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The fabulous world of Dr. Sachs
On February 25, US star economist Jeffrey Sachs gave the opening speech at the first big peace demonstration for Ukraine in Germany. Who is Jeffrey Sachs - and what interests does he represent?
The opening speaker at the first big peace demonstration Berlin on February 25, 2023, "Uprising for Peace", organized by popular German left-wing Politician Sahra Wagenknecht (“Die Linke”), caused astonishment among some: It was a video greeting by star economist Jeffrey Sachs, whom the New York Times had once called "the most important economist in the world". Despite an eventful curriculum vitae, he is now a welcome guest in both the mainstream and alternative media. Alongside Noam Chomsky and Seymour Hersh, he is regarded as a shining light among U.S. left-wing intellectuals, and along with Joseph Stiglitz, as one of the few economists who consistently takes a critical stance. In summer 2022, he surprised everyone by saying that COVID-19 was a lab leak for which the US biotech industry was very probably responsible. Like Hersh, he is convinced that the U.S. is behind the Nord Stream blow-up and advocates peace negotiations in the Ukraine war. Positions like these make him popular with the anti-government left. But what role does Jeffrey Sachs play? And what does it mean that a key protagonist of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gave the opening speech at the Berlin peace demonstration? Time to take a closer look at Jeffrey Sachs.
“Jeffrey Sachs is speaking at Occupy Wall Street? That can’t be!”
Jeffrey Sachs' speech at the Wagenknecht peace demonstration in Berlin on february, 25th this year was not his first surprise appearance with a new civic movement. In 2011, he stepped up to the microphone at Occupy Wall Street. When a group of anti-globalization activists learned of Sachs' speech, a scandal ensued: a lecturer in Latin American history publicly confronted Sachs about his inglorious role as the architect of "shock therapy" in Bolivia in 1985, the beginning of his stellar career:
„What about Bolivia? What about the shock treatment you put into effect there? This man is a criminal enemy of the working class. He brought incalculable misery to the working people. He was the adviser to the presidents who unleashed bloody repression against the Bolivian miners, their wives and their families.” Internationalist.org
According to his critics at Occupy Wall Street, Sachs is a classic economic hit man: an imperialist power broker for the UN, IMF, World Bank and Co, who would have decimated the Bolivian working class. A dispute arose with the organizers of Occupy Wall Street because they had officially invited Sachs:
„When we questioned the staffer at the OWS information table about why Sachs was invited, she responded: 'Everybody has the right to speak.' Would you then invite Augusto Pinochet to speak here, we asked. 'Absolutely! I’d have a lot of questions to ask him', she responded. (.) A companion scolded that instead of denouncing Sachs, we should have engaged in a dialogue with him. 'You want to debate mass starvation and army repression? Tell it to the workers and peasants of Bolivia', our comrade responded. 'The workers in Bolivia, if they knew this guy was here, they would run him out.' (.) For OWS to give a platform to the notorious Dr. Shock, Jeffrey Sachs, was a slap in the face to the millions he victimized, from Latin America to the former Soviet bloc.“ Internationalist.org
What exactly had happened in Bolivia in 1985 that Sachs still polarized leftist activists so strongly in 2011? The young Harvard graduate Jeffrey Sachs had been commissioned by Bolivian President Paz to fight hyperinflation together with Planning Minister Sanchez de Lozada. This succeeded: within a year, the inflation rate stabilized from 60,000% to 12% - at the same time, as a result of the "Decree 21060" recommended by Sachs, numerous mines were closed, tens of thousands of mine workers were laid off, strikes were banned, and 20,000 workers were "relocated" under duress to tropical forest areas. Lehman commented on this in "Bolivia and the United States" (1999) as follows:
“The social costs were immense. Paz passed the costs of stabilization on to the lower classes. In the new era [of neoliberal economics], Paz looked to Sachs and Machiavelli. The statistical details roll by too quickly for an outsider to fully grasp the human costs. In 1986 the purchasing power of the average Bolivian was down 70 percent. Unemployment reached 20-25 percent, and nearly all social welfare benefits to workers were swept away.”
Sanchez de Lozada, then minister of planning, later became Bolivian president and visited Jeffrey Sachs at Harvard in 1997, where Sachs praised him as "one of the most courageous and creative leaders in Latin America." In 2003, just six years later, the "courageous and creative leader" staged a bloody massacre of mine workers, indigenous peasants, and urban poor. When he was ousted in Bolivia's gas war, he went into exile in Miami. Today, Bolivia has an arrest warrant out for Sanchez de Lozada for crimes against humanity, but the U.S. opposes an extradition. Sachs's first major economic reform project - which had launched his career and made him a big name - had come about on the back of a violent regime, a U.S. neocolony - analogous to the unholy symbiosis between Milton Friedman's Chicago Boys and the fascist Pinochet regime. Bitter irony of fate: Sachs' father, of all people, was a Chicago union lawyer - Sachs junior, on the other hand, was considered an "enemy of the working class" by leftists even after his first project.
The little episode at Occupy Wall Street sheds light on something runs like a thread through Sachs's life: His willingness to cooperate with autocratic regimes at the expense of the population in order to achieve "higher goals." He usually countered criticism of this with the Whataboutism that “the U.S. is just as bad or worse” - which is strictly speaking correct, but does not justify a close cooperation with other violent and repressive regimes.
The storybook career of 'Dr. Shock’
Jeffrey David Sachs was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1954. The term that probably best characterizes him is that of "high-flyer": he holds a staggering 42 doctorates, and his curriculum vitae is 40 pages long. He attained a professorship at Harvard University at the tender age of 29 - one of the youngest professorial careers at the elite university, as a professor of sustainable development, health policy and health management. From 2002 to 2016, Sachs was director of Columbia University's Earth Institute; since then, he has managed the smaller Center for Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute. He is also president of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network - A Global Initiative for the United Nations, a think tank dedicated to Agenda2030, which he founded. The network's Donors & Partners list is quite revealing.
On the formal legal relationship between Sachs' Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the United Nations, The Intercept wrote in 2021:
“Sachs formed SDSN in the wake of the U.N.’s 2012 summit in Rio de Janeiro, where member states discussed what would become the Sustainable Development Goals. The nonprofit’s launch was announced in a press release from then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who explained that the new network would help “business, civil society, UN agencies and other international organizations to identify and share the best pathways to achieve sustainable development.” But although it uses the U.N. name, SDSN is registered as a nonprofit in Delaware, and practically speaking, it is Sachs’s baby. Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, told The Intercept that “the UN and SDSN collaborate on a range of projects and knowledge products,” but said that the nonprofit “has no formal legal relationship with the United Nations.”
Jeffrey Sachs is married to Sonia Ehrlich Sachs, a great-niece of German scientist Paul Ehrlich, who happens to be the namesake of the German Paul Ehrlich Institute, the national database on vaccine side effects. She is a pediatrician, endocrinologist, public health expert, and, like her husband, works at the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. She also has a profile at the website of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Sachs' great life theme: the fight against poverty. Sachs is an integral part of the ‘Big Aid’-universe: he regularly calls on the super-rich to donate large portions of their wealth. Sachs advised three UN secretaries-general as a result: Kofi Annan (2001-2007), Ban Ki-Moon (2016-2018) and Antonio Guterres (2017-18). Sachs is also one of 17 prominent special advisors to the Sustainable Development Goals, the successors to the Millennium Development Goals, which he also helped develop. He pays particular attention to the link between health and economic development. For years, he has dedicated himself to combating infectious diseases such as AIDS and malaria. Sachs has advised the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, the WTO and the UNDP, while at the same time always taking issue with those institutions for not doing enough for the poor in his eyes. Sachs is a fierce critic of the U.S. government, and was one of Donald Trump's fiercest critics. In the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential campaigns, he supported Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who also wrote the foreword to Sachs's book: Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair and Sustainable (2017). While ordinary people would already be fully occupied with an issue like fighting poverty, Sachs still has time and leisure for at least ten other, similarly complex issues on which he is regularly called upon as an expert: Such as climate change, U.S.-led wars of aggression, globalization, overpopulation, debt crises, pandemics, COVID-19, gross domestic happiness, the impact of social media on young people, the Ukraine war. There's seemingly nothing the man can't do - and no topic for which he doesn't have the perfect proposed solution in his pocket. The LA Times once called him the "Indiana Jones of economics." Sachs is a jack-of-all-trades.
