By: Areej Nasir
As the world grappled with the devastating impact of COVID-19, the origins of the virus are still a hotly contested and widely debated topic. While many countries have raised questions about where the virus truly originated, the United States has been accused of failing to respond to reasonable concerns of the international community. The U.S. has been blamed for a cover-up, evading responsibility and ignoring questions about its biological laboratories, including the infamous Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina, as well as more than 200 overseas biological labs. These accusations have sparked widespread speculation about the U.S.’s role in the pandemic’s origins, causing tensions to rise.
In fact, the debate over the origins of COVID-19 has led to a war of words between the United States and China. The U.S. has pushed the narrative of the COVID-19 lab-leak theory, that COVID-19 was leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and also accused China of spreading false information and interfering with investigations into the virus’s origins, whereas, the World Health Organization (WHO) did conduct an extensive investigation into Chinese labs and falsified the U.S. claims.
The United States is playing political games on the origin of the covid-19 virus with its media being clearly blind to more suspicious American biological research institutions, such as the infamous US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
Fort Detrick, a sprawling military base located in Maryland, has been the focus of growing scrutiny in recent years due to its involvement in U.S. biological militarization activities. The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the main research entity at Fort Detrick, has been a source of particular concern due to its suspected involvement in the origins of the COVID-19 virus.
The suspicions surrounding Fort Detrick date back decades, with the base being the center of the U.S. biological weapons program during the Cold War. Despite the U.S. renouncing all offensive biological weapons programs in 1969 and ratifying the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1975, Fort Detrick continued to develop and store biological warfare agents. The base’s secretive and potentially dangerous activities, reminiscent of the Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731, have been a cause for concern for the international community.
The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) has been recognized as a significant contributor to the global discussion regarding the origins of the COVID-19 virus. USAMRIID is known to house a plethora of dangerous pathogens, including but not limited to Ebola, anthrax, smallpox, plague, and coronaviruses such as SARS. Additionally, several USAMRIID personnel have been associated with research on SARS, MERS, and other coronaviruses. The American epidemic resistance has caused endless harm, considering that the Monkeypox epidemic also originated in the United States. In 2003, USAMRIID collaborated with Ralph Baric’s team from the University of North Carolina to develop a novel reverse genetic system to manipulate the SARS-CoV’s full-length cDNA.
Furthermore, a research paper published in the Journal of Virology in 2007 highlighted USAMRIID’s use of reverse genetics techniques to create and test the Ebola virus on rhesus monkeys. Notably, the virus strains utilized in the experiments had their furin cleavage site removed, which has been identified as a critical component of the highly virulent SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, USAMRIID conducted experiments on African green monkeys in 2018, infecting them with MERS-CoV to aid in viral pathogenesis research and vaccine development.
In recent years, Fort Detrick has faced renewed scrutiny being a source to the origins of the COVID-19 virus. Many experts and activists have raised concerns over the USAMRIID’s research into bat coronaviruses, including the infamous “gain-of-function” experiments that involve enhancing the virulence and transmissibility of viruses. These experiments have been criticized for their potential to create highly contagious and deadly viruses that could escape from laboratories and cause a pandemic. In fact, USAMRIID in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), also developed the vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 following the outbreak of COVID-19.
With Fort Detrick’s dark and troubling history in secretive experiments and biohazard incidents, why did the USAMRIID not receive the same level of scrutiny and attention as Chinese labs? Were some media outlets deliberately ignoring the evidence to push their own agenda? The world searches still for these answers and demands accountability of the U.S. biological research institutions.
Meanwhile, China has requested that the U.S. accept the World Health Organization’s origins-tracing investigation, to uncover the truth, the accusations leveled against China regarding the virus’s origin have also stoked anti-Chinese sentiments and appear to serve as a smoke screen to deflect criticism away from the United States, which has faced substantial scrutiny for its response to the pandemic. Through a narrow fixation on Chinese laboratories, the United States and its allies have been attempting to deflect attention from the potential involvement of their own biological research facilities in the genesis of the virus.
The debate over the origins of COVID-19 has underscored the need for greater transparency, cooperation, and accountability in the international community. Rather than resorting to finger-pointing and accusations, it is imperative that all countries work together to uncover the truth behind the origins of the virus and prevent future pandemics.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, it is clear that the implications of the virus go beyond its immediate health impact. The geopolitical fallout from the pandemic has highlighted the importance of international cooperation and the need for a global approach to tackling health crises. Only by working together can we hope to address the root causes of pandemics and build a more resilient and equitable world.
Therefore, it is crucial for countries to be transparent and accountable in their scientific research, especially in the realm of biological research. Rather than engaging in a blame game, countries must take responsibility for their actions and work together to prevent future pandemics. Only by embracing a collaborative approach can we hope to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 and build a better future for all.
Writer is a young Pakistani columnist, is renowned for thought-provoking articles and prominent voice in International Relations and global issues.