ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS


Defining WMD down? by mattsteinglass
May 21, 2009, 4:18 pm
Filed under: Terrorism

Did anybody else notice this? In the indictment of the guys arrested yesterday for allegedly trying to bomb synagogues in NYC, the first count is that they

did combine, conspire, confederate and agree together and with each other to use a weapon of mass destruction, to wit, a surface-to-air guided missile system and an improvised explosive device (“IED”) containing over 30 pounds of Composition 4 (‘C-4″) military grade plastic explosive material against persons and property within the United States.

Since when is a Stinger a “weapon of mass destruction”? It’s bad enough that the term, which strictly applies only to nuclear weapons since they “destroy mass”, has been extended in the vernacular to include chemical and biological weapons; now they’re using it to apply to routine plastic explosives like C4? Is this some bizarre way of trying to prove that Saddam had WMD after all? Doesn’t this imply the US has used WMD millions of times in the past 8 years? To paraphrase Amy Winehouse, what kind of, uh, ignorant nonsense is this?

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15 Comments so far
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via Ben Smith’s post on this, it does seem the US code defines ‘weapon of mass destruction’ down.

Specifically,

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113B > § 2332a

reads

Definitions.— For purposes of this section— …
(2) the term “weapon of mass destruction” means—
(A) any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title;

Sec. 921 then states:

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;

The indictment conforms to the definitions of the US Code.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0509/WMDs_in_Newburgh.html

Comment by stefan

Hm, yeah. That’s weird. How long has that been in the code?

Comment by mattsteinglass

The use of ‘weapon of mass destruction’ to include truck bombs seems to go back to at least the McVeigh and Nichols indictment in 1995.

http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cas44.htm

Comment by stefan

See also

http://debate.uvm.edu/wmd2002/020a.htm

for a timeline of definitions.

The first US Code that defines conventional explosives as potentially WMD appears, it seems, in 1994.

Comment by stefan

Just in time for the Oklahoma City bombing? Inside job???!!!

Comment by mattsteinglass

Robbing convenience stores with a sawed off shotgun now gets you charged with possession of a WMD in some states, under state law that copies the definition in US Code. Not an isolated case, just google around.

http://www.gastongazette.com/news/shotgun-33701-clerk-sawed.html

This goes back to at least 1989:

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/usr/wbardwel/public/nfalist/state_v_fennell.txt

This uses a 1986 North Carolina state law.

Comment by stefan

I love the idea (is it your own Matt., or did you pull it from somewhere?) that because nuclear weapons actually destroy mass they are the original weapons of MD. Like that joke about the physics lesson describing nuclear fusion: “class, what happened to those three neutrons” “Nobody leave the room….”

or somewhat more creepily, like Elaine Scarry’s image of the soldiers who are trained to get mad at the prisoners they kill– “you made me waste a bullet”

so this would be something like “no see what you made me do? you made me destroy mass!”

Comment by John Plotz

Nah, I think I saw it somewhere, back when people were complaining about using WMD to apply to chemical weapons in Iraq. But this thread has been really interesting — according to Wikipedia it seems Kofi Annan at one point argued that small arms should be considered WMD since, in the aggregate, they kill the most people…which really just demonstrates how the incentive to claim maximum harm-remediation for your personal issue inflates definitions out of all possible meaning.

Personally I think misuse of the English language is the most terrible weapon of mass destruction of all…did you see Tony Scott’s hilarious opening to his review of “Angels + Demons”?

“You made me waste a bullet” — yecch. Creepily echoes the hilarious thing in “Looking for Nemo” where the squid says “Aw, guys! You made me ink!”

Comment by mattsteinglass

The very core of your writing while sounding agreeable initially, did not work well with me personally after some time. Somewhere within the sentences you managed to make me a believer but only for a very short while. I nevertheless have got a problem with your jumps in logic and one might do nicely to help fill in all those gaps. In the event you can accomplish that, I will undoubtedly end up being fascinated.

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