Joe Biden and his administration want you to know that they are not — repeat not — soft on China. Look, look — Biden has said all sorts of mean things about Xi Jinping, calling him a ‘thug’ who doesn’t have a democratic bone in his body. Cockburn is sure the president of the People’s Republic sobs into his pillow each night.
There have been testy diplomatic exchanges between Beijing and Washington of late — and lots of Beltway talk of insisting on Chinese transparency (good luck). There’s also been a fair few spoon-fed editorials saying that Biden could in fact prove much tougher on China than President Trump ever was.
But words, as we all know, don’t speak as loudly as actions, and when it comes to politicians it’s especially important to watch what they do not what they say. And that’s why CNN’s scoop that the Biden administration shut down former secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s investigation into whether COVID-19 leaked from a laboratory is worth close attention.
Why would the Biden administration want to close an investigation into what is, probably, the most important geopolitical question facing the world? Given that the ‘lab leak’ theory is increasingly plausible — or rather, now at last accepted as plausible by people who aren’t easily dismissed as insane — it should be quite a major story.
According to CNN, Biden’s State Department had concerns about the ‘quality of evidence’ the investigation was producing. A department source says, ‘Even though this discrete project has concluded, the State Department continues to work with the interagency to look into the COVID origins issue.’
‘It smelled like they were just fishing to justify pre-determined conclusions and cut out experts who could critique their “science”, ‘ said the former official familiar with the effort. ‘The reason for all this became clear when real scientists finally got a chance to see their analysis, and [the inquiry’s] “statistical” case fell apart.’
The heavy implication here is that the inquiry, which was being run out of State’s arms control and verification bureau, was a mad Trumpy project which Pompeo was pursuing for sinister and/or eccentric political reasons.
But as it becomes clearer that the lab leak idea is not some barmy alt-right fixation, it also becomes obvious that Pompeo was right to launch an investigation, including into possible connections between Chinese virus research and a secret biological weapons program. If that sounds a bit like a crazy line from a spy thriller, remember what people said about the lab leak story last year. On January 15, as he prepared to leave office, Pompeo put out a statement saying that American government analysts had established collaboration between the virology lab in Wuhan and Chinese military projects. If the Biden administration wants to say that that official statement was flawed, should it not say so — rather than vaguely alluding to poor quality of work and closing the inquiry down?
It’s known now that various State Department figures tried to undermine the investigation and its conclusions. It’s a sorry truth that, for many senior officials, a feeling of revulsion towards the Trump administration overwhelms any desire to get to the truth about COVID-19.
Americans like to hope that, when it comes to sensitive matters of State, partisan differences can be put aside in the national interest. Sadly that doesn’t seem to be true. Watch what they do, not what they say.
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