estate background. He’s not the only high profile critic to ‘disappear’ from Chinese society, of course - Jack Ma, the Alibaba founder worth $60 billion dollars, returned from a similar sojourn just 40 days ago, and at least 4 other billionaires have been ‘humbled’ in the last few years of Xi Jinping’s rule.
Ren, however, stands out because of the strength of his criticism and the timing of his outcry, right at the moment when the outbreak in Wuhan was finally subsiding under the stunningly intense quarantine imposed on 1/23. The response was swift, beginning with the deletion of his blog that was followed by 38 million Weibo users. On March 12, 2020, he disappeared, presumably kidnapped by his own government, from his own house. His article, The Emperor has no clothes [my own unofficial title, though I’ve recently found it referred to as “The lives of the people are ruined by the virus and a seriously sick system”], reportedly continued to be shared amongst Chinese internet users, although when this version was translated, the translator couldn’t find any complete version in Mandarin or English, and this copy only survived after being captured by the Internet Archive, which is where I found it last week.
Why did I choose to include it here, in this discussion of the West’s proper response to the pandemic? I felt compelled to do so because his passionate roast perfectly captures the mindset of the CCP, and dispels any illusions about the ability of the West to obtain compliance in the hunt for the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus - as long as they allow China to dictate the terms of their ‘assistance.’
-Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light-
Sometimes the truth may sound ridiculous, but truth should never be judged according to what it sounds like - it should be judged according to what it is.
Here in March of 2021, the world is much quieter, but not because the orange-haired troll is gone - it’s mostly quieter because there’s no daily chorus to remind us that his garish bluntness is destroying the fabric of western civilization. What’s remarkable is that no one seems willing to fill the leadership void that spawned Trump, expanded his base in his re-election campaign, and which the West was counting down the days until he would have to relinquish.
Certainly not in America itself, where the cancel mob is now encouraged to self-immolate, leading the French president Macron to publicly warn his own citizens to reject such damaging and self-serving propaganda. The quick and powerful censorship post-capitol hill riot was so alarming that Angela Merkel, Putin & Navalny all were concerned enough to chastise Congress; Vladimir Putin directed an attempted assassination of his political foil Navalny [because of his withering criticism in public speeches] six months before January 6th, and even he called it dangerous.
The truth, however, is that the world is entering a time when a unified and resolute response is required, to ensure that China will be held accountable for its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. There is unequivocally no legal justification for China’s refusal to provide evidence regarding patient data, ongoing research at their labs or serology results from hundreds of thousands of samples taken in Wuhan in the fall of 2019; providing such documentation is mandatory for any WHO member nation that becomes the initial location for a potentially global outbreak, and the possibility of violations of the Biological Weapons Convention makes their blunt refusal even more egregious.
Enforcing these two charters is vital regardless of guilt or innocence. Ironically, without President Trump’s rapid response to Syria’s repeated use of chemical weapons, China would have even less motivation to worry about being called out for non-compliance to the BWC or WHO reporting requirements - since the absence of a credible ‘Red Line’ encourages repeat offenses. After all, the WHO gave China veto power over its investigative team, and allowed Peter Daszak to be included as an investigator (along with other members of his NGO EcoHealth Alliance) on both the WHO and Lancet teams; imagine what complete impunity would look like! The recent WHO investigation can best be described as equivalent to appointing General Michael Flynn to be the special prosecutor for the ‘Russiagate’ investigation, along with various other members of Trump’s campaign organization.
However, directly enforcing the BWC would require an actual mechanism to do so, which the charter does not contain - in contrast with the CPW or IAEA, which enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), respectively. This reality only adds to the necessity of US leadership in the global effort to hold China accountable for its early suppression of critical information that likely played a major role in delaying mitigation efforts until global community spread was already in motion - much less any broader measures should a global consensus emerge that the SARS-CoV-2 virus jumped species because of ongoing β-coronavirus research by the Wuhan Institute of Virology or other labs within that city of 11 million people.
Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo burned down any remaining bridges when he issued a statement 5 days before the inauguration:
“And in January 2021, the State Department confirmed that people had fallen mysteriously ill at WIV in fall 2019, and that WIV conducts secret bioweapons research with the PLA.
