Following a major disaster or an armed conflict, representatives of the affected Federal departments and agencies conduct what is known as a “hot wash” — sort of a “quick take” in advance of any formal investigations such as the Warren and 9/11 Commissions.
Having participated directly in the hot washes of Operation Desert Storm while a member of the Joint Special Operations Command, Hurricane Katrina while assigned to the Department of Homeland Security, and Operation Iraqi Freedom while assigned to the Joint Staff, I am no stranger to the process.
If I was in a COVID hot wash today, I’d advise that we are now turning the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic and offer some observations in advance of the formal investigations.
First, in a crisis the initial report is always wrong. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated on January 14 “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China.” So, China lied, and people died. The first case of the coronavirus was reported in Wuhan in early December 2019. Shortly following then, China began expelling journalists and began a campaign of intimidation and arrest against its own doctors.
Second, with a US pandemic looming many were distracted by the Trump impeachment. On January 21, 2020 the first person with coronavirus arrived in the United States from – of course – Wuhan, China. On January 23 the House impeachment managers made their opening arguments for removing President Trump. On January 31 the Senate held a vote on whether to allow further witnesses and documents in the impeachment trial. Also, on January 31 – almost unnoticed in the media – President Trump declared a national health emergency and a ban on travel to and from China. Former Vice President Joe Biden seized the opportunity to call Trump’s decision “… hysterical xenophobia … and fear-mongering.” (Joe Biden, by the way, is running to be your next President.)
For twenty days – from the day the first death from coronavirus was known – Democrats said and did nothing about it. They were too busy with the President’s impeachment trial — a trial Nancy Pelosi had delayed unnecessarily for several weeks. To the extent that they commented on coronavirus at all, it was only to call him a racist.
Speaker Pelosi told the nation that Trump, not coronavirus, was a threat to the national security of the United States. All he could do, apparently, was to impose his China travel ban just one day after the WHO declared coronavirus a global health emergency, and the day before the first victim of the pandemic died outside China.
Third, it is the individual states’ responsibility to prepare for natural disasters and epidemics, not the Federal Government’s. Individual states are signatories to Federal disaster response plans and shoulder the responsibility for stockpiling vital medical supplies. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley stated, “The federal government can provide crucial resources, but the burden is on the governor and her team to distribute them. No two states are alike, and blanket approaches won’t work.”
And sometimes the states don’t get it quite right, either. New York Governor Cuomo admitted to diverting state funding earmarked for ventilators, for the purchase of solar panels.
Fourth, China – not Russia – remains the threat. Russia enjoys meddling in our elections and stealing our identities, but ONLY China has the economic, military and high-tech to assume the US’ role as the world’s dominant superpower. It is no secret that China’s brutal Chairman Xi Jinping has embarked on a dedicated campaign to weaken Western economies and alliances through theft of our technology, and intimidation and expansion in the Asia-Pacific Rim to assume hegemony of all Asia, and possibly beyond. Have we any assurance that China will not cast its eyes westward, once they have Asia’s last democratic strongholds under their thumb?
As we look ahead, as John F. Kennedy spoke “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the Right answer. Let us not seek blame for the past, let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”