Regardless of its many bloody victims, Sachs' Bolivia shock therapy was judged a success story - and Sachs was henceforth regarded as an economic wunderkind. After making a name for himself in Bolivia, Sachs was invited by the governments of Poland, Yugoslavia, Estonia, Slovenia, Russia, China, Brazil, India and other countries as an economic advisor. Thus, Sachs became THE architect of neoliberal shock therapies in the former Eastern bloc countries of the 1990s.
In a sense, the shock therapies represented the economic companion program to NATO's eastward expansion, with the goal of exorcising communism from the former Soviet states once and for all. When Sachs took a sabbatical from Harvard for his consulting work, he received financial support from the United Nations World Institute for Development Economics Research in Helsinki, the United States Agency for International Development, the Swedish government, the Ford Foundation and George Soros, according to a 1990 “Der Spiegel” article titled "Magician on a Burning Plane":
"That wife as well as children Lisa, 7, and Adam, 4, continue to live in orderly circumstances, even though father Sachs has been on leave from Harvard for the past year, is due to George Soros. The Hungarian émigré has long been using his untold dollar millions earned as a New York stockbroker to abolish communism. Now his time has come: He is funding a few other Harvard luminaries besides Sachs to create capitalism in the East. Even in Lithuania, a counselor from the famous university has already arrived." Jeffrey Sachs thinks his own president, as well as the Germans, could take Soros as an example (.)"
Sachs' early funding from the United Nations and Western oligarchs like George Soros raises eyebrows. In the 1990s, Sachs was firmly convinced that democracy and capitalism belonged together. This may explain the funding by George Soros, who understood his financial involvement in the former Eastern bloc countries as a democracy offensive in addition to the clear intention to make a profit. Malicious tongues would claim: as a strategy of subversion.
The principle of shock therapy was not fundamentally new. It was applied in Germany after both world wars. Price controls were abolished so that supply and demand could settle down, markets were opened up, which in theory was supposed to lead to a healthy competitive situation. In addition, there were rigid austerity measures, spending cuts and tax increases, with strict control by the central bank at the same time. "Collateral damage" was priced in from the outset: People were convinced that the transition from a bankrupt communist planned economy to neoliberal turbo-capitalism would be painful anyway, so it should be as quick as possible.
In Poland, Sachs's shock doctrine was successful, with some exceptions, thanks in part to a steady influx of capital from the United States. Sachs immodestly credits himself with Poland's successful accession to the EU in 2004. To be fair, however, it must be mentioned that the U.S. always viewed Poland as a potential ally against communism and therefore there was an intrinsic willingness on the part of the U.S. to rebuild Poland.
In 1991, Jeffrey Sachs received a call from Moscow: he was to reform the bankrupt former Soviet Union along the lines of Poland. By his own account, Sachs had a stomachache with the assignment, but accepted it and advised the Yeltsin government from 1991 to 1993.
As luck would have it, Sachs was even in the Kremlin at the very historic moment when Boris Yeltsin announced the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, as Sachs reported in an interview in 2022:
ROSALSKY: So Jeffrey Sachs heads through the Kremlin's security gates, past the statues of Marx and Lenin, and he sits down at this table with other egghead economists. In walks a beaming Boris Yeltsin.
SACHS: And he walked across the room and said, gentlemen, I just got confirmation from the heads of the military. The Soviet Union is over. And that was the moment that the Soviet Union ended.
ROSALSKY: Wow. I mean, that's pretty incredible, right? How did it feel to be in the Kremlin at that moment?
SACHS: Well, these were extraordinary days. It felt very exciting and promising. But obviously, it was tumultuous and deeply worrisome, too.“
The three Harvard professors Jeffrey Sachs, Andrei Shleifer and Lawrence Summers were considered the so-called "Harvard wunderkinder" at the time: They were accorded a demigod status similar to that previously accorded to Milton Friedman's Chicago Boys. An anecdote from the Kremlin in 1991 impressively illustrates the self-image with which the "wunderkinder" went through the world at that time:
„Waiting to meet with Senior Soviet officials in 1991, Sachs put his feet up on a table. An aide asked him not to do that. Sachs took his feet down for a moment, and when the aide turned away, put them back up. Form several public events and an hour-long interview, I can say he comes across as a very unpleasant fellow-- cocky, vain, and free of doubt.“ International Journal of Health Services
Sachs's Russia colleagues Andrei Shleifer and Jonathan Hay caused a corruption scandal: together with their wives, they had privately bought Russian government bonds and paid for them partly with U.S. government funds. The latter sued, and Harvard closed the institute. Sachs was not himself involved in the scandal, but he had to move from Harvard to Columbia University, where he became director of the new Earth Institute, which was to be devoted to "sustainable economic development". It is said that there was no farewell party for him at Harvard.
Sachs' shock therapy led to one of the worst economic crashes in human history in Russia: the economy shrank by half, living standards and life expectancy fell, the population shrank, and poverty and inequality grew on a scale normally only expected during a war. Inflation rose immeasurably: in 1992 it was 2500%, wiping out Russians' savings. Sachs justifies this by saying that Russia's central bank alone could not stabilize the ruble because it was still being used in 14 other ex-Soviet republics at the same time. A new caste of super-rich oligarchs emerged in the chaos of the Yeltsin regime, shamelessly enriching themselves from the privatization wave. Quite a few historians today believe that Sachs's shock doctrine in Russia contributed significantly to the political rise of Vladimir Putin, as it promoted social inequality, kleptocracy, corruption, post-Soviet oligarchic felt and thus the need for a "hard hand," a neo-tsarist leader. To this day, Sachs himself accepts no responsibility for the Russian catastrophe. Journalist Doug Henwood, who interviewed him for the Left Business Observer in 2002, reported:
„Wenn I interviewed him in November 2002, I asked him to comment on the (incontrovertible) fact that he's viewed by scores of millions of Russians, as one journalist has put it, as an emissary either of Satan or of the CIA. He answered that he found this question ‘disgusting’; ‘perverse’, and like nothing he's been asked before. The global elite leads a very insulated life.“
Asked about the failure of his shock doctrine in Russia, Sachs usually points out gruffly that his advice had not been followed stringently enough there. Moreover, Russia was burdened with the legacy of Soviet industry, which would have made reform much more difficult. According to Sachs, the U.S. neocons also wanted to prevent Russia's reconstruction for geopolitical reasons and deliberately let the reform project fail:
„The big difference between Poland and Russia was that the U.S. government viewed Poland as an ally, and it viewed Russia as an antagonist.“
This may certainly be true - the only question is why the top economist Sachs did not foresee this, and out of his "geopolitical naiveté" - as he likes to excuse it - drove an entire country to the wall. Former World Bank economist David Ellerman disagrees with Sachs' account and sees responsibility in Sachs' monumental miscalculation:
„Anyone who knew Russia knew that any rapid privatization would immediately lead to the creation of a new corrupt elite through massive theft of state property. Only the mixture of American triumphalism and the academic arrogance of neoclassical economics could produce such a lethal dose of gall.“ Left Business Observer
From Saul to Paul:
The new Sachs in the new millennium
Sachs had already enjoyed a kind of "rock star status" since the 1990s: stars and WEF philanthropists like Bono were his best friends. Bono also wrote the foreword to Sachs' book, "The End of Poverty." Matt Damon posed with Sachs for L'Uomo Vogue, MTV aired a multi-part documentary by Angelina Jolie about Sachs called “Diary of Angelina Jolie and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs”, which shows the two on charity tour of Africa. Of course, Jeffrey Sachs also has his obligatory entry at the World Economic Forum.
At the turn of the millennium, Sachs underwent a political metamorphosis from neoliberal reformer to multilateral progressive and one of the West's fiercest denouncers. He criticized the IMF during the 1997 Asian crisis and advocated debt relief for poorer countries. As early as the 1990s, he advocated the financial expansion of global institutions such as the WHO and UNICEF, while the World Bank should return to its core tasks. He criticized the USA for its oil policy in the Middle East and the war in Iraq, while “500 million Africans were still living in poverty”. From 2000, he increased his involvement in the United Nations: From 2001-2007, long before the infamous Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ratified in 2015, he was principal advisor to Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. Time magazine twice named him one of the 100 most influential "World Leaders", and the Economist named him one of the world's top three living economists. In 2013, Sachs took his final leave from the model of neoliberalism, but had applied to lead the World Bank in 2012, just one year earlier. From then on, he placed the fight against disease at the center of his efforts, as a basic condition for fighting poverty.
