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Weapon of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a weapon which can kill large numbers of humans, animals and plants, and/or cause great damage to man-made structures (e.g. buildings) or natural structures (e.g. mountains). The term covers several weapon types, including nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) and, increasingly, radiological weapons. There is controversy over when the term was first used, either in 1937 (in reference to the aerial bombardment of Guernica, Spain) or in 1945 (with reference to nuclear weapons). Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and progressing through the Cold War, the term came to refer more to non-conventional weapons. The phrase entered widespread usage in relation to the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. Terms used in a military context include atomic, biological, and chemical warfare (ABC warfare), nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) after the invention of the hydrogen bomb, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN), recognizing the threat of subcritical radiological weapons.
Due to the indiscriminate impacts caused by WMD, the fear of WMD has shaped political policies and campaigns, fostered social movements, and has been the central theme of many films. Support for different levels of WMD development and control varies nationally and internationally. Yet understanding of the nature of the threats is not high, in part because of imprecise usage of the term by politicians and the media.
Additional recommended knowledge
Historic use of the term WMD
The first reported usage of the term was by the Rt. Rev. Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury, part of his 1937 Christmas sermon broadcast on national radio. In an address titled "Christian Responsibility," Lang is quoted as saying:
At that time, there were no nuclear weapons; biological weapons were already being researched by Japan, (see Unit 731), and chemical weapons had seen wide use.
The application of the term to specifically nuclear and radiological weapons is traced by William Safire to the Russian phrase oruziye massovovo porazheniya. He credits James Goodby (of the Brookings Institution) with tracing what he considers the earliest known English-language use soon after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (although it is not quite verbatim): a communique from a November 15, 1945 meeting of Harry Truman, Clement Attlee and Mackenzie King (probably drafted by Vannevar Bush — or so Bush claimed in 1970) referred to "weapons adaptable to mass destruction". That exact phrase, says Safire, was also used by Bernard Baruch in 1946 (in a speech at the United Nations probably written by Herbert Bayard Swope).  The same phrase found its way into the UN resolution to create the Atomic Energy Commission (predecessor of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)), which used the wording "…atomic weapons and of all other weapons adaptable to mass destruction".
An exact use of this term was given in a lecture "Atomic Energy as an Atomic Problem" by J. Robert Oppenheimer. The lecture was delivered to the Foreign Service and the State Department, on September 17th, 1947. The lecture is reprinted in "The Open Mind" (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1955). "It is a very far reaching control which would eliminate the rivalry between nations in this field, which would prevent the surreptitious arming of one nation against another, which would provide some cushion of time before atomic attack, and presumably therefore before any attack with weapons of mass destruction, and which would go a long way toward removing atomic energy at least as a source of conflict between the powers."
An early use of the exact phrase in an international treaty was in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, however no definition was provided.
The Cold War and the War against Terrorism
The term "WMD" had fallen out of use since the early Cold War era, when it was primarily a reference to nuclear weapons. At the time, the US stockpiles of thermonuclear weapons were regarded as a necessary deterrent against an all-out strike from the Soviet Union (see Mutual Assured Destruction). Hence the less dysphemistic military term strategic weapons fell into favor with US policy-makers who approved of, or at least condoned, the amassed American nuclear arsenal.
In 1990 and during the 1991 Gulf War, WMD was resurrected and used widely by members of the Clinton Administration, including Madeleine Albright, Samuel Berger and William Cohen, by other western politicians and by the media. They referred more specifically to the chemical weapons that were in Iraq under Hussein’s regime. "Weapons of mass destruction" replaced "strategic weapons" in the common American lexicon. After 9/11, it would be the anthrax attacks, and the multitude of hypothetical smallpox terrorist attack scenarios in the media that would shape the prevalent image of a weapon of mass destruction into a device of bioterrorism. This usage reached a crescendo with the 2002 Iraq disarmament crisis and the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that became the primary justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Because of its prolific use, the American Dialect Society voted WMD the word of the year in 2002 , and in 2003 Lake Superior State University added WMD to its list of terms banished for "Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness".
The most widely used definition is that of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons (NBC) although there is no treaty or customary international law that contains an authoritative definition. Instead, international law has been used with respect to the specific categories of weapons within WMD, and not to WMD as a whole. The acronym NBC is used with regards to battlefield protection systems for armored vehicles, because all 3 involve insidious toxins that can be carried through the air and can be protected against with vehicle air filtration systems. However, there is an argument that nuclear weapons do not belong in the same category as chemical, biological, or "dirty-bomb" radiological weapons, which have limited destructive potential (and close to none, as far as property is concerned), whereas nuclear weapons are immensely destructive and could be said to belong in a class by themselves.
The NBC definition has also been used in official US documents, by the US President   the US Central Intelligence Agency , the US Department of Defense , and the US General Accounting Office .
