World Health Organisation and the Exit of America’s Leadership, By Osmund Agbo
The truth is that America has never suffered this degree of humiliation before. The coronavirus has come to expose the worst notion of leadership there is, in the worst possible way. Trump’s America has now achieved an international pariah status… The United States has become the first casualty of a terribly myopic and reckless leadership.
Effective from July 6, 2021, America will cease to be a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Trump administration, earlier this week, notified both the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, announcing the decision to begin the process of withdrawal from the multilateral organisation. As the single largest contributor to the global health body, the United States funded WHO to the tune of more than $400 million, about 15 per cent of its total budget, in 2019. This move is, without doubt, a heavy blow to the operations of the Geneva based organisation founded in 1948 and given the mandate to “promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable”.
Trump’s charges against the body range from the ridiculous to the frivolous, all of which remain largely unsubstantiated. But what kind of honesty should we expect from a president who, according to the Washington Post, has made 19,127 false or misleading statements in a space of 1226 days? Mr. Trump does not let even the truth get in his way.
His claims went from painting the WHO as inefficient in obtaining, vetting and sharing information to accusing the body of being opposed to travel restrictions that hurt the U.S. The most egregious of his allegations was that WHO is now under the control of China, his reason being that the organisation had publicly praised China’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. But that same Trump on January 24 had also tweeted that:
“China has been working very hard to contain Coronavirus. The U.S. greatly appreciated the efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi”.
Of course, the president’s position has evolved since he first made that statement. As COVID-19 continues to ravage American lives mercilessly, dimming his prospect of re-election in November, the U.S. president is in a crisis mode and he is lashing out at everything and anything frantically.
The fact remains that America, even with all her flaws, has always been the greatest force for good in this planet. Until now, the U.S. had kept to that promise; for her own benefit and the benefit of the rest of humanity. Since the inauguration of President Trump, America has reneged on that promise.
The last time I checked, we are still in the middle of one of the worst pandemics the world has ever known. The surging death tolls across many countries tell the story of a virus that is as aggressive as it is relentless, and that our worst days are far from over. Ordinarily, Trump’s move would have been unprecedented but we are not living in ordinary times. The new America is Trump’s America, which regrettably also holds the ignominious title as being the world’s epicentre of this monster.
St. John the Baptist Parish is a swampy rural swath of Louisiana that straddles the Mississippi River. It also sits among a large collection of oil refineries and chemical plants, including that of Shell. Chronic medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease are prevalent among residents of St. John, and because of the degree of air pollution, environmental activists have nicknamed St. John and its neighbouring parishes as the Cancer Alley.
With the advent of the novel virus, the parish has added yet another title as the area with the highest death rate per capita for coronavirus in the U.S. Data from the Louisiana Department of Health reveals that out of a population of 43,000, some 569 of them have tested positive for the virus and 47 people have already died. Such is the devastating impact of man’s activities on the environment, yet one of the first executive actions undertaken by this president upon taking office was to pull America out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Just like many things that Mr. Trump does, it’s not clear how such action benefits the American people. A sizable amount of his decisions are predicated on this fatal obsession with undoing anything that has Obama’s imprimatur, whatever satisfaction that gives him. Its the same way that he dismantled some of the public health safety measures put in place by both the Bush and Obama administrations, which is now hurting America in the COVID response.
The truth is that America has never suffered this degree of humiliation before. The coronavirus has come to expose the worst notion of leadership there is, in the worst possible way. Trump’s America has now achieved an international pariah status, to the extent that Americans are not even allowed to travel to Europe. The United States has become the first casualty of a terribly myopic and reckless leadership. Forget about the administration’s notoriously poor initial response to this global health emergency, which its leader described as a media hoax. No one could have believed that the greatest country on earth would get to the point of threatening India with retaliation if she failed to ship a certain quantity of chloroquine to it. But that was exactly what the U.S. president did out of desperation.
…the world faces a looming threat of a belligerent Russia, with her imperial agenda, alongside a resurging and emboldened China that is overly ambitious and makes no pretence about playing by the rule. As we sing Nunc Dimmitis to the old American republic, having to decide between these two other powers will surely leave humanity with a Morton’s Fork.
In February this year, I watched an interview granted to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour by the former Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi. He raved about the strong leadership provided by the Obama White House in 2014, as he rallied other world leaders to contain the Ebola outbreak. Such American leadership is conspicuously missing today on the global stage, and look where we are!
The fact remains that America, even with all her flaws, has always been the greatest force for good in this planet. Until now, the U.S. had kept to that promise; for her own benefit and the benefit of the rest of humanity. Since the inauguration of President Trump, America has reneged on that promise. Today, their is a gaping hole in leadership on the world stage and the world is beckoning at Xi Jinping to step in. We all need to get ready for the meal China would be serving.
The savage that is COVID-19 has exposed the illusion of thinking that any nation could isolate itself in the name of a new-found extreme right wing nationalism, no matter how rich and powerful. The U.S., with the best hospitals and medical experts anywhere in the world, has recorded more deaths than any other country in this planet.
Today, the world faces a looming threat of a belligerent Russia, with her imperial agenda, alongside a resurging and emboldened China that is overly ambitious and makes no pretence about playing by the rule. As we sing Nunc Dimmitis to the old American republic, having to decide between these two other powers will surely leave humanity with a Morton’s Fork.
Osmund Agbo is the president/CEO of African Center for Transparency and writes from the United States.
Picture credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/CNBC.