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This phrase has been used to justify wars and has been used to erode liberty in this country to the point that we are now a de facto police state, and yet their is no real definition of what makes a particular weapon a "weapon of mass destruction".

Before this term came into use in political circles the phrase used was "NBC Weapons" for Nuclear-Biological-Chemical weapons. This term is precise. Mustard gas is a chemical weapon. Anthrax is a biological weapon. Anything radioactive is a nuclear weapon (fission, fusion of "dirty bomb".

"Weapon of mass destruction" is vague and I would like someone to give me a precise definition. Does any bomb qualify? What about a hand grenade? Does the weapon have to cause a certain amount of property damage, destroy a certain physical area, and/or kill/maim x number of people?

If you plant a bomb and it kills 27 people, is that a "WMD"?  What about a bomb that kills 69 people? What if it just injures 242 people?

This is now a legal term, lets have some specifics please.

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Comment Preferences

  •  WMD (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    prius04, Andrew F Cockburn, plan9pub

    It's something that Saddam Hussein had so American right wing war lovers could rationalize invading Iraq.

    It has no definition, just a purpose.

    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

    by yet another liberal on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 07:22:50 AM PST

  •  most US references have statutory definitions (3+ / 0-)

    ie, 18 U.S.C.A. § 2332a  

    (2) the term “weapon of mass destruction” means--

    (A) any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title;

    (B) any weapon that is designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors;

    (C) any weapon involving a biological agent, toxin, or vector (as those terms are defined in section 178 of this title); or

    (D) any weapon that is designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life; and


    Section 921 defines destructive device:

    (4) The term “destructive device” means--

    (A) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas--

    (i) bomb,

    (ii) grenade,

    (iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,

    (iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,

    (v) mine, or

    (vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses;

    (B) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and

    (C) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device described in subparagraph (A) or (B) and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.

    The term “destructive device” shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a signaling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety, or similar device; surplus ordnance sold, loaned, or given by the Secretary of the Army pursuant to the provisions of section 4684(2), 4685, or 4686 of title 10; or any other device which the Attorney General finds is not likely to be used as a weapon, is an antique, or is a rifle which the owner intends to use solely for sporting, recreational or cultural purposes.

    Then you have to look at caselaw to see how courts interpret these definitions.    This is pretty much how the law works for most specialized terms.
  •  It is not a well-defined term. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eikyu Saha

    Here is Wikipedia'stake:

    weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans (and other life forms) and/or cause great damage to man-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere in general. The scope and application of the term has evolved and been disputed, often signifying more politically than technically. Coined in reference to aerial bombing with chemical explosives, it has come to distinguish large-scale weaponry of other technologies, such as chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear. This differentiates the term from more technical ones such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons (CBRN).
    That, of course, begs the question, but, it adds to NBC by including such things as, well, an airplane striking a 111 story building.  What it lacks in specifity, it appears to make up for in elasticity.
  •  WMD is something that other people might use (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eikyu Saha, plan9pub

    to kill us. Anything that our military  currently uses to kill other people is not WMD.

    So biological, chemical, and radioactive weapons are WMD because our military doesn't use them. They are evil and inhuman.

    Bombs, assault rifles, drones, machine guns, etc, are not WMD because our military uses them to kill other people. They are necessary to protect our freedom from the forces of evil who might use WMD.

    That was simple.

    •  Sadly, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew F Cockburn

      I see that same definition.

      •  plan9 - I read a useful term today (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Andrew F Cockburn

        Trying to call guns WMDs only hurts the cause of better gun control. However, describing assault rifles as weapons of mass murder is accurate and a very useful way to describe them.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 11:23:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  To be clear (0+ / 0-)

          I am not in favor of banning all guns, but I do think assault rifles are "weapons of mass destruction".

          That said, these are my suggested regulations for firearms.

          1) ALL firearms need to be registered.

          2) All private sales of weapons should be banned.

          3) Criminal/psych check should be required and reviewed annually in order to purchase and retain possession of any firearm.

          4) There should be a limit on the number of firearms that can be owned e.g., 1 handgun, 3 rifles, and 1 shotgun PER ADULT.

          5) Fully automatic weapons of any type should be banned.

          6) Handguns other than revolvers should be banned.

          7) Magazines of greater than 10 round capacity should be banned.

          8) Armour-piercing ammunition should be banned.

          9) Kits permitting weapons to be modified to automatic fire or that increase round capacity should be banned.

          10) The injury or death of any child in a household due to firearms shall be a crime and the person(s) responsible shall lose their right to possess a firearm FOREVER.

          A five year phase in period would be observed where people could turn in banned firearms for either half their market value in cash, or full market value as a tax credit.

          Banned weapons usable by police/military would be retained, all others would be destroyed.

          These are SANE and REASONABLE regulations for weapons used outside of a "well-regulated militia" as specified in the Constitution.

  •  plan9 - short, easy answer (0+ / 0-)

    Weapons of mass destruction are chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

    President Obama has stated that if Syria uses WMD the US will enter the civil war. That's the standard for the term WMD, a weapon so horrific that the US will commit it's military forces even when our citizens or economic interests are not  in immediate danger.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 07:52:21 AM PST

    •  But we already had a terms (0+ / 0-)

      for these type of weapons which we used for years. NBC or CBRN.

      WMD is a flexible word designed to elicit an emotional/fear reaction.

      We invaded a country under the pretext that it had these weapons when this was a patent lie.

      When you start changing names needlessly, people are being manipulated.

  •  A WMD is an invisible reason for regime change (0+ / 0-)

    and only un-Americans deny their reality.

  •  Nuclear Bomb Usuall Heads the List... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...but, oddly enough, the same month that the old USSR detonated their first fission bomb, a Russian engineer by the name Mikail Kalishnikov was test firing a new automatic rifle at a government firing range. News of the Russian bomb test swept the world, and caused major panic in Western Military Headquarters; the newly minted AK-47, not so much.

    More than 100 million AK-47 rifles have been produced, worldwide, and they have killed people, soldiers and civilians alike, in numbers that are legion, in numbers that even the Stranglovian Military Sociopaths of the world would find appalling. WMD's, indeed!

    "Cause 5 in every 4 just don't amount to nothin' more, so watch the rats go 'cross the floor, and make up songs ' bout bein' poor." F Zappa

    by GearRatio on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 10:12:00 AM PST

    •  Ah, you get my point (0+ / 0-)


      The AK-47 has a body count which is orders of magnitude greater than probably all the NBC weapons used in the 20th century.

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