Other documents expand the definition of WMD to also include radiological or conventional weapons. The US military refers to WMD as:
The significance of the words separable and divisible part of the weapon is that missiles such as the Pershing II and the SCUD are considered weapons of mass destruction, while aircraft capable of carrying bombloads are not.
While in US civil defense, the category is now Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE), which defines WMD as:
The US FBI also considers conventional weapons (i.e. bombs) as WMD: "A weapon crosses the WMD threshold when the consequences of its release overwhelm local responders". Gustavo Bell Lemus, the Vice President of Colombia, at the 2001 United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, quoted the Millennium Report of the UN Secretary-General to the General Assembly, in which Kofi Annan said that small arms could be described as WMD because the fatalities they cause "dwarf that of all other weapons systems - and in most years greatly exceed the toll of the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki".
Chemical weapons expert Gert G. Harigel considers only nuclear weapons true weapons of mass destruction, because "only nuclear weapons are completely indiscriminate by their explosive power, heat radiation and radioactivity, and only they should therefore be called a weapon of mass destruction". He prefers to call chemical and biological weapons "weapons of terror" when aimed against civilians and "weapons of intimidation" for soldiers. Testimony of one such soldier expresses the same viewpoint. For a period of several months in the winter of 2002-2003, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz frequently used the term "weapons of mass terror," apparently also recognizing the distinction between the psychological and the physical effects of many things currently falling into the WMD category.
An additional condition often implicitly applied to WMD is that the use of the weapons must be strategic. In other words, they would be designed to "have consequences far outweighing the size and effectiveness of the weapons themselves" . The strategic nature of WMD also defines their function in the military doctrine of total war as targeting the means a country would use to support and supply its war effort, specifically its population, industry, and natural resources.
The Washington Post reported on 3/30/2006: "Jurors asked the judge in the death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui today to define the term "weapons of mass destruction" and were told it includes airplanes used as missiles". Moussaoui was indicted and tried for the use of airplanes as WMD under 18 USC 2332a (see above).
WMD use and control
The development and use of WMD is governed by international conventions and treaties, although not all countries have signed and ratified them:
In 1996 the International Court of Justice provided an advisory opinion regarding the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. The statement is an authoritative legal pronouncement but not legally binding. It stated that any threat of the use of force, or the use of force, by means of nuclear weapons that is contrary to Article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter or that fails to meet all the requirements of Article 51 would be unlawful.
Adopted by the UN Security Council on April 28, 2004, UN Resolution 1540 recognizes the threat posed to international peace and security by nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery. It calls upon greater effort by nations to limit proliferation of such weapons.
Weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, are rarely used because their use is essentially an "invitation" for a WMD retaliation, which in turn could escalate into a war so destructive it could easily destroy huge segments of the world's population. During the Cold War, this understanding became known as mutually assured destruction and was largely the reason war never broke out between the WMD-armed United States and Soviet Union.
WMD use, possession and access
The only country to have used a nuclear weapon in war is the United States. There are eight countries that have declared they possess nuclear weapons and are known to have tested a nuclear weapon, only five of which are members of the NPT. The eight include: People's Republic of China; France; India; Pakistan; Russia; the United Kingdom; the United States of America; and North Korea. Israel is considered by most analysts to have nuclear weapons numbering in the low hundreds as well, but maintains an official policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither denying nor confirming its nuclear status. Iran is suspected by western countries of seeking nuclear weapons, a claim that it denies. South Africa developed a small nuclear arsenal in the 1980s but disassembled them in the early 1990s, making it the only country to have fully given up an independently developed nuclear weapons arsenal. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited stockpiles of nuclear arms following the break-up of the Soviet Union, but relinquished them to the Russian Federation. Countries with access to nuclear weapons through nuclear sharing agreements include: Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. North Korea has claimed to have developed and tested nuclear devices; although outside sources have been unable to unequivocally support the state's claims, North Korea has officially been identified to have nuclear weapons.
United States politics
Fear of WMD, or of threats diminished by the possession of WMD, has long been used to catalyse public support for various WMD policies. They include mobilization of pro- and anti-WMD campaigners alike, and generation of popular political support. The term WMD may be used as a powerful buzzword, or to generate a culture of fear.. It is also used ambiguously, particularly by not distinguishing among the different types of WMD.
A television commercial called Daisy, promoting Democrat Lyndon Johnson's 1964 presidential candidacy, invoked the fear of a nuclear war and was an element in Johnson's subsequent election.
