The Virus Behind Ebola

December 19, 2014

By Sourav Banerjee

After the mega media circus around the Ebola scare, the issue has now bitten the dust with its gradual disappearance from mainstream outlets. Meanwhile, west Africa continues to be ravaged by the worst outbreak of the disease since the first case was diagnosed in northern Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, as of November 18, 2014, the total number of cases of Ebola (suspected and confirmed cases together) registered in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone was 15,319, while the death count was 5,444. Another different strain of the virus has to date killed over 50 people (including at least eight medics) in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone together contributed 99.6 percent of Ebola cases and 99.8 percent of total deaths.

Liberia is the latest in a long line of African countries where the United States has sent American military personnel and equipment under a welfare mission (after Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, and South Sudan). Recently, after the Ebola outbreak, 3,200 troops, most from the 101st Airborne Division, have been deployed on war footing under a ‘humanitarian mission’ aimed at assisting in the setting up of emergency Ebola treatment units and thus containing the spread of the Ebola virus in the African continent.

A consultation of the recent history of American ‘humanitarian intervention’ in several parts of the world easily leads to the understanding that the main motive behind this military operation is to exploit the crisis to establish a firm footing on the African continent for USAFRICOM, rather than to halt the spread of Ebola. USAFRICOM or the infamous US Armed Forces Africa Command was established in 2008 in order to oversee and coordinate US operations in the African region. At present, the AFRICOM control room is located at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, thousands of miles away from any African country. AFRICOM’s inaugural project on the African continent was the US-NATO bombing of Libya in 2011, which resulted in the overthrow and brutal murder of Muammar Gaddafi and subsequently, the de-establishment of a nation.

The US mission for fighting the epidemic (code-named Operation United Assistance) is being controlled by AFRICOM, and $111 million has already been invested in the effort. Like the $1 billion the US has already spent in two months of airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and then in Syria, the whole endeavour will cost the American public a whopping $1 billion over the period of the next six months.

Even before the Nobel Peace Prize certificate had found a suitable place in his drawing room, Barack Obama announced the Afghanistan “surge”, which further helped him justify the deployment of 30,000 US military personnel into that destroyed part of the world. Then came his war against Libya’s Gaddafi, followed by the war to topple Syria’s Bashar al Assad and the most recent proxy war against Russia in the guise of “war for democracy in Ukraine,” by backing an unholy bunch of Ukrainian oligarchs, and outright neo-Nazis in Kiev. And now it is Africa’s turn, as Obama’s advisers, led by the National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, have come up with a new war, the much hyped ‘War against Ebola’, which to the surprise of even common African citizens was solemnised on September 16, as President Obama declared to wage a war against the virus. Hardly does it matter that none of the 3000 US military personnel deployed have the slightest training in public or social health, let alone tackling a deadly virus like Ebola or any pandemic of the same or greater magnitude.

The World Health Organization, under the Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, on August 8, declared the African Ebola situation a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Dr. Chan, in a press conference on September 13, warned that Ebola in west Africa is surging out of control. WHO claims that almost half of 301 health-care workers treating the alleged Ebola patients have themselves died, including the 2,400 people out of 4,784 cases that have died of Ebola in Africa.

For those whose memory is short, this is the same Dr. Margaret Chan who was guilty in 2009, at WHO in Geneva, of trying to panic the world into taking unproven vaccines for “swine flu” influenza, by declaring it a pandemic while considering every symptom of the common cold to be “swine flu,” whether it was runny nose, coughing, sneezing or sore throat. This move raised strong suspicions about the independence of WHO’s decision-making, and the ties between WHO advisors and the pharmaceutical industry <>.

According to a recent Washington Post article, sixty-nine percent of all the Ebola cases in Liberia registered by WHO have not been laboratory confirmed through blood tests, a common occurrence during epidemics where symptoms become the basis for determining infections. More than half of the epidemic’s deaths (1,224) and nearly half of all cases (2,046) have been in Liberia. The country has become so overwhelmed that only 31 percent of Ebola cases in Liberia have been lab-confirmed through blood tests, WHO said. Another 47 percent of Liberia’s cases have been deemed “probable,” which means the have been evaluated by a clinician, according to WHO. Probable cases also include people who had suspected cases and died and had a link to someone with a confirmed case. Several factors account for why so many Liberian cases aren’t confirmed by labs, WHO spokesman Daniel Epstein said recently. Among them are the sheer volume of cases in that country, poor infrastructure and the limited number of Ebola labs and staff throughout West Africa (Washington Post article by Lena H Sun, Sept 09, 2014).

There is always a high incidence of false positives when sensitive detection tests for contagious diseases are performed during a raging epidemic; hence a proportion of the 31% Ebola cases confirmed through blood tests might also be false. In short, President Obama’s new “War on Ebola”, is a military response to a problem which requires a more engaged medical response, including better detection. In essence, the Ebola epidemic is nothing but a convenient excuse for the deployment of thousands of US troops thus establishing a permanent presence in the highly rich-in-natural-resources in South Africa.

Ebola or Oil?

One thing that forces you to be sceptical about this new concern of the US President for the virus-hit people of Liberia and other west African states including the whole humanitarian operation to contain it is the presence of huge volumes of untapped oil in the region. West Africa is a rapidly-emerging oil treasure, barely explored to date. Some time back a US Department of Energy study projected that African oil production would rise 91 percent between 2002 and 2025, and the present Ebola zone would be the significant contributor towards it. The issue of oil in west Africa, especially in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, has become increasingly strategic both to China which is in search of future secure oil import sources, and the United States, whose oil geo-politics was summed up in a quip by the then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger some 50 years ago: ‘If you control the oil, you control entire nations.’

If the US President’s concern to contain a ‘public health emergency’ was genuine, then he could have sent a large contingent of doctors and trained Para-medics instead of military personnel in the virus-ravaged region as the US-declared pariah Caribbean nation, Cuba did sans much media glare. Reuters reports that the financially distressed Cuban government, with a national budget of $50 billion, Gross Domestic Product of $121 billion and per capita GDP of just over $10,000, has dispatched 165 medical personnel to the African regions where Ebola wreaked havoc. The act of sending an army instead of medics to tackle a deadly medical situation raises questions on the entire ‘humanitarian mission’ undertaken by the US.

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