Sachs is undeniably part of the elite and regularly appears before them, but always emphasizes that he is not representing it, nor any government or organization. Instead, he sees himself in the role of "advocate for the poorest of the poor". With his wife, he led the One Million Health Workers campaign and the Millennium Villages Project, a glossy charity project in Africa initiated by Sachs under the auspices of the UN. It was rolled out in ten African countries and involved half a million people. African villages were showered with British money for five years, with one-third going to administrative costs only, as is usual with Big Aid. The journalist Nina Munk portrayed the project and the person Jeffrey Sachs in her book "The Idealist".
A critical report published in 2018 by Unherd with the quite unequivocal title “The Charity Guru Who Duped The World" gave the project a largely sobering report card: For example, it had not succeeded in breaking the poverty trap. There were no significant improvements in indicators such as child mortality, care for pregnant women, access to drinking water and use of cell phones. Sachs later justified the failure of the project by claiming that five years was too short a time horizon anyway. The authors of the Unherd article said that the project was emblematic of why top-down development aid is regularly doomed to failure: the causal factor was a kind of groupthink within the political elite, which led to self-aggrandizement and ignorance of critical voices. This is reinforced by an unholy alliance between unworldly development aid workers and politicians with an affinity for publicity.
Interestingly, the potentates of the Big Aid universe often come to each other's defense: for example, none other than Bill Gates jumped to Jeffrey Sachs' side after the latter's failed Millennium Villages Project, which is not without a certain irony, since Gates had provided significant support for the project through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2014, an article by Gates about the Millennium Villages Project appeared on the World Economic Forum site with the title: “On development, Sachs was wrong. And right." The phrase sums up the self-image of the philanthropic elite: objectively speaking, the overpriced project was a failure - but anyone as noble as Sachs ultimately cannot fail. In addition, there is the "one hand washes the other" principle: Since numerous development aid projects by Gates, such as vaccination programs in Kenya or India, also resulted in disastrous consequences, he was possibly counting on receiving a more lenient assessment himself if he turned a blind eye to his Big Aid colleagues. Lo and behold, in 2018 Sachs gave an interview in which he sharply criticized the oil industry, Facebook, and most billionaires - but not Bill Gates: the latter was trying his best, which he respected. This is how a circular elite quotation cartel is created: One day after the Gates article on the WEF site, George Soros' house medium Project Syndicate also published it under the title "Bill Gates explains why the Millennium Villages project though a failure was worth the risk". Fun Fact: Soros had also supported the Millenium Villages Project with about $50 million. The sponsor list of the Medium Project Syndicate leaves no questions open, around which illustrious circle of friends it concerns: The main sponsors are the Open Society Foundations, the Gates Foundation, MasterCard, the European Climate Foundation, the Google Digital News Initiative, the McKinsey Global Institute and - here the citation cartel comes full circle: Sachs' own Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which he chairs as president. Big Money and Big Aid agree: even when they were wrong, they were right.
Sachs, the architect behind the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Not that it is surprising, but Jeffrey Sachs is also behind the climate and overpopulation narrative. Phrases that come out of the mouths of the Gretas of this world today were uttered by Jeffrey Sachs decades earlier - long before Fridays for Future even appeared on the horizon. Back in 2007, he demanded a "climate protection agenda" from German chancellor Angela Merkel. He is also behind highly controversial mega projects like carbon-dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technology - which would inject and store CO2 in giant underground gas storage tanks, a spawn of Silicon Valley madness. In 2011, Sachs called it “pathetic" that no CCS storage facilities had yet been built during the Obama era.
According to Sachs, the reason for the endangerment of the climate is - surprise - too many people: Sachs supports the thesis of a hopeless overpopulation of the planet, which was therefore heading for a catastrophe. In 2006, Scientific American published an article by Sachs entitled “Lower Fertility: A Wise Investment”:
“Reducing fertility rates in the poorest countries would also be among the smartest investments that the rich countries could make today for their own future well-being.”
In 2008, Sachs' book "Common-Wealth: The Economics for a Crowded Planet" was published. In 2011, CNN published an article by Sachs titled “With 7 billion on earth, a huge task ahead of us". In it, he argued for urgent population control measures through widespread distribution of contraceptives, so that the Earth might end up with a maximum of eight billion, but never ten or eleven billion, as this would lead to intractable political tensions and an unsustainable strain on resources.
Jeffrey Sachs is one of 17 prominent ambassadors of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals, for which he had already played a leading role in the predecessor program Millennium Development Goals. Complementing Agenda 21, the "Agenda for the 21st Century" ratified at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the follow-up program for the second decade, Agenda 2030, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, appeared in 2015. Sachs is considered the architect and intellectual founding father behind the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2021, Sachs was even inducted into the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to promote collaboration between Pope Francis' Global Compact on Education initiative and the United Nations, and to jointly accelerate the achievement of the SDGs.
A sufficient discussion of what makes Agenda 21, Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals so problematic in terms of democratic theory would go beyond the scope of this article. The reader is referred to the work of the U.S. author Rosa Koire, who died in 2021 - a democrat, by the way - "Behind the Green Mask - U.N. Agenda 21", which exposes Agenda 21 as the greenwashing of a totalitarian world inventory plan that seeks to control life and resource consumption on earth in the sheep's clothing of environmental protection.
With regard to Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, reference should be made to the works of journalists James Corbett, Whitney Webb and Ian Davis, who exposed the financial networks behind the noble goals as the usual suspects, Big Money, Big Tech and Big Oil, which are using the goals to secure the business fields and financial flows of the future. What makes Agenda 21 and Agenda 2030 fundamentally incompatible with the principles of a democracy is the absolutization of the goals formulated in them: No one can escape them, no one can be against them. The challenges and impending catastrophes - either climate collapse, the next world war or the next pandemic - are so great, so global, so hopeless and urgent that no country can face them alone in the 21st century, so the narrative goes. Globally concerted, supranational action is thus without alternative. In the 21st century, therefore, nation states have only the task of feeding the already fixed top-down goals of the noble world leaders into national policies and selling them to the citizens as democratic grassroots decision-making.
Not entirely coincidentally, since 2015 governments around the world have set up so-called Nudging Task Forces to give the population a nudge in the "right" direction with targeted behavioral incentives - of course only for the noble goal of achieving the sacrosanct sustainability goals, without which the planet would be doomed. Also around 2015, a new discourse of urgency began to emerge in the public debate with regard to major issues such as climate, migration, food, medicine and gender - and with it a division of society that is deepening by the day.
Sachs not only holds governments accountable for implementing the SDGs - but also big tech companies. In a 2018 interview with Sachs in Techonomy magazine titled "Jeffrey Sachs is upset", he expressed "disappointment" that the Sustainable Development Goals were not being sufficiently accelerated. Large companies in particular, especially asset managers and big tech, were responsible for their implementation, he said. Sachs was full of praise for BlackRock, whose CEO Larry Fink had declared that large companies must place social responsibility at the center of their business models. Facebook, on the other hand, was regarded by him as a "grubby child": Sachs reported quite openly about his attempts to hold Facebook accountable so that the group would participate in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals instead of merely selling advertising:
„They’ve got the tools to change the world for the good, but right now they’re basically trying to figure out how to sell more ads. And that is a profound disappointment. (.) I went to Facebook at one point and said, ‘You’re connecting so many people, why don’t you get into the SDGs, SDG 4, for example, on education?’ ‘Well, that’s not our priority.’ I said: ‘I don’t care if it’s your priority. It’s the world’s priority and you have a contribution to make.’” Techonomy
If you think Sachs' worldview through, it boils down to the assumption that democratic, nationally made decisions actually only stand in the way of global goals. For Sachs, all companies and governments that implement Agenda 21, Agenda 2030, and the SDGs are "good", while countries that rely on national sovereignty and democratic decision-making are automatically considered rogue states. Thus, Sachs is a fierce critic of the U.S. neocons' hegemonic claim to power and proclaims the end of American supremacy, while at the same time he is an ardent defender of autocratic regimes such as the United Arab Emirates or China, whose human rights violations he regularly relativizes with the Whataboutism "But the United States!". A worldview in which serious human rights violations are secondary as long as the country only implements transnational agendas in an exemplary manner inevitably leads to an ambivalent understanding of democracy and inherent contradictions.