More recently, the threat of potential WMD in Iraq was used by George W. Bush to generate public support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Broad reference to Iraqi WMD in general was seen as an element of Bush's arguments. As Paul Wolfowitz explained: "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." To date, however, Coalition forces have found mainly degraded artillery shells. On June 21, 2006, United States Senator Rick Santorum claimed that "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons." According to the Washington Post, he was referring to 500 such shells "that had been buried near the Iranian border, and then long forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988." That night, "intelligence officials reaffirmed that the shells were old and were not the suspected weapons of mass destruction sought in Iraq after the 2003 invasion." The shells had been uncovered and reported on in 2004. In 2004 Polish troops found 17 1980s-era rocket warheads, thwarting an attempt by militants to buy them at $5000 each. Some of the rockets contained extremely deteriorated nerve agent. In 2003 an IAEA team removed 1.8 tonnes of low enriched uranium and 500 tonnes of natural uranium which had been stored under IAEA seal since 1991.
Media coverage of WMD[opinion needs balancing]
In 2004 the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) released a report examining the media’s coverage of WMD issues during three separate periods: India’s nuclear weapons tests in May 1998; the US announcement of evidence of a North Korean nuclear weapons program in October 2002; and revelations about Iran's nuclear program in May 2003. The CISSM report notes that poor coverage resulted less from political bias among the media than from tired journalistic conventions. The report’s major findings were that:
In a separate study published in 2005, a group of researchers assessed the effects reports and retractions in the media had on people’s memory regarding the search for WMD in Iraq during the 2003 Iraq War. The study focused on populations in two coalition countries (Australia and USA) and one opposed to the war (Germany). Results showed that US citizens generally did not correct initial misconceptions regarding WMD, even following disconfirmation; Australian and German citizens were more responsive to retractions. Dependence on the initial source of information led to a substantial minority of Americans exhibiting false memory that WMD were indeed discovered, while they were not. This led to three conclusions:
A poll conducted between June and September of 2003 asked people whether they thought WMD had been discovered in Iraq since the war ended. They were also asked which media sources they relied upon. Those who obtained their news primarily from Fox News were three times as likely to believe that evidence confirming WMD had been discovered in Iraq than those who relied on PBS and NPR for their news, and one third more likely than those who primarily watched CBS.
Based on a series of polls taken from June-September 2003.
In 2005 the Washington Post reported that US troops had raided a suspected chemical weapons factory . In 2006 Fox News reported the claims of two Republican lawmakers that WMDs had been found in Iraq, based upon unclassified portions of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center. Quoting from the report Senator Rick Santorum said "Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent". Many news agencies, including Fox News, reported the conclusions of the CIA that, based upon the investigation of the Iraq Survey Group, WMDs had been found in Iraq.
Public perceptions of WMD
Awareness and opinions of WMD have varied during the course of their history. Their threat is a source of unease, security and pride to different people. The anti-WMD movement is embodied most in nuclear disarmament, and led to the formation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
In 1998 University of New Mexico's Institute for Public Policy released their third report on US perceptions - including the general public, politicians and scientists - of nuclear weapons since the break up of the Soviet Union. Risks of nuclear conflict (particularly with China), proliferation, and terrorism were seen as substantial. While maintenance of a nuclear US arsenal was considered above average in importance, there was widespread support for a reduction in the stockpile, and very little support for developing and testing new nuclear weapons.
Also in 1998, but after the UNM survey was conducted, nuclear weapons became an issue in India's election of March, in relation to political tensions with neighboring Pakistan. Prior to the election the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced it would “declare India a nuclear weapon state” after coming to power. BJP won the elections, and on May 14, three days after India tested nuclear weapons for the second time, a public opinion poll reported that a majority of Indians favored the country’s nuclear build-up.
On April 15, 2004, the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) reported that US citizens showed high levels of concern regarding WMD, and that preventing the spread of nuclear weapons should be a very important US foreign policy goal, accomplished through multilateral arms control rather than the use of military threats. A majority also believed the US should be more forthcoming with its biological research and its NPT commitment of nuclear arms reduction, and incorrectly thought the US was a party to various non-proliferation treaties.
A Russian opinion poll conducted on August 5, 2005 indicated half the population believes new nuclear powers (including DPRK) have the right to possess nuclear weapons. 39% believes the Russian stockpile should be reduced, though not fully eliminated.
WMDs in the media
Weapons of mass destruction and their related impacts have been a mainstay for popular culture since the beginning of the Cold War, as both political commentary and humorous outlet.
Nuclear weapons have been a central theme of movies since The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951); two of the most famous are Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and Fail-Safe (1964). Biological weapons have also featured, as in Twelve Monkeys (1995). Several James Bond films involve a madman in the earlier films most notably Ernst Stavro Blofeld of the fictional terrorist organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. intending to use either nuclear or biological weapons against the world in the quest for world domination. This has been parodied in the Austin Powers series with Dr. Evil. In the film Team America North Korea and the terrorists have Weapons of Mass Destruction (Called WMDs).
