Distributive policy

Where is the liability for damage caused by Covid policy?

Professor Jayanta (Jay) Bhattacharya is a physician (MD, Stanford), economist (PhD, Stanford) and epidemiologist (Stanford Medical School) all rolled into one, giving him a rare set of credentials to assess the multiple dimensions of Covid disease and Strategies . An academic with virtually no public profile before 2020, he became an articulate and compelling voice against the errors and excesses of Covid policies from the start of 2020, culminating in the co-drafting of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) in october. He and co-authors Martin Kulldorff (Harvard) and Sunetra Gupta (Oxford) were subjected by Anthony Fauci and his friends to a campaign to smear, discredit and “savagely shoot down” these “fringe epidemiologists” (Jay now proudly displays a business card describing himself as a fringe epidemiologist) which backfired dramatically. The GBD collects up to one million signatures, including 63,000 public health scientists and physicians. Jay’s Twitter followers have soared to 226,000: not bad for a fringe doctor. He was in Australia for a week recently with a grueling schedule of meetings and discussions in Melbourne (Lockdown Ground Zero) and Sydney. I had the honor and the pleasure of spending three days with him and of participating, with otherSpecie writer James Allan, on a memorable evening on the 22nd before a sold-out audience of 500 enthusiastic good people who rose in united adulation when told he had charged no conference beyond the travel costs for its conferences in Australia.

Jay has often been asked: ‘Tell us about your critical perspective, as an epidemiologist, on the lockdown.’ The implicit question for me is: “You are not an epidemiologist. Why should we listen to you? As a result of the experience of playing on a team with him, I have concluded that my contributions to political debates on Covid since the start of 2020 have not come despite a lack of medical credentials, but due to my particular experience in conflict analysis and my experience in the UN world. diplomacy. Let me explain with three examples.

I was probably the only senior UN official to speak and write against the war in Iraq before, on the eve and after the event, until Kofi Annan ended up, in September 2004, by saying that it was illegal under the Charter of the United Nations. On April 23, 2003, I wrote in the International Herald Tribunethe world’s most influential daily while it lasted, that while “no tears will be shed at [Saddam Hussein’s] fall”, it is “hard to rejoice in the descent from the ideal of a world based on the rule of law to the law of the jungle – even if the lion will welcome the change”. I then decided that, in the face of excitable exclamation marks, it was helpful to remove them and insert skeptical question marks instead. When you are told, “Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction that can reach us in 45 minutes,” ask, “Where is your evidence?” Applying the lessons of Iraq to Covid, as early as June 2020, I noted seven worrying echoes: the inflationary threat; thin evidence, with facts fixed around a predetermined policy; defamation of critics; rejection of long-term collateral damage that outweighed short-term benefits; no clear exit strategy; mission creep; and the media going from watchdogs to cheerleaders. Sound familiar?

Earlier, in 2001, following a fierce controversy among UN member states over NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” in Kosovo in 1999, an international commission formulated a new principle called the “responsibility of protect “. Former Foreign Secretary Gareth Evans and myself were the two main authors and promoters of this concept which was unanimously adopted as an organizing principle of the UN to respond to mass atrocities in order to help the victims trapped within the borders of sovereign states, with a careful balance between the permissive ‘licence’ and the restrictive ‘leash’ function of all laws and standards. Related demands to prevent mass atrocities and rebuild afterwards highlighted the need to respect universal human rights, to integrate them into national governance structures and institutions, to recognize the importance of not demonizing and to “alter” different groups, and to refrain from using controlled media to propagate enmity between “pure” and “unclean” groups. I have previously discussed the abundance of early warnings about the range of severe damage likely to result from severe population-wide lockdown measures, disruptions to agricultural production and food distribution resulting in hunger widespread and mass starvation, to reversals of two decades of progress in eradicating poverty, educating children, life-saving vaccination programs, rising unemployment, and health, mental health and other harm to well-being. These warnings came from established, credible and reputable bodies in the United Nations system (UNICEF, World Food Programme), civil society (Oxfam) and intergovernmental organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank. It is feared that India alone has created a strong “pandemic generation” of 375 million children up to the age of 14 who are likely to suffer lasting impacts like increased child mortality, underweight and stunting, and reversals in education and work productivity. It is difficult to see how these predicted harms do not constitute mass atrocities.

If so, a third set of considerations arises. The responsibility to protect responds to the need to protect victims of atrocities. The double principle of international criminal justice speaks of the need to punish perpetrators: identify them, prosecute them and, if found guilty, imprison them. Hence Bishop Desmond Tutu’s comment that, as the main architect of the Iraq war, Tony Blair should be in the dock in The Hague, not on a podium in Africa. The perpetrators and implementers of pandemic management policies and interventions, which have inflicted lasting damage to health, mental health, civil liberties, society and the economy, must be held responsible. This is the only issue on which Jay and I separated in our discussions. He doesn’t think revenge has a constructive purpose. I think accountability is important in the first place to punish, as opposed to seeking revenge, harmful acts of wrongdoing when existing accumulated knowledge, science and pandemic preparedness plans have been abandoned in favor of authoritarian models imported from China. Second, and listening to the reactions of the 500 people in Melbourne on this unforgettable evening, it will be impossible to reach an emotional closure, which alone can move us as a community forward, without an open and credible account. Perhaps most importantly, the best and most effective guarantee of ‘never again’, a goal Jay spoke of passionately, is to detain the perpetrators of the lockdown – a euphemism for the wholesale lockdown of entire populations under house arrest even if they are in good health and unaccused, let alone convicted, of any crime – and vaccine apartheid to account. In the absence of accountability, we could experience wash and repeat cycles.