Thus, in an article entitled “The Price of Happiness", The Intercept exposed Sachs' whitewashing of the autocratic regime of the United Arab Emirates in 2022 as part of the so-called World Happiness Index, a ranking initiated by Sachs that measures a country's "happiness index" in addition to its gross domestic product - inspired by the gross domestic happiness of the Kingdom of Bhutan. According to The Intercept, Bhutan also engages in whitewashing with its happiness policy, as the supposedly happy Himalayan country continues to oppress the Lhotshampa ethnic minority, but this is eclipsed thanks to gross domestic happiness. For Bhutan, Gross Domestic Happiness had primarily the positive effect of a tourism booster, which apparently prompted the UAE to consider the happiness image as a wise investment as well. The Emirates donated $3 million to Sachs' Sustainable Development Solutions Network for "wellbeing research". Tax forms from 2017 and 2018 show that the UAE was the second-largest government donor to Sachs' SDSN network after the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency - tax reports for later years are not available. The Earth Institute at Columbia University, which Sachs led until 2016, also received donations from the Gulf state for nine years. Columbia University would not disclose the amount of the donations. As of 2016, the UAE invested in its image as a "Happy State" in impressively Orwellian fashion, establishing a "Ministry of Tolerance" and a "Ministry of Happiness", while equality activists and LGBTQ+ people who kiss in public are still sentenced to years in prison, including torture.
Sachs helped the UAE in its image campaign by publicly praising its leaders as "wise" and "exemplary". He even accepted money from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Dubai political leader whose daughter Latifa fled her father's authoritarian rule by jet ski in 2018. She was captured by India in a dramatic action in international waters and escorted back to the UAE, where her father imprisoned her again. So much for "happiness" in the UAE - but Sachs does not seem to be much bothered by human rights abuses of this kind. After Latifa's arrest, his Sustainable Development Support Network gratefully accepted another million dollars in donations from Latifa's father for his Happiness research. Sachs did not respond to journalists' inquiries about Latifa's case. In the ranking of the World Happiness Index, which he initiated and which the UAE played a major role in financing, they landed in 21st place in 2021 - ahead of Japan, Spain or Italy. At the Sachs-led Global Happiness Council 2017, into which one million had flowed from the UAE, Sachs praised the UAE to the skies: for example, he reported that the UAE's "happiness policy" was led by a woman - without mentioning that women in the UAE remain de facto under the autocratic control of their fathers or husbands. In its article, The Intercept attested to Sachs' ability to weather political scandals of this kind with "Teflon-like resilience" for decades.
Jeffrey Sachs and China – a love story
Sachs has been traveling to China several times a year for 30 years. He calls the country "The Game Changer". His website features China-friendly articles in the double digits, with titles such as "The West's False Narratives about Russia and China" or "China's Lessons for the World Bank". At least from 2002, when he advised the Chinese government on "Western development policy", he had close contacts with Chinese elites. He is regularly quoted by Chinese state media, and his articles appear in the South China Morning Post. According to Sachs' resume, he sits on the advisory board of the International Center for Poverty Reduction in China. He also holds other positions in China that do not appear on his resume: for example, he advises an institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing that was established to advance China's foreign policy goals within the United Nations and to sell China's Silk Belt & Road Project as part of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. This information does not appear in his curriculum, nor his LinkedIn profile. The Intercept writes:
“SDSN has a center in Beijing hosted at Tsinghua University’s Institute for Sustainable Development Goals, which was founded in 2017 on the sidelines of a major Chinese Belt and Road Initiative conference. Sachs chairs the institute’s international academic committee. China’s U.N. delegation has sought to link Belt and Road, a massive effort to finance infrastructure and extend Chinese influence across more than 130 countries of all income levels, to the SDGs. (.) According to its website, the Beijing center focuses on promoting ‘close partnerships’ with the United Nations and other international organizations. Sachs recently said in a video address to the U.N. mission in China that he is a ‘big fan of the Belt and Road Initiative’.”
A 2016 UN brief also shows that Sachs in 2015 also sat on the advisory board of the non-profit arm of the later indicted Chinese energy company CEFC, which had distributed bribes to African governments through its charity arm. Sachs denied in 2018 that he was ever part of that board, although the UN document clearly shows he was. Nothing about this appears in Sachs' official curriculum either.
Although Sachs is 100% behind China's Silk Belt & Road project, he does not envision a "Chinese century," nor a tripolar world - but a "world century of multilateralism", in which no nation alone would dominate the world anymore - which, of course, would require a massive strengthening of global organizations such as the UN, UNICEF or WHO. As he testified to Chinese state media Xinhua in 2019, the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) represented the indisputable pillars of multilateralism. For example, he said, only the UN Council on Human Rights should be allowed to impose sanctions:
"If there are to be sanctions, they should be applied by the UN, according to the UN Charter, rather than by individual nations (.) In that way, we can have a world of peace, cooperation, prosperity and human dignity."
The euphonious phrases, which could have sprung directly from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, translate to mean that for Sachs, economic sanctions - ergo, a hard-hitting economic war against a country's population - are not an ethical problem as long as only the United Nations imposes them.
During Donald Trump's tenure, Sachs deepened his animosity toward the U.S. government and his ties to China. In Trump's "Make-America-Great-Again" protectionism, he found the perfect antifolia, the perfect bogeyman: The latter persisted in a Hobbesian worldview of "man as man's wolf"- which in Sachs' eyes is obsolete in the face of global challenges. In 2019, the tone between Beijing and Washington intensified in the wake of the Huawei crisis. The Trump administration, with anti-China hardliner Mike Pompeo at the State Department, had long accused Chinese technology giant Huawei of trying to insert so-called backdoors for espionage activities, intellectual property theft, attacks on U.S. communications networks and critical infrastructure, as part of the 5G implementation. The Huawei infrastructure is capable of disrupting U.S. military communications - including the nuclear arsenal. Huawei, he said, was the CCP's extended arm. The diplomatic crisis culminated in the U.S. extradition request to Canada for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver on U.S. orders and accused of violating sanctions against Iran. Sachs vehemently advocated for Wanzhou. In an article titled “The War on Huawei", which appeared in Project Syndicate in December 2018, he accused the government in Washington of hypocrisy for not issuing arrest warrants against U.S. CEOs who had also violated sanctions. The push against Wanzhou, he said, was merely an attempt at economic containment of China. In China, Sachs' remarks were met with goodwill; on Twitter, they sparked controversy. Critics charged that Sachs' outreach would have seemed more credible had he not written the foreword to a Huawei position paper in 2018. Isaac Stone Fish of Asia Society asked Sachs on Twitter if money had been received for the contribution, which Sachs denied. The controversy also centered on Sachs' apparent ignorance of CCP crimes in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, to which Sachs responded with a tweet that did not necessarily defuse that impression:
„Trying to understand situation. Happy to read suggested books & articles. I've not had occasion to visit Xinjiang in 15 yrs. With so much glib USG propaganda & denial of US wars and misdeeds I strive for cooperation. Hardliners beget hardliners, with grave dangers. Pls email.“
It's amazing: Sachs says he travels to China several times a year, but he has not been to Xinjiang once in the last 15 years. On January 01, 2019, a week after the heated controversy surrounding him on Twitter, Sachs deleted his Twitter account.
During the 2020 Corona pandemic, Sachs' laudatory statements regarding China intensified. In the wake of Trump's WHO resignation and his repeated rumblings against what he called the ‘China virus’, Jeffrey Sachs lamented in Project Syndicate that the U.S. was waging an "unholy crusade against China"- which in recent years had increasingly withdrawn from global institutions like the WHO that could have prevented a pandemic. China, on the other hand, continues to provide exemplary support to the U.N. He described Trump's withdrawal from the WHO during a pandemic as "disgraceful" and "disgusting" to the Chinese news portal CGTN. He told Chinese state media Xinhua that the U.S. should work with China "to stop the global crisis and speed up a global recovery." He told CNBC that the middle of the Corona crisis was the wrong time to start a new 'Cold War' with China. He lamented a rising ‘China criticism’ as a bipartisan, populist tool to gain political tailwinds.
