US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Covid-19 response and the state of vaccinations at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 21, 2021, in Washington, DC. Photo: Getty Images via AFP / Alex Wong

“Surely, President Biden, you must be joking!”  

On May 26, these words should have poured forth from the White House Press Corps and the mainstream commentariat when Joe Biden declared that he was placing the question of Covid-19’s origins securely in the hands of the “national intel agencies.” They were to report back in 90 days.  

Have not the intelligence agencies been up to their eyeballs in deception about the “Global War on Terror” for the past 20-plus years? Must we really remind the press and commentariat of the scandal of the “weapons of mass destruction” hyped by the intel agencies to bamboozle a highly skeptical public into the war on Iraq?  

Do we need to recall the embarrassing spectacle of the hapless Colin Powell solemnly presenting the WMD fraud to the United Nations, with George Tenet, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sitting nervously behind him? Surely for those who lived through the time, those images are seared into our psyches.  

Need we remind ourselves yet again that we were lied into the war on Vietnam “with a complete fabrication disseminated by the intelligence community and endorsed by corporate media outlets: that the North Vietnamese had launched an unprovoked attack on US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin”? This fraud resulted in the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that landed the United States in the Vietnam War. 

 This Tuesday or thereabouts, the disgraced intel agencies are to deliver their verdict on the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is an event of enormous consequence, since blaming the pandemic on China moves the US one step closer to all-out conflict. 

(It also is a distraction from the miserable performance of the US with its more than 600,000 deaths in contrast with fewer than 5,000 reported in China – a country with a population four times as large.) 

The vehicle to assign blame to China is the claim that Covid-19 was due either to a genetically engineered virus or to a “leak” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Since the alleged evidence for an engineered virus has collapsed in the face of molecular biological studies, the lab-leak idea remains the sole hope for the China hawks. 

There is absolutely no evidence for this idea either, leaving the door wide open for the conspiracy theorists and, yes, the “intel agencies.”  

The Biden administration has preened itself on “standing with science” in the face of the pandemic. But surely the question of the origins of Covid-19 is a scientific one. The intel agencies are hardly the ones to decide a question of science – or to provide the truth in any realm.

The World Health Organization has labeled the lab-leak hypothesis the least likely of the four hypotheses put forward for the origin of Covid-19. The original WHO study called this hypothesis “extremely unlikely,” although under pressure from the US, some have entered vigorous discussion over whether to call it “extremely unlikely,” “very unlikely,” “unlikely” or some similar variation. 

Whatever the label one wants to put on it, it is unfounded conjecture in search of so much as a jot or tittle of evidence. It is based on a connect-the-dots sort of circumstantial reasoning, except that there is no evidence for even the dots. As such, it richly deserves the label of “conspiracy theory.”

The 90-day deadline is another absurdity. Finding the origins of pandemics has taken many years or decades, and sometimes the problem has remained unsolved. Science does not proceed according to a schedule. With all his power, President Biden cannot order up a bit of science at a time of his choosing any more than King Canute could reverse the tides.  

Let us hope that Biden will show the same recognition of reality that he has just exhibited in terminating the war in Afghanistan. Let’s  hope he finds the Lab Leak Conspiracy Theory too untenable and just plain too embarrassing to go to the poisoned well of the intel agencies for a “determination” just one week after the Afghan debacle.  

The first signs are not hopeful. Biden noted that his withdrawal from Afghanistan was motivated in part by his desire to devote more resources to “competition with Russia and China.” Not to peaceful co-existence nor to a win-win global order but to a competition with an enormous military component. 

Perhaps the intel agencies, whose image is already tarnished to the point of corrosion, will not want their remaining credibility to be sacrificed in developing yet another casus belli.  But if past is our guide, this does not look hopeful either.

Let us not repeat the many errors of the past by trusting the Covid-19 question to America’s discredited and disgraced intel agencies.  

Too much is at stake.  

Let the scientists do their work.

This article appeared previously at Dissident Voice and is republished here with the permission of the author.

John Walsh

John V Walsh, until recently a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has written on issues of peace and health care for Asia Times, EastBayTimes/Mercury News, LA Progressive, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch and others.