Taking the ‘W’ out of ‘WMD’

In the comments section over at The Command Post I happened upon a twist to the old “moving the WMD goal posts” game.

Before you get all excited, please note that I have not been commenting much on the recent chemical weapon finds in Iraq. I personally never thought that WMDs were the main reason to invade Iraq and I thought the President was making a mistake by harping on it as much as he did before we went in. Since my support for regime change in Iraq wasn’t dependent on WMD finds, I’m not particularly concerned that we haven’t been finding much. The only real concern I have is for our intelligence agencies, and those of pretty much the rest of the world, who were convinced that Iraq DID possess a credible WMD threat and have apparently been proven mostly wrong, though a great deal of what was said publicly has been proven to be true at least to an extent.

And it’s the “extent” that brings me to my point.

The song from the anti-war crowd has gone from “no WMDs” to “no WMD stockpiles” as bits and pieces of Iraq’s WMD programs have become public knowledge. (Incidentally, please notice that I said “have become public knowledge”, not “have been discovered by coalition forces”.)

Now the very definition of the big ‘W’ in ‘WMD’ is being addressed by a Command Post regular named Don. Don claims

A sarin CW artillery shell needs to be fired in order to work. It’s a binary. If you don’t fire it, and subject it to (a) the g-forces coming out of the tube and (b) the rotational forces from the rifling in the tube, then the components won’t mix and the sarin won’t be produced.

In that configuration, it’s not a Weapon. Sorta like a 7.62 round all by itself is not a Weapon.

So a chemical shell isn’t a Weapon unless fired from an artillery piece. Even if used in a roadside bomb, it isn’t a Weapon since the chemicals won’t mix properly. He adds

As for a nuclear weapon not being a weapon until it’s armed, no bomb is a weapon until it’s armed. It’s just a dumb container that can’t do anything. We have numerous examples of that, from bombs large and small and including nukes.

In fact, an aerial bomb is barely a weapon without an aircraft to deliver it, especially the larger versions, and Most especially the nukes. Heavy damned things! You could set one off by doing some serious re-engineering on the ground, if what you had in mind was doing in your own base.

Don’t get caught up in too many James Bond movies here. Reality™ doesn’t follow those plots.

So aerial bombs (especially big ones) and nuclear warheads are not Weapons until armed.

This is why discussing things in a logical manner doesn’t always work.

I wrote

Nice semantics, Don. That will convince a lot of people.

How about a hand grenade in a box? Is that a weapon? What if the box is nailed to the floor and cannot be opened? Is the hand grenade inside the box a weapon since it cannot be delivered and the pin cannot be pulled? That makes the grenade just a collection of chemicals?

I can take my car and crash it into something to cause a fair amount of damage. I can drive it to another city and do the same thing. Does this make it a weapon?

What if I have a car, a 50-kiloton nuclear warhead, an unloaded M-16, 10,000 rounds of 7.62×39 ammunition, and 10 mustard gas artillery shells in my garage?

Is the only weapon my purple 1998 Chevy Cavalier?

I want to discuss things in a meaningful manner. Really. But some folks you just can’t talk to.

Expect more of this if/when more proscribed weapons show up. Like, say, in September and October.


  1. A purple 1998 Chevy Cavalier? Is that a Weapon of Mis-construction! I’m a Ford fan by he way!