In February 2021, 18 human rights organizations approached Columbia University President Lee Bollinger with a request for comment. In an interview, Sachs had answered the question about human rights violations in Xinjiang with the Bible verse: “Why do you look at the mote in the other’s eye, and not the beam in your own?". The activists accused Sachs of whataboutism, as well as downplaying atrocities and human rights abuses in China. Columbia President Bollinger did not comment on the accusations.
In the same month, Sachs followed up again: In an article titled “Why the US Should Pursue Cooperation with China", he called Joe Biden's election a "godsend" but criticized the Biden administration's stance of declaring the expansion of the transatlantic relationship with Europe as the only "cornerstone" for the 21st century, given that Europe and North America accounted only for 10% of the world's population. One could have clearly seen from Xi’s opening speech at the World Economic Forum, that he pursued good intentions. Sachs warned the Biden administration not to continue with a “Trump mentality” and urged a return to transnational institutions and treaties that Trump had turned his back on. Sachs’ article became too much even for veritable globalists: The Globalist magazine expressed alienation at Sachs' "devotion to Xi-speak":
„We quote: ‘Xi stated that the path to global cooperation requires remaining ‘committed to openness and inclusiveness,’ as well as ‘to international law and international rules’ and ‘to consultation and cooperation.’ Inserting that claim into an op-ed without any mention of Hong Kong, Xinjiang or Taiwan, to name but a few, is stunning.“
The next scandal involving Sachs occurred during a video interview on BBC Newsnight, where Sachs was invited along with Teng Biao, a Chinese human rights lawyer in exile who had been tortured by the Beijing regime. After Sachs dodged critical questions about China with his tried-and-true Whataboutism, Biao contradicted him:
"What Professor Sachs said is exactly the Chinese Communist Party’s narrative strategy. When the US criticises human rights abuses in China, the Chinese government says, ‘Look at your racism.’”
Biao described the CCP's actions in Xinjiang, including the forced sterilization of Uyghur women, as "genocide". Legally, this formulation is certainly controversial - but it is undisputed that the CCP's treatment of the Uyghurs constitutes crimes against humanity. Moreover, the accusation of genocide should be taken very seriously in any case when it comes from a Chinese victim of the CCP.
But how did Sachs react? A week after the controversial BBC broadcast, he published an article in April 2021 titled “The Xinjiang genocide allegations are unjustified", in which he argued that China's crackdown in Xinjiang should be understood in context:
„There are credible charges of human rights abuses against Uighurs, but those do not per se constitute genocide. And we must understand the context of the Chinese crackdown in Xinjiang, which had essentially the same motivation as America’s foray into the Middle East and Central Asia after the September 2001 attacks: to stop the terrorism of militant Islamic groups.”
Rather, he argues, that the UN should be given interpretive authority over what is happening in Xinjiang:
"UN experts are rightly calling for the UN to investigate the situation in Xinjiang. China’s government, for its part, has recently stated that it would welcome a UN mission to Xinjiang based on ‘exchanges and cooperation’, not on ‘guilty before proven’. (.) Unless the State Department can substantiate the genocide accusation, it should withdraw the charge. It should also support a UN-led investigation of the situation in Xinjiang. The work of the UN, and notably of UN Human Rights Special Rapporteurs, is essential to promote the letter and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.“
Sachs's admiration for China and his somewhat idiosyncratic relationship to democracy were perhaps nowhere more evident than at the Athens Democracy Forum 2022 in a panel on China and Russia, where Sachs delivered a eulogy on China and praised senior CCP officials:
„We in the United States – and I say ‘we’ - what I really mean is our political elites – do not speak with Chinese political elites except to point fingers or to yell at them (.) We certainly don't even shake hands with Russian leaders or diplomats. But I've lived my whole career with 42 years of active duty, listening to different narratives and seeing those perspectives from different sides and finding a lot of merit in the various positions and saying if you would sit down to speak with each other we'd actually get somewhere. So let me be specific. China looks today not completely different from the Han Dynasty. A centralized, administrative state with Confucian culture, with a tradition of excellence of the mandarins. When I speak with Chinese senior officials, which I do often, they are best informed professionals I know in the world. When I deal with them they know their brief. They are sophisticated, well trained, occasionally were my students. They believe in professional excellence of the centralized administrative state. And that political culture is more than 2000 years old.“
But Sachs was not finished yet: Plato would not have thought much of democracy either - the latter would rather have preferred a "philosopher king" in a republic. The punch line of Sachs' remarks led, as so often before, to a clash:
„SACHS: And one last point I wanna make, since we are in a democracy forum here: We treat democracy as the good. The most violent country in the world, in the 19th century, was the British empire. By far, was perhaps the most democratic or second most democratic was Britain. You could be democratic at home and ruthlessly imperial abroad. The most violent country in the world since 1950 has been the United States. (keeps on talking)
MODERATOR (interrupts him): Jeff, Jeff, let's... Jeffrey stop now! Jeffrey! Jeffrey I'm your moderator and it's enough. (.) Would you say than, that democracy is the wrong lense in which to be looking at this two countries, which is what's on the table, China and Russia?
SACHS: It is the single most mistake of president Biden: that the single most biggest difference is between democracies and autocracies. The real struggle of the world is to live together, and to overcome our common crises of the environment and inequality. (pauses for applause)
MODERATOR: Good, thank you. Actually, the idea of this panel [Athens DEMOCRACY Forum] is probably wrong-headed. I think.“
In response to a critical question from the audience by a Hong Kong student about how Sachs' remarks could be reconciled with human rights violations in Xinjiang or Hong Kong, Sachs responded evasively by pointing out that he always advocates adherence to the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Sachs' critics accuse him of mass atrocity denialism: Denial of mass atrocities and crimes against humanity, both in China and in other autocratic states. The two China experts Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg, authors of the well-researched book on the CCP called "The Hidden Hand" (2020) even raise the suspicion that Sachs may have been purposefully "built up" over years as a propaganda mouthpiece for the CCP. It should be mentioned that the two authors work for the German Marshall Fund, a medium that is also not 100% neutral on China issues. What they overlook in their criticism of Sachs is the fact that the latter acts primarily as a mouthpiece for the United Nations - but the ideological positions of the United Nations are now hardly distinguishable from those of China. One important reason for this, according to Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a researcher at Rice University, is that the SDGs contain little to no commitment to civil and political liberties - which subsequently makes them particularly attractive to autocratic regimes.
Jeffrey Sachs and COVID-19:
Chairing the Lancet COVID-19 Commission
As if the numerous stations in Sachs' biography were not enough for ten lifetimes, he "accidentally" landed in a key role again during the coronavirus pandemic: In spring 2020, he was appointed by the long-standing editor of the renowned science journal The Lancet to head the COVID-19 commission, which was to investigate global pandemic management, including the question of the virus' origin. It is worth noting that Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet, is a great friend of China: in 2015, he received the "Friendship Medal", the highest possible award for foreigners in China, from Beijing after writing China-friendly op-eds in the Lancet. The appointment of Sachs, who was also China-friendly, as head of the commission suggests that there was no intention to even critically evaluate the Chinese pandemic regime, which was exported worldwide. One of the key partners of the Lancet COVID-19 commission was the Rockefeller Foundation, with which Sachs has close ties through his wife Sonia Ehrlich Sachs. As early as 2010, the Rockefeller Foundation had described in its strategy paper “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and Development" in a so-called "lockstep scenario" that the global community would take its cue from China in a future pandemic. The situation in 2020 most closely resembled this scenario.
Sachs once again became a strategically placed power broker for official interpretive authority by being appointed head of the Lancet's COVID 19 Commission. And here, too, he went through a Saul to Paul process, at the end of which he stood as the good guy: one who always learns in the face of new evidence. But first things first.
