Noam Chomsky: ‘Coronavirus pandemic could have been prevented’


Chomsky slams US’s handling of virus as he warns nuclear war, global warming threats will remain after pandemic is over.

While the coronavirus can have “terrifying consequences, there will be recovery”, said Chomsky, but regarding the other threats, “there won’t be recovery, it’s finished” :  threat of nuclear war … and the other of course is the growing threat of global warming.”

Speaking from his office in self-isolation to Croatian philosopher and author Srecko Horvat, the celebrated 91-year-old US linguist offered a stark perspective on how the pandemic has been managed by different countries. He spoke on March 28, as part of a series by Democracy in Europe Movement 2025.

“This coronavirus pandemic could have been prevented, the information was there to prevent it. In fact, it was well-known. In October 2019, just before the outbreak, there was a large-scale simulation in the United States – possible pandemic of this kind,” he said, referring to an exercise – titled Event 201 – hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Nothing was done. The crisis was then made worse by the treachery of the political systems that didn’t pay attention to the information that they were aware of.

“On December 31, China informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of pneumonia-like symptoms with unknown origins. A week later, some Chinese scientists identified a coronavirus. Furthermore, they sequenced it and provided information to the world. By then, virologists and others who were bothering to read WHO reports knew that there was a coronavirus and knew that had to deal with it. Did they do anything? Well yes, some did.

“China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore began to do something, and they have sort of pretty much seemed to have contained at least the first surge of the crisis.”

He explained that the way the West prepared for the crisis differed between countries.

“In Europe, to some extent, it’s happened. Germany … did have spare diagnostic capacity and was able to act in a highly selfish fashion, not helping others but for itself at least, to evident reasonable containment.

“Other countries just ignored it. The worst was the United Kingdom and the worst of all was the United States.

“One day [US President Donald Trump] says, ‘There is no crisis, it’s just like flu.’ The next day, ‘It’s a terrible crisis and I knew it all along.’ The next day, ‘We have to go back to the business, because I have to win the election’. The idea that the world is in these hands is shocking.”

Describing the US president as a “sociopathic buffoon”, Chomsky said while the corona virus was serious, “it’s worth recalling that there is a much greater horror approaching. We are racing to the edge of disaster, far worse than anything that’s happened in human history.

“Donald Trump and his minions are in the lead in racing to the abyss. In fact there are two immense threats that we’re facing – one is the growing threat of nuclear war … and the other of course is the growing threat of global warming.”

While the coronavirus can have “terrifying consequences, there will be recovery”, said Chomsky, but regarding the other threats, “there won’t be recovery, it’s finished”.

He also blasted Trump for continuing punishing sanctions on Iran, a country which is struggling to contain the virus with more than 3,000 deaths, as a way to make people suffer bitterly.

“When the US imposes devastating sanctions – it’s the only country that can do that, everyone has to follow … the master. Or else they are kicked out  of  the financial system,” said Chomsky. highlighted these lines :

With the crisis worsening, 91-year-old American linguist and political analyst Mr Chomsky claimed in a recent interview that COVID-19 is a glaring new example of the cruelty of neoliberal capitalism.

Speaking with Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) co-founder Srecko Horvat on Saturday, the political philosopher argued the pandemic had been predicted long before its appearance, but actions to prepare for such a crisis were barred by the cruel imperatives of an economic order in which “there’s no profit in preventing a future catastrophe”.

He said: “We should think about the origins of this crisis. Why is there a coronavirus crisis?

“It is a colossal market failure.

“It goes right back to the essence of markets, exacerbated by the neoliberal savage, neoliberal intensification of deep social economic problems.

“It was known for a long time that pandemics are very likely.

Mr Chomsky noted: “The SARS epidemic was overcome 15 years ago.

“The viruses were identified, sequenced, vaccines were available. Labs around the world could have started working right then on developing protection for potential coronavirus pandemics.

“But they didn’t. Why did they not do it?

“Because the market’s signals were wrong.

“We have handed over our fate to drug companies – private tyrannies, corporations, which are unaccountable to the public.”

The political analyst argued that those companies make body creams instead of finding a vaccine that will protect people from total destruction, because it is much more profitable.

Mr Chomsky added: “Polio, at the time, was a terrifying threat. It was ended by the discovery of the Salk vaccine by a government institution, set off by the Roosevelt administration.

“No patents, it was available to everyone.

“That could have been done this time, but the neoliberal plague has blocked that.”

The activist also noted the “irony” of recent reports that Cuba, which has suffered Western sanctions for decades, is sending doctors to help European countries to fight the coronavirus.

He said: “I mean this is so shocking that you don’t know how to describe it. “Germany can’t help Greece: but Cuba can help European countries.

“Just as when you see thousands of people dying in the Mediterranean, fleeing from countries Europe has devastated for centuries and being sent to their deaths in the Mediterranean, you don’t know what words to use.”

(The conversation with Horvat took place online on March 28 as part of a series by Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, a political party launched by Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, to discuss the world after the pandemic. Other speakers have included Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek and German-Croatian theatre director and author Angela Richter.  )

Looking ahead, Chomsky said there could be reason for hope as he made a case against neoliberalism.

“Possibly, a good side of the coronavirus, is it might bring people to think about what kind of a world do we want.

Asked for his view on the current “war-time” language used during the crisis, which has seen medical workers described as being on the “front line” and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warning of the biggest challenge since World War II, Chomsky said the rhetoric was justified to mobilise people.

But post-pandemic options, he warned, “range from the installation of highly authoritarian brutal states all the way over to radical reconstruction of society and more humane terms concerned with human need and no private profit.

“We should bear in mind that highly authoritarian vicious states are quite compatible with neoliberalism.”

SOURCE: 1) Al Jazeera News, 3 Apr 2020




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