The way the United States has treated Iran over the past three years is an abominable war crime. After Iran signed the nuclear agreement with the Obama administration, and held up its end of the bargain, the Trump administration unilaterally abrogated the deal for no reason, and reimposed devastating economic sanctions. That is a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, of which both Iran and the U.S. are signatories, that prohibits collective punishment of civilians.
The resulting damage has seriously hindered Iran's ability to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic — and despite their government's desperate pleas to relax the sanctions that prevent it from obtaining vital medical supplies, the Trump administration refused. This is vicious, genocidal cruelty.
But ironically, it now looks like the coronavirus outbreak is going to be much worse in the United States than Iran. The U.S. outbreak is growing faster than any other — we now have more cases than any other country, including China and Italy, and more than twice the number of confirmed cases as Iran (85,762 versus 32,332 as of March 27). While America has fewer deaths so far, we have matched Iran's figure at an equivalent point in the outbreak, and numbers are rising fast. The number of deaths in New York State is going up faster than any other region, including Lombardy and Madrid.
The monstrous callousness and incompetence of Donald Trump and the Republican Party are going to hurt Americans more than they do our so-called enemies.
Early in the pandemic, Trump administration officials have gloated over how badly Iran is suffering. On March 17, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted the Iranian government for mishandling the outbreak. "The Iranian leadership is trying to avoid responsibility for their grossly incompetent and deadly governments," he said. COVID-19 "is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice." That was rich coming from a U.S. regime that refused to stop strangling the Iranian economy out of pure spiteful malice and whose own response has been defined by dissembling and delay.
Iran's government did indeed seriously bungle its initial response to the outbreak. But the drastic measures they've taken since have apparently slowed the spread somewhat. New cases and deaths had been growing at double-digit percentages daily, but between March 15 and 20 slowed to mid-single digits (though new cases did jump over the last few days). The outbreak is not at all under control, but the rate of worsening has tapered off relative to the U.S. Given how long it takes for a case of COVID-19 to progress, in another few weeks or months it might start to abate.
At any rate, at least Iran is trying. Over the same period, the U.S. epidemic has grown much, much faster. Because President Trump initially denied the virus was going to strike the U.S., and lied constantly about what was happening instead of setting up strict control measures, it got loose and started spreading in the wild. Even after it was clear an epidemic could not be avoided, he refused to expand testing capability or call for lockdowns — indeed, he gave every indication of not wanting to test because it would make his numbers look bad.
Republican senators like Richard Burr of North Carolina and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, meanwhile, seized on a classified briefing in February on the incipient pandemic not to inform their propaganda-addled constituents about the gravity of the situation, but to sell off some stocks before the market crashed.
It has fallen to states, cities, and private businesses to take social-distancing steps to slow the pandemic. But because Trump is not coordinating the response, it has been extremely uneven — on the contrary, he and conservative media have started arguing that the response is worse than the disease, and suggesting it should be lifted before the virus has been controlled. (The Trump-lickspittle publication The Federalist even suggested people should deliberately infect themselves.) As a result, some Republican states are still refusing to implement full lockdown measures — including Florida, whose population is the second-oldest of any state. The carnage from Republican misrule will probably be counted in six digits at least.
Furthermore, Trump has still not taken important steps to expand medical capacity or secure medical supplies. He still refuses (apparently after complaints from the business lobby) to use the Defense Production Act to force factories to re-tool and start churning out protective gear and ventilators. As a result, neither medical staff nor average citizens can get what they need. Doctors and nurses are re-using masks over and over, or making their own inferior versions, or suiting up in garbage bags to treat patients. New York is being forced to construct makeshift morgues to deal with the flood of infected corpses. And the pandemic is still just getting started.
America is one of the most boastful, chauvinist countries on the planet. Politicians from both parties often claim the U.S. is somehow God's chosen nation, with the best people and the best political institutions ever created. But the truth is that America is a corrupt, rotten society, with a horribly dysfunctional Constitution, and our staggeringly unqualified president's crisis leadership has only ensured more people will die. Even beleaguered, ramshackle countries like Iran, with its semi-authoritarian government and sanctions-throttled economy, are facing down this crisis better than we are — while actually competent ones like Taiwan and South Korea are simply humiliating us.
If we make it through this, it would be a good opportunity for America to take a serious look in the mirror. There's a lot to clean up in our own house before we start telling other nations how to behave.
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