In April 2020, Donald Trump decided to stop U.S. contributions to the World Health Organization, which Jeffrey Sachs strongly condemned. Back in April, he had a clear opinion on Donald Trump's pandemic management:
„Donald Trump has failed to meet even the low expectations that internationalists have for the United States.“
A telling formulation: internationalists would thus have expectations, albeit low ones, of the United States. But even these low expectations would have been disappointed by Trump. Sachs focused on containment rather than herd immunity, along the lines of Asian countries - the same narrative propagated in Germany by the Federal Ministry of the Interior's COVID-19 Task Force. Sachs cited Vietnam as a positive example - presumably so as not to have to name China, since he had a reputation, at least since the Huawei affair, for glorifying China at every opportunity. Here, too, an analogy to the COVID-19 Task Force of the German Ministry of the Interior: In order not to have to praise China directly, which would have met with rejection in view of the human rights violations in Xinjiang, the pandemic measures of South Korea and Taiwan were officially taken as a model, which, however, were essentially a copy of China's pandemic management. Sachs told The New Norker in an April 2020 interview:
„The question is how to be effective in controlling the epidemic and driving the transmission of the disease to very low levels. Simply letting the virus run through the society would be unacceptably costly, and that’s why essentially no country in the world is doing that. The real issue is to be effective in the response, and unfortunately the United States has not been effective so far. (.) Take a country like Vietnam, which is a low-income country in East Asia, and close to China, but for a variety of reasons they acted very quickly to stop the transmission of the virus, to a much greater extent than we did. They also don’t have the means for mass testing and so on. At least to date, they have been able to keep the epidemic more under control through public-health means, which is identifying potentially sick people, helping them to isolate, tracing their contacts, helping those people to isolate, and so on.“
Contact tracing and isolation were the order of the day - perhaps even a "small" Lockdown? Sachs' ductus at the time is indistinguishable from that of Otto Kölbl, a convinced Maoist and advisor of the German Interior Ministry's COVID-19 Task Force. Moreover, Sachs advocated the massive use of ventilators, even though they often did more harm than good, since about 50% of patients do not survive artificial ventilation because of the severe strain on the organism, and the unselective use of ventilators at the beginning of the pandemic probably cost the lives of many elderly people unnecessarily.
Sachs firmly believed Corona would arrive in the countries of the global South merely a little later because they were less involved in international air travel. As we now know, this was an insubstantial assumption, since African countries, for example, were never particularly affected by Corona. Perhaps Sachs should have looked more at vitamin D levels rather than international air travel. Based on the mere assumption that the pandemic would arrive later, but just as fiercely, in these countries, Sachs lobbied early on for "unconditional" IMF loans so that poor countries could afford the masks, tests, ventilators, drugs, and vaccinations they supposedly desperately needed. The WHO, in turn, was to play a mediating role between the countries of the global South and producers such as China, Japan, and South Korea, so that the latter would supply the necessary pandemic equipment:
„These countries do not have test equipment. They do not have personal protective equipment. They do not have ventilators, and so on. And what I am recommending is that the International Monetary Fund provide emergency financing at essentially zero conditionality, other than that it be used responsibly. And that the World Health Organization work with governments that have the potential to supply additional equipment—that’s China, Korea, Japan, and a few others—and use the emergency financing and the availability of this urgently needed equipment to get it to these countries in need.” The New Yorker, April 2020
Sachs thus acted as an economic hit man, as in the old days, by advocating IMF loans to poor countries that often, as in the case of Africa, did not need them at all. Sachs wanted to involve the countries of the global South in global pandemic management at all costs - even though they truly have enough real problems to solve.
On May 01, 2020, the Trump administration prematurely ended the NIH grant to the NGO EcoHealth Alliance, which was researching viruses via high-risk gain-of-function research for "pandemic preparedness" purposes. Since the U.S. GoF moratorium in 2018, EcoHealth Alliance had outsourced research to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, among other institutions, and brokered NIH funds there. EcoHealth Alliance was headed by British-American disease ecologist Peter Daszak, a leading bat coronavirus researcher and longtime colleague of Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia University.
At the time, Sachs was still firmly convinced of a zoonotic virus origin and defamed the Lab Leak theory as a racially motivated attempt by Trumpists to blame China and the Wuhan lab for the pandemic, which could draw the world into a diplomatic conflict. In an opinion column for CNN titled "Trump's Anti-China Theory Implodes", Sachs called the Lab Leak theory "reckless and dangerous". It was neither covered by biology, he said, nor by the chronology of events. He argued against studying it at all scientifically.
In July 2020, Sachs took over as head of the Lancet COVID-19 commission. This consisted of 12 task forces to look at individual aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. To the Origins Task Force, Sachs then appointed Peter Daszak, of all people, the president of EcoHealth Alliance - said NGO for which Trump had shortly before terminated NIH funding. Sachs justified his choice of Peter Daszak as follows:
“I liked the fact that he was quite involved in China, knew a lot about natural spillovers, and was the guy doing this. So I thought, Gee, it would be great if he would lead the task force.”
On September 14, 2020, the Lancet's COVID-19 Commission, chaired by Jeffrey Sachs, issued its first report to the 75th UN General Assembly, presenting a zoonotic origin of coronavirus as a given. The solution, it said, lied in One Health - an ideology that sees human, animal and plant health as "one", and assumes more frequent virus spillovers due to climate change, legitimizing gain-of-function research. Sachs thus demonstrably spread the very One Health ideology in his first report to the United Nations, which is suspected of having made the pandemic possible in the first place through a codon-optimized virus that escaped from the lab.
As the year progressed, more details emerged about Daszak's involvement with the Wuhan lab and the experiments conducted there. According to Sachs himself, suspicions grew that Daszak had deceived him about the nature of the research he led at the Wuhan lab after a 2018 Daszak research proposal to DARPA went public that involved gain-of-function research on coronaviruses, specifically the incorporation of a furin cleavage site - the very same anomaly that was present in the coronavirus. Although the grant was not permitted by DARPA, there was a reasonable suspicion that Daszak might have been indirectly involved in the outsourcing of the risky research to Wuhan. The truth about the virus origin decided Daszak's life's work, suggesting a massive conflict of interest: a Zoonosis would legitimize Daszak's ‘Gain-of-function’-research, while a ‘Lab Leak’ would destroy his life's work.
In June 2021, Sachs asked for Daszak's resignation from the Origins Task Force, and Daszak resigned as instructed. When the investigative media outlet The Intercept published a controversial EcoHealth Alliance's research proposal in September 2021, which listed four other Task Force members as research partners, Sachs disbanded the entire Origins Task Force on September 25, 2021. No more task force members were to be involved in the final commission report. Instead, the Lancet secretariat was to solicit "leading experts" for the section on viral origins. Peter Daszak commented:
“Dr. Sachs looked for a public rationale to close down the task force. He cited the fact that some members had collaborated with Chinese scientists or scientists at EcoHealth Alliance as a reason for closing down this work, when that is exactly why they were invited into the group. Ask yourself this — if you want to know what was happening in a country where a disease emerged, wouldn’t you be best off asking people who’d worked there?”
By the same logic, of course, one could have a criminal solve his own crime, since he already knows his way around the crime scene so well. But Peter Daszak had at least one valid point: the result of Sachs' dissolution of the Origins Task Force was that the question of the virus' origin was not pursued further in the Lancet Commission, although there was still a year to go before the final report. The suspicion that Sachs may have been just looking for a pretext to disband the task force cannot be totally dismissed. The whistleblowers of DRASTIC, which had been instrumental in uncovering the scandal surrounding Daszak, expressed satisfaction with Sachs' decision - but what prevented Sachs from once again staffing the Origins Task Force with new personnel without conflicts of interest in the fall of 2021? All in all, the impression remains of an elegant retreat maneuver to avoid having to clarify the virus origin within the framework of the commission. If one looks at the personnel of the remaining eleven task forces, one notices that there were remarkably few experts with medical backgrounds, but instead World Bank, IMF, UNICEF, UN or UNESCO affiliation - furthermore, the controversial vaccine hardliner Peter Hotez.
Sachs preferred to raise the call for an investigation of the virus' origin to an abstract level of intergovernmentalism, outside the scope of his own responsibility: the U.S. and China should jointly investigate the origin of COVID-19, and jointly agree on international safety standards for still-risky biotechnology research for the future. On May 19, 2022, Sachs issued an appeal for an independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus.