The science fiction novel Dune discusses atomic weapons, and Dune Messiah employs one called a Stone Burner. In the Star Wars universe, the Death Star is a moveable, multi-use WMD (meaning that it, unlike most WMD missiles, can be used thousands of times.)
In the Babylon 5 universe, WMDs have been used a number of times, most directly by the Earth Alliance (Earth-Minbari War, Nuclear), the Army of Light (the Shadow War, Nuclear), the Centauri (Narn-Centauri War, Planetary Bombardment with asteroids by mass drivers), as well as on their own planet on the Isle of Selini to rid themselves of the Shadows (Nuclear), and the Drakh (Biological Warfare against Earth).
The 2005 series of Doctor Who contained a double episode about an alien invasion in London, which is a commentary about the rhetoric surrounding the Iraq war. In one scene, when discussing whether an attack on the aliens' space craft was warranted, politicians claimed it was necessary because the aliens had "massive weapons of destruction" which could be deployed "within forty-five seconds" — a stab esp. at Blair who had claimed that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction that could be deployed within 45 minutes. Author Hugh Cook's 1992 fantasy novel The Witchlord and the Weaponmaster satirically mentioned that the avalanche is a terrible weapon of mass destruction, outlawed by civilised countries in the conduct of war.
During Season 4, Episode 1 (09/03/1997 Stardate: 51003.7) of Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) consults with Borg representative Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) on how to destroy Species 8472. Janeway calls Seven of Nine's "multikinetic neutronic mine. Five million isoton yield" a "Weapon of Mass Destruction." Following up on a statement from Tuvok (Tim Russ) that it would affect the entire Solar System destroying innocent worlds, Seven of Nine replies, "It would be efficient."
In 2005, the Paranoia RPG published a collection of new Straight-style missions under the title "WMD". Each mission revolved around a central plot device with the initials WMD. At least one of the missions involved an actual device that might have been a WMD; but, in general they simply focussed on situations rife with a sense of stress, uncertainty and fear.
In the Nextwave comic book the Beyond Corporation© is testing out "Unusual Weapons of Mass Destruction" within the US. The first such weapon is Fin Fang Foom. This is all documented in the Beyond Corporation©'s marketing plan.
Weapons of Mass Destruction is also the title of an album released by the rapper Xzibit in 2004. Also in 2004, Faithless released the album No Roots, containing the single "Mass Destruction", whose lyrics describe negative traits such as 'fear', 'racism', 'greed' and 'inaction' as 'weapons of mass destruction'.
Xzibit recently called a car featured on Pimp My Ride a WMD.
During the 2003 Iraq War, a parody based on Internet Explorer's "404 Not Found" message was created, poking fun at the state of international affairs, and for a time was the #1 hit for the Google search "weapons of mass destruction". Similarly, at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner, February 24, 2004, George W. Bush joked about being unable to find WMD in Iraq, saying "Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere", while showing images of himself looking around the White House for something .
In 2003 an easyJet advertising campaign attracted controversy with a billboard ad featuring a woman's breasts with the phrase "discover weapons of mass distraction".
In The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XVII", aliens Kang and Kodos, spoofing the Iraq War, claim that they had to invade, as Earth was working on "Weapons of Mass Disintegration." In fact, a cut line, "This isn't any different from what Iraq's going to be." proves this fact.
The hit TV show 24 typically features a different WMD weapon in each season. The second, fourth and sixth seasons feature nuclear weapons. The third features a weaponized virus, the fifth, VX nerve gas, a chemical weapon of mass destruction.
In the episode Rekognize (List of Da Ali G Show (US) episodes) of Da Ali G Show, Ali mistakenly refers to them as "BLTs", going so far as to ask if there was mustard gas in the BLTs.
Common hazard symbols
Radioactive weaponry/hazard symbol
The international radioactivity symbol (also known as trefoil) first appeared in 1946, at the University of California, Berkeley Radiation Laboratory. At the time, it was rendered as magenta, and was set on a blue background. It is drawn with a central circle of radius R, the blades having an internal radius of 1.5R and an external radius of 5R, and separated from each other by 60°.
Biological weaponry/hazard symbol
Developed by Dow Chemical company in the 1960s for their containment products. It is a form of Gothic architecture.
According to Charles Baldwin, an environmental-health engineer who contributed to its development:
(how to draw it)
The symbol used today as the biohazard sign is in fact a Japanese family crest or "mon." It can be found on page 195 of the book "Japanese Design Motifs: 4,260 Illustrations of Japanese Crests" translated by Fumie Adachi and published by Dover.
Weapons of Mass Destruction was the 2001-2002 Debate Resolution (policy debate).
"Resolved: The United States federal government should establish a foreign policy significantly limiting the use of weapons of mass destruction. (2001-2002)"
Definition and origin
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Weapon_of_mass_destruction". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|