The negligence at China’s biolabs, especially WIV, was so dangerous that the PLA dispatched a general to take over the facility soon after the outbreak in Wuhan. Xi Jinping’s first speech on the outbreak highlighted “lessons learned” about “shortcomings” and “leaking holes” in China’s management of biological material and biological-security system. He demanded that “a new biological-security law” be made part of the “national-security system.” Wall Street Journal (2/23/21)
China responded with a raised middle finger, and some viewed his statement as a political stunt, but someone nursing presidential ambitions is unlikely to fabricate an accusation tantamount to a crime against humanity if the incoming administration could immediately denounce it as unfounded. It should be noted that the Biden administration has not modified the stance taken by its DoS predecessor. And last week, the former Deputy National Security Advisor provided more details on Face the Nation, 2/21/21. Our English counterparts joined in on the chorus, and in the last 24 hours the WHO itself has hedged.
The foundation of any further inquiry should rest on the following assumptions:
It’s more probable than not that fulfillment of the basic WHO requirements for pandemic reporting would contain enough information to exonerate the Wuhan Institute of Virology and any other research institution from culpability for the sparking of the COVID-19 pandemic - IF they are, in fact, innocent and the zoonotic hypothesis is correct. Conversely, it is highly likely that fulfillment of those same WHO requirements would provide sufficient information to prove evidence of a lab release beyond the threshold of legal ‘reasonable doubt.’
It’s highly unlikely that any additional evidence will exonerate the Chinese Communist Party, because a zoonotic transfer can be assumed as the inverse outcome from the evidence above. It is, of course, entirely possible for SARS-CoV-2 to have jumped directly from an animal in Wuhan, but it is less likely and almost certainly would not produce evidence prior to the conclusion of the options listed above. The herculean efforts of D.R.A.S.T.I.C., other scientists highlighted in today’s WSJ, and other assorted researchers have resulted in a stunning amount of evidence against a natural emergence - that continues to grow daily.
As Dr. Steven Quay plainly and brilliantly pointed out in his Bayesian analysis, two discoveries stand out in particular:
An in-depth analysis of the very first genome sequences [as in, the phylogenetic ancestors of all current strains] uncovered remnants of sequences from a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine [adenovirus-based just like the first Chinese vaccine peppered throughout multiple samples. Given that those samples were taken before the virus genome was ever sequenced, only time-travel could’ve produced such contamination - unless a vaccine did exist in December of 2019. Dr. Quay is still awaiting confirmatory results from other researchers…
An absence of evidence of seroconversion in the Wuhan population prior to the outbreak. Animal transmission of a virus invariably leaves behind traces of evolutionary trial-and-error, because a virus must continue to evolve in order to strengthen its affinity for a host. Both SARS and MERS showed classic patterns of this process within blood samples taken just before their respective outbreaks. Thus far, COVID-19 has not been seen in any of 68,500 samples.
"But this kind of cover-up propaganda, it can basically only cheat those who want to be cheated; there's no way it can cheat those who believe in facts and reality.”
Ren Zhiqiang called out Xi Xinping on 2/23/2020, and disappeared 3/12. He re-appeared just before his 1-day corruption trial/conviction in September. I've only found 1 translated copy on Google, so China's been busy. If he was willing to face that to say this, we should pay attention, because Ren only got to say it once.
This is the government that Peter Daszak was and is protecting, to keep a full SARS-CoV-2 origin investigation from taking place; this is who he has defended against our Department of State and supported with our tax dollars. The contrast of two voices….
I fought against a brutal regime & helped a freed people vote for the 1st real time in a gen. [in Anbar Prov., '05]; I can't stand by when a man gives up freedom for the truth. IF this pandemic is unjust, 2.5M dead need justice. This is why I'm here, simply to pass truth along.
The Prometheus analogy fits him a lot better - A man who crept into the darkness to steal a flame of wisdom and share it with mankind, only to be punished by the gods.
C. H. Rixey
[My ‘living and breathing’ list of 250+ sources is here....]