Iraqi WMD redux
In the early 2000s, the US government exaggerated evidence in favor of an active Iraqi nuclear weapons program in order to whip up war hysteria. There is increasing evidence that in 2020 the US government exaggerated evidence for a “lab leak” being the origin of Covid in order to justify a cold war with China.
A new paper in Science by Michael Worobey provides strong circumstantial evidence that Covid originated at the Huanan animal market in Wuhan, China. The paper showed that previous claims that “patient zero” has no connection with the Huanan market were false, and that the actual earliest known patient was a woman who worked in the market.
The paper also shows that the original cluster of cases was centered on the Huanan market, and that this clustering cannot be due to reporting bias:
Keep in mind that Wuhan is not a unified city like Paris, with a small river running down the middle. The Yangtze is a giant river, roughly a mile across, and Wuhan feels like two separate cities. (I was in Wuhan in mid-2019.) In fact, it was originally multiple cities, Wuchang on one side and Hanyang on the other. The name “Wuhan” was constructed out of those two names, and one other city. As you can see from the map, the famous Wuhan Institute of Virology is about 12 kilometers from the animal market and on the other side of the huge river.
Now of course it is possible that the virus originally spread via a lab leak and the Huanan market was the site of the first “superspreader” event. But that theory has exactly the same problem as lab leak opponents used to justify their claims that a natural origin was implausible. Lab leak proponents once asked, “How likely is it that the virus would first emerge in a Chinese city with a virus research institute?” Worobey turns that argument on its head:
Perhaps Worobey is part of some sort of vast Chinese propaganda effort, which is trying to cover up the origins of Covid. If so, why did Worobey previously sign a letter complaining that the WHO investigation had not taken the lab leak hypothesis seriously enough:
In May, two months after the report by the W.H.O. and China was published, 18 prominent scientists, including Dr. Worobey, responded with a letter in Science complaining that the W.H.O. team had given the lab-leak theory short shrift. Far more research was required, they argued, to determine whether one explanation was more likely than the other.
Lots of lab leak proponents jumped on this letter in support of their claims of a cover-up. And yet Worobey’s Science paper shows that (in at least one respect) the WHO actually gave too much credence to the lab leak hypothesis by wrongly reporting that the first known patient had no links to the Huanan market.
Ironically, the Chinese government may have encouraged lab leak speculation with a clumsy attempt to downplay the animal market hypothesis. The previous SARS epidemic began in a Chinese animal market (in 2003), and early in 2020 China received heavy criticism for allowing these markets:
Paul McCartney has called Chinese wet markets “medieval” and blamed them for the spread of coronavirus, using a comparison with the abolition of the slave trade when calling for them to be banned.
So-called “wet markets” in Asia trade in fresh meat and produce, and sometimes feature live animals. (They take their name from the frequently hosed-down floors.) A common theory – though far from confirmed – is that Covid-19 originated in a live animal market in Wuhan, with the disease being transmitted from illegally traded bat or pangolin meat.
These kinds of news reports in the Western media were deeply embarrassing to China, and their government destroyed valuable evidence that might link the animal markets to the pandemic by killing all the animals in the Huanan market.
In a rational world, the animal market theory would be far more embarrassing to China than the lab leak hypothesis. Western countries also have labs doing gain-of-function research, and lab leaks have occurred in the West. But Western countries do not have Chinese style animal markets. My own view is that the Chinese government is partly to blame for the Covid pandemic, but if I were convinced the lab leak theory were true then it would make me less likely to blame China. Therefore I consider this to be an “anti-CCP post”.
So why did the US government use the lab leak hypothesis as a tool for whipping up anti-China hysteria? Perhaps because most people look at the issue in a more emotional way. The term ‘lab leak’ conjures up images from “mad scientist” films, whereas wild animal markets seem like an old Chinese tradition, a part of their culture.
I see the US government’s attempt to promote the lab leak hypothesis as being part of a longstanding tradition going back to the sinking of the Maine, the Tonkin Gulf incident, and the Iraqi WMD fiasco. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
PS. Other so-called “evidence” has been cited for the lab leak hypothesis, such as three WIV workers supposedly being infected with Covid in November 2019, and the “fact” that the virus supposedly looks manmade. Those pieces of evidence have been shot down long ago.