At the same time that Sachs fired Daszak in July 2021, ingratiating himself with critics of the global pandemic regime, he urged vaccine manufacturers to accelerate production of COVID-19 vaccines under UN leadership so that the world's poorest countries could obtain them. Sachs elevated vaccination for all to a matter of equality and justice - which just happened to make pharmaceutical companies rich.
In June 2022, Sachs dropped a media bombshell: On a panel at the GATE Center, a Spanish NGO close to the UN, he announced - without presenting any evidence - that he was convinced COVID-19 was a lab leak for which the U.S. biotech industry was almost certainly responsible. A 180° turnaround: So now a Lab Leak, which he had previously dismissed as a Trumpesque conspiracy theory, was suddenly a plausible explanation - but of course there was no way China was responsible. Sachs' statement, which went viral over the next few days, read as follows:
„I'll add one provocative statement (.) I chaired the commission for the Lancet for two years on COVID. I’m pretty convinced it came out of US lab biotechnology, not out of nature, just to mention. After two years of intensive work on this. So it’s a blunder in my view of biotech, not an accident of a natural spillover. We don’t know for sure, I should be absolutely clear. But there’s enough evidence that it should be looked into. And it’s not being investigated, not in the United States, not anywhere. And I think for real reasons that they don’t want to look underneath the rug, too much.“
The British press commented pointedly that the claim that the virus came from a U.S. laboratory had so far been limited to Chinese disinformation campaigns. China's political leaders expressed enthusiasm (1, 2 ). Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying tweeted:
"Given the heavy human and economic toll taken by the virus, don't we owe it to the millions of lives lost to have a thorough investigation into US labs?“
In August 2022, Sachs again laid into Current Affairs, reiterating his whispers toward the dubious machinations of the U.S. medical-industrial complex, and that there needed to be "global control" over these highly dangerous technologies:
"I can tell you one thing that I’ve learned from talking to a lot of scientists in the last couple of years: the technological capacity to do dangerous things using this biotechnology is extraordinary right now. So I want to know what’s being done. I want to know what other governments are doing, too, not just ours. I want some global control over this stuff.” Current Affairs
From that moment at the latest, Sachs was perceived worldwide in the world of alternative media as one of the few voices of reason from the establishment. Someone who attacks Fauci and the NIH and is convinced of the Lab Leak can only be a good guy - but what is overlooked is that Sachs is merely pitting the supranational World Health Organization against the national Department of Health. Sachs returned the affection of the alternative media, and for his part was not above giving an hour-long interview in August 2022 to Robert F. Kennedy Junior, the spearhead of the U.S. anti-vacc movement, gleefully spouting the Lab Leak theory, as well as the dubious connections between Peter Daszak, Anthony Fauci and the NIH.
Sachs' Lancet Commission colleagues, Angela Rasmussen and vaccine hardliner Peter Hotez - the latter of whom Kennedy had once called "public enemy No. 1" - expressed alienation at Sachs' appearance on RFK Junior's "conspiracy channel". Rasmussen accused Sachs of drifting into conspiracy theories, and Hotez expressed bafflement at what was going on lately in Sachs, his friend and mentor for 30 years. Danielle Anderson, an Australian virologist at the Wuhan lab, even said she put Sachs in the same category as Alex Jones: not worth discussing. Even supporters of the laboratory theory criticized Sachs for possibly choosing the wrong venue to disseminate a serious, scientific theory. Sachs justified his appearance with RFK Junior by explaining that he had been good friends with the Kennedy family for years and had the greatest respect for them. RFK's famous uncle John F. Kennedy, he said, was his first political hero. They agreed to leave out the subject of vaccines on the show - and if anyone was going to be allowed to harbor conspiracy theories, it would be the Kennedy family.
Sachs' appearance on RFK Junior was not enough, however: in October 2022, Sachs gave an interview to the alternative medium The Grayzone. The metamorphosis of Jeffrey Sachs from Corona hardliner to swaggering testimonial of the alternative media scene was perfect.
But one should not be blinded by the purified surface: Sachs remained true to the official narrative of pandemic control, but made less of a fuss about it in the media, at least in the West. He told the Tehran Times in July 2022, for example, that the fact that the U.S. had come through the pandemic so badly was due in part to the fact that parts of the population had "behaved badly" by refusing face masks:
„The U.S. did a poor job, with more than 1 million dead. The public behaves badly, rejecting face masks for example."
It was also likely that COVID-19 would be with us for a long time, "perhaps with new heavy waves".
At Columbia University's Center for Sustainable Development, which Sachs chairs as director, COVID-19 is a central theme right on the front page (archive). Despite the now widespread recognition that COVID-19 vaccines do not protect against infection, Sachs' center continues to stand rock-solid behind the benefits of vaccination and stokes variant panic, despite the fact that new variants are usually more virulent but less dangerous, and that, at the latest with Omicron, the long demonized "contagion" of society has long since taken place. Propaganda terms such as “Global Health Security” or “New Normal” are part of the normal vocabulary at Sachs' center. The center has made "egalitarian access to COVID-19 vaccines" and "pandemic preparedness" its central tasks. It even held its own conference for the latter, titled "Financing Preparedness." The website states:
„There is a broad consensus that urgent action is needed to mobilize significant new resources for global health security and pandemic preparedness through a new multilateral financing mechanism or Fund. Health experts around the world have warned for years that countries, regional bodies, and global institutions must invest more in critical capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats — and the COVID- 19 pandemic lays bare how the current global health architecture was not prepared when the threat emerged. Experts predict that there is ‘every likelihood that the next pandemic will come within a decade... [whose] impact on human health and the global economy could be even more profound than that of COVID-19’. The world must invest now in rapidly building core capacities for both prevention and preparedness at national, regional, and global levels and develop long-term, sustained financing solutions.”
In October 2022, the final report of the Sachs-led Lancet COVID-19 Commission was published. It was diplomatically agreed on an all options on the table conclusion, which was also expressed in the same way by the US intelligence services: Both a zoonotic and a laboratory origin were conceivable - unfortunately, after two years of intensive research, it was still not known for certain. In the summer of 2022, when Sachs disseminated the laboratory hypothesis in the RFK Junior podcast, the commission's final report had already been completed. However, Sachs' point of view appears in it only as a possible hypothesis that is not further substantiated with evidence:
“The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2 remains unknown. (.) Commissioners held diverse views about the relative probabilities of the two explanations, and both possibilities require further scientific investigation.” NY Intelligencer
Despite the lack of clarity regarding the virus' origin, Sachs' commission agreed that global responses were needed to prevent future pandemics, including "climate change mitigation" and "sustainable development". An infographic published with the commission's final report, titled "COVID-19 response: a massive global failure", lamented a "failure of global solidarity" and an "epidemic of disinformation" during the pandemic that unfortunately set back the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by years. For better "preparedness" in the future, Sachs' commission made eleven recommendations, including optimized COVID-19 vaccination strategies and shifting sovereignty to WHO in the context of a next pandemic, under the "International Health Guidelines". Six of the Commission's eleven recommendations are directly aimed at strengthening WHO's role.
Jeffrey Sachs, Ukraine war and Nord Stream
Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, Jeffrey Sachs has advocated UN-supervised peace negotiations. In June, his article "Ukraine is the latest Neocon Disaster" was published, in which he held the U.S. neocons around Victoria Nuland and her husband Robert Kagan responsible for the war in Ukraine. A German translation of Sachs' article on the Ukraine war as a failure of the neocons appeared in the Berliner Zeitung and was promptly shared by German left-wing politician of the party “Die Linke”, Sahra Wagenknecht, on Twitter.
Already in June 2022, Sachs participated in the appeal for peace negotiations signed by Juli Zeh, Richard David Precht, Jakob Augstein, Erich Vad, Harald Welzer and several other German celebrities in the ZEIT, entitled "Waffenstillstand jetzt! (“Ceasefire now!”)
