After Donald Trump, at least partly to distract from his own failures over Coronavirus, announced last night that he would be defunding the World Health Organisation, the reaction in Ireland was pretty much exactly what you would expect.
“An indefensible decision”, pronounced Simon Coveney, accusing the US President of “undermining trust” in the WHO:
This is indefensible decision, in midst of global pandemic. So many vulnerable populations rely on @WHO – deliberately undermining funding & trust now is shocking. Now is a time for global leadership & unity to save lives, not division and blame! https://t.co/nOknZnBqDd
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) April 15, 2020
Some journalist should really ask Coveney why Trump is guilty of undermining trust in the WHO, and why he has never accused China, which was feeding the WHO bullshit like this to share with the world, isn’t guilty of the exact same thing:
They won’t ask him, of course, but they should.
Also, the line that it’s “not time for division and blame”? Come off it. First, it’s always time for division and blame if there’s someone unpopular to blame, remember? This country loves nothing more than a bit of division and blame, but only when we can blame the right targets:
Hugely important thread for #BritishTwitter#EnglishTwitter
You’ve been let down badly by your leadership & your media & many of your loved ones will needlessly die as a result 😔#CovidUK https://t.co/L1xeIZEpRq
— Ciara Kelly (@ciarakellydoc) April 12, 2020
Second, if not now for division and blame, when? This is what they always say. “Now is not the time to play the blame game”. But here’s the thing: It will never be the time, for these people. What will happen will be that in a few months, when we’re all so happy to be back to normal, we’ll get a few murmurings that “we have to learn from our mistakes”, without those mistakes ever being articulated or mentioned or explained, everyone gets a clap on the back, and some people get a raise and a nice pension. That’s what always happens, and it will happen again here, too. By actually finding someone to blame, and holding them accountable, Trump is at least making the WHO explain and defend itself and justify its decisions – not something the Irish Government would dream of doing in a million years.
Anyway, to the substance of the story. The United States pays about, give or take, $500m a year to keep the World Health Organisation show on the road. It is by far the largest funder – providing about 25% of total funding.
Can Trump actually de-fund it? Hard to say. On the one hand, he has no power as President to appropriate money for foreign aid – that’s exclusively the domain of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. On the other hand, the State Department answers exclusively to him, and they’re the ones that actually spend the money. There’s an interesting internal US debate to be had about whether money appropriated actually must be spent, but only if you’re a nerd like me.
Should he de-fund it? Absolutely. There are good practical reasons to de-fund it, and then there’s the more important reason, which is that people who behave like this should be held to account:
There is an island nation off the southeastern coast of China where public health officials saw the pandemic coming—and took action before China did. Nearly three months after reporting its first confirmed case of Covid-19, this country has only reported 348 positive diagnoses and five deaths. It was one of the earliest countries to be hit and has one of the lowest infection rates.
But you wouldn’t know any of this if you got your information from the World Health Organization. The country is Taiwan, which the WHO refuses to recognize as a sovereign state.
Despite early warnings from Taiwanese officials, the organization kept the island cut off from its global information networks. Now, it may be the rest of the world that’s paying the price.
The whole point of the WHO, remember, is to share information on best medical practice with the world to improve our collective response to health problems. The WHO totally failed to do that, because it’s wholly in hock to China. We have a situation where the rest of the world has been endangered because the WHO won’t deal with a country China doesn’t like. So what’s the point of it? It’s a Chinese puppet organisation, not a “world” organisation in any sense.
Some people have been pointing to this tweet from Trump as an example of his hypocrisy:
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2020
But check the date on that: It came just ten days after the WHO itself announced that the Chinese Government had found “no human to human transmission” – which was a total lie. Much of the world was deceived by that lie, including, apparently, Trump himself.
The WHO has continuously spread Chinese lies, refused to deal with countries China doesn’t like, used horrendously dishonest Chinese statistics, provided incredibly bad advice (the current WHO advice, for example, as of this very day, is that travel bans are ineffective), and failed to make any global impact on stopping the disease.
It’s a failed organisation. Trump is totally correct.