0330 GMT July 14, 2020
“There’s no coherent leadership. It’s chaotic. The presidency, the White House, is in the hands of a sociopathic megalomaniac who’s interested in nothing but his own power, electoral prospects – doesn’t care what happens to the country, the world,” Chomsky said in an interview with AFP.
“The president himself has said that it’s none of his business. He’s said that the federal government can’t do anything. Nothing really matters except his personal power and gain. Of course, he has to maintain the support of his primary constituency, which is great wealth and corporate power,” he added, noting, “There’s [over] 90,000 deaths and there will be a lot more.... There’s no coordinated plan.”
The 91-year old intellectual said Trump’s systematic dismantling of the pandemic prevention machinery including the ending of joint programs with Chinese scientists on early detection of virus left the US “singularly unprepared” for the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a fatally “chaotic” response.
“As soon as Trump came in, his first move was to dismantle the entire pandemic prevention machinery. At the start, defunding the Centers for Disease Control, which would deal with this. And canceling programs that were working with Chinese scientists to identify potential viruses. So the US was singularly unprepared.”
Chomsky also criticized the US government for lacking “a universal health care system,” describing the current one as “ultimate neoliberal”.
The Trump administration ended a 200-million US dollar early-warning program aimed at training scientists in China and other countries to detect and respond to pandemics, just a couple of months before the COVID-19 outbreak, believed to have started in Wuhan.
The project, called ‘Predict,’ had been run by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) since 2009. It had identified more than 160 different coronaviruses that had the potential to develop into pandemics, including a virus that is considered the closest known relative to COVID-19.
The initiative trained and supported staff in 60 foreign laboratories including the Wuhan Institute of Virology that identified SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Field work ceased when the funding ran out in September, and organizations that worked on the program laid off dozens of scientists and analysts.
Chomsky stated that Europe might be at a greater risk from the pandemic, but still praised it for maintaining a “kind of social democratic structure” which he felt has disappeared from the US.
“Europe in many ways is worse, because the austerity programs just amplify the danger, because of the severe attack on democracy in Europe, the shifting decisions to Brussels.... So Europe has its own problems, but at least it has the residue of some kind of social democratic structure, which provides some support, which is what I think is lacking in the US.”
Global warming worst problem
Chomsky, however, didn’t consider COVID-19 to be the worst global threat, asserting that climate change remains the biggest international challenge in the long run.
“As severe as this pandemic is, it’s not the worst problem. There will be recovery from the pandemic at severe cost... but there isn’t going to be any recovery from the melting of the polar ice caps and the rising of sea levels and the other deleterious effects of global warming.”