After the Nord Stream pipelines were blown up on September 26, 2022, Sachs put forward the thesis on Bloomberg TV on October 03 that Nord Stream was blown up by the U.S., possibly with the participation of Poland - months before Seymour Hersh's article. The show's host interrupted Sachs and asked for his evidence. Sachs replied:
„Well, first of all there is Radar evidence, that US military helicopters, that are normally based in Gdansk were circling over this area. We also had the threats from the United States earlier this year, that one way or another, we are going to end NordStream. We also had a remarkable statement by Secretary Blinken last friday in the press conferenc, he says: „This is also a tremendous opportunity – sorry, it's a strange way to talk, if you're worried about the piracy on international infrastructure of vital significance. So I know this goes counter to our narrative, you are not allowed to say these things in the west but the fact of the matter is all over the world, when I talk to people, they think, the US did it. And one more thing, even reporters on our papers that are involved tell me privately. Of course. It doesn't show up in our media."
Sachs was aware that his statements were bold within the official narrative, but he dared to make them anyway. Because he can. What normal mortals would be immediately canceled for, Sachs can allow himself to do, simply because he is Sachs and has the reputation of an eccentric enfant terrible in the world of neo-feudalists anyway. His friend Bono once called him "the squeaky wheel that roars", George Soros attested to him a "messianic quality that must be kept under critical control”. In his circle of friends, Sachs is affectionately referred to as the "Shit Disturber".
On February 25, 2023, the unexpected five-minute opening speech by Jeffrey Sachs, streamed via video, followed Sahra Wagenknecht's and Alice Schwarzer's first peace demonstration, "Uprising for Peace", in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Sahra Wagenknecht announced to Sachs with unmistakable awe in her voice:
"I would like to announce first, before we start with the speeches, an important international voice against war: Jeffrey Sachs has made a personal video, a message of greeting to our rally - and Jeffrey Sachs, many of you will probably be familiar with him: he has often spoken out on this war, he has always pleaded for negotiations and for peace. Jeffrey Sachs, as an expert on global economics, has been a consultant for many years to various international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. He has advised both the UN Secretary General and the Russian and Ukrainian governments in the past, and today he is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York and President of the UN Solutions for Sustainable Development Network. I think it's great that Jeffrey Sachs recorded a greeting especially for us, for our rally - you'll hear it in a moment and see it in a moment on that wall over there with subtitles in German. I hope it's easy to hear and easy to read - thank you very much!"
On February 23, Sachs appeared before the UN Security Council along with ex-CIA analyst Raymond McGovern. He referred, among other things, to Seymour Hersh's research and stated that the consequences of the sabotage were "enormous," not only because of the economic losses but also the threat to all cross-border infrastructure, including submarine Internet cables and offshore wind farms. As always, he argued for a special investigation by the UN Security Council. If North Stream were not cleared up, he said, the planning security of all transnational infrastructure projects would be in jeopardy in the future. Former CIA analyst McGovern agreed with Sachs on all points.
Since his statements on the Ukraine war, Sachs has been regularly interviewed in left-leaning mainstream and alternative media and quoted up and down. His opinion pieces appear in numerous media around the world (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). In 2023, unlike Occupy Wall Street in 2011, Sachs will no longer be chased away by any left-wing demo, but will be celebrated as "our voice of reason to the establishment".
Jeffrey Sachs – An offer you can't refuse
(All roads lead to the UN)
Symbolically, Sachs' role could be described as a "white piece on the big chessboard”: A white knight who repeatedly provides moments of surprise with unexpected dodges and viewpoints that contradict the mainstream. In the good-cop-bad-cop game, he is apparently the "good cop". We are supposed to like him. Although he is completely behind Agenda 21, Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals and the WHO, which are consistently viewed critically by the opposition, at the same time he embodies the wise global leader who speaks truths about Corona or the Ukraine war that no one at the lower levels of national politics dares to say. Sachs is allowed to do this without being canceled, and he takes obvious pleasure in it. He loves the role of the ‘enfant terrible’, the rock star of the transformation agenda.
Sachs's daring new viewpoints - on the Lab Leak, Ukraine, or the Nord Stream blowup - each represent the subaltern viewpoint to the mainstream discourse. Sachs's appropriation of them gives them a place in the spectrum of what can be said. Sachs always gets to say it first - and once he has said it, everyone gets to say it. Once Sachs has said it, it is a legitimate opinion, and no longer a conspiracy theory.
Sachs always takes a position diametrically opposed to the U.S. position, which earns him a lot of sympathy points, especially on the left. What tends to be overlooked: Sachs's pronounced anti-Americanism does not spring from an anti-imperial stance that relies on decentralization and self-determination, but rather from the vector of supranationality that is gradually replacing statehood. Sachs' impassioned tirades against U.S. crimes catch on with many, but what they fail to realize is that Sachs represents the very power complex of banks, governments, NGOs, UN bodies and foundations that is responsible for the entire Corona regime. Sachs IS the agenda - he is its friendly and charismatic face. He sits at every switch, from shock therapies to Corona to Ukraine, because he can be counted on agenda-wise. Sachs shapes discourse and sets standards. He's the brains behind the Sustainable Development Goals - and an offer you can't refuse.
In view of a world that at the moment does not seem to be turning into Sachs' utopia of a multilateral world order, but into a new "two-bloc world" reminiscent of the Cold War with two hegemonic powers consisting of the U.S. and its vassal states on the one hand, and the BRICS plus with China and Russia at the top on the other side, Sachs can be assigned, in addition to his UN background, to the BRICS plus camp, which possibly represents a precursor to global statehood, and no real antithesis to the West. Sachs teaches us something about the phenomenon of ambivalence: We tend - and none of us is exempt from this - to divide the world into good and evil, black and white, heroes and villains. The case of Jeffrey Sachs makes it clear that such a simple division of the world does not work. There are no "shining lights" out there, no savior on a white horse coming to redeem us. Sachs has been virtually "recruited" since his early Harvard days, funded from the very top, and built up as a charismatic global leader, a global leader and light figure: Someone who comes across as more intelligent, personable, and persuasive than our elected politicians, but has never been democratically legitimized. Despite Sachs's claim to represent no one but himself, he clearly represents global institutions - always arguing that our problems today are too big to be solved in the 21st century by national go-it-alone efforts. What it means when nation-state policies are brought into line during a claimed global emergency has been vividly demonstrated by the last three years of the Corona regime. Sachs clearly stands for power centralization and global governance, rather than decentralized structures and self-governance.
Sachs is a textbook play for a hubris common among elites, unclouded by any disruptive corrective. Sachs's caste lives in a self-absorbed, ideologically tinged dream world, as some of his failed major projects-shock therapies, Millennium Villages Project, miscalculations during the pandemic-demonstrably demonstrate. We all fail in one way or another, but the difference between the failure of ordinary people and high-level agents like Jeffrey Sachs is that the failure of the latter always entails potentially huge numbers of victims. The potential for harm is disproportionately greater than with ordinary mortals. With top-down mega projects like lockdowns, vaccination and testing regimes, the fundamental rights and welfare of millions are at stake.
So what does it mean when Jeffrey Sachs gives the opening talk via video message at the first demo of a new peace movement in Germany? This is in the realm of the speculative, as Sahra Wagenknecht has not been transparent about her motives for inviting him. It is possible that she invited him simply because of converging views on the Ukraine war or the factor of his uncancelability - it is possible that she wanted to provide the movement with a powerful advocate right from the start. The only question is why she could not find someone with fewer conflicts of interest on behalf of Ukraine and Russia due to his own past. Indirectly, the question also arises as to how Sahra Wagenknecht actually positions herself on Agenda 21, Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals and a surrender of sovereignty to the WHO in the next pandemic - goals for which Jeffrey Sachs stands. Sachs' appearance at the Berlin peace demonstration fits into Sachs' recent attempts to rally the opposition, and discreetly win them over to his goals as the opposition's narratives gained momentum. Sachs just always wanted to be in with the cool kids, while continuing to be allowed in and out of Bloomberg, CNBC and CNN. Sachs' participation in the Berlin peace demonstration suggests that the new peace movement is being closely watched internationally, and may be gently guided toward the realization that global governance may not be such a bad idea after all to solve our global problems. Thus, at the end of a long and pointless war of attrition in Ukraine, there could be a peace process under the benevolent aegis of the United Nations. We would be the first to know about it from Jeffrey Sachs.
As Lenin knew more than 100 years ago:
"In order to control the opposition, you have to own it."