Trump’s Mismanagement Worsened COVID-19 Crisis across US: Ex-CIA Officer
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Donald Trump’s mismanagement helped fuel the coronavirus crisis across the US after he attempted to create a no-bad-news atmosphere following the outbreak, a former military intelligence officer with the CIA said.
“The mismanagement occurred at the White House level, where there was a demand by the president that the spread of the virus be treated as ordinary flu, meaning that no special preparations were made for dealing with an epidemic. This was done because the president did not want any disruption by a health crisis to upset his electoral campaign,” Philip Giraldi told Tasnim.
Philip Giraldi is a former counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a columnist and television commentator who is the Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a group that advocates for more even-handed policies by the US government in the Middle East.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: According to reports, the coronavirus outbreak across the US is getting worse, with damage accelerated by shortages of key medical supplies. As of today, there are over 40,000 confirmed cases nationwide, with nearly 600 deaths. New York State has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the US and accounts for almost half of the country's cases. "We're about 10 days away from seeing widespread shortages," Bill de Blasio, the city's mayor, said on Sunday. "If we don't get more ventilators, people will die." Warnings of such shortages have reverberated across the country as state governors have pleaded with the federal government to make more supplies available. What is behind this mismanagement? How do you see Trump’s role in this?
Girladi: The mismanagement occurred at the White House level, where there was a demand by the president that the spread of the virus be treated as ordinary flu, meaning that no special preparations were made for dealing with an epidemic. This was done because the president did not want any disruption by a health crisis to upset his electoral campaign. He received bad advice that the virus would not last long and would not be fatal to many, so he took that route. He also was responding to industries that did not want their activity to be disrupted. In the event, he appears to have made some very bad choices.
Tasnim: More than six weeks into the Trump administration’s response effort — which began Jan. 29 with the announcement of a coronavirus task force and, two days later, the declaration of a public health emergency — ramped-up testing for the virus has only just begun, hospital systems say they don’t have enough beds and medical supplies to handle the onslaught of anticipated patients, and there is a shortage of respirators, ventilators and other protective equipment for nurses and doctors on the front lines. The emergence of the coronavirus exposed the vulnerability of Western governments in the face of such pandemics despite their “advanced medical technology”. There are reports that elderly people are not receiving medical treatment across Western hospitals due to shortages. What do you think?
Giraldi: The problem is not with Western governments but rather with their unwillingness to take steps that they know will be unpopular. Italy should have restricted travel earlier and the United States should have ordered and stockpiled medical equipment, which would have been costly and would have required creating a new infrastructure. Trump meanwhile was and continues to be resistant to the type of isolation and quarantine that the medical experts are calling for. For Trump, everything is about making himself look good no matter what he does, which is why there are constant changes in the explanations of what the government is doing.
Tasnim: Many countries across the world have been hit hard by the virus, including Iran and the US. The situation in Iran could get worse as the White House has refused to lift its unilateral sanctions despite a growing global outcry against them. However, Washington has offered to help Iran with the contagious virus despite the sanctions and its own shortages. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei recently spoke out about the offer and stated it is “very, very strange” that the Trump administration would be offering some form of help when it is blockading medical supplies and equipment from reaching Iran. What is your take on this?
Girladi: If the United States were to make a serious effort to actually help the Iranian people by suspending sanctions and helping to expedite medical assistance, it might actually produce a genuine thaw in its relationship. Waging war on innocent people should not, in any event, be what the United States of America is all about. A shift in policies that actually demonstrates that Washington might be interested in saving lives rather than destroying them would be welcomed by most of the world and also by many Americans.