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Old 05-05-2003, 04:17 PM   #1
Aackman
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Default Weapons of Mass Distortion

Interesting article.

Weapons of Mass Distortion
Geoffrey Wheatcroft
The Guardian

Friday 02 May 2003

The concept of WMD is dishonest. When they are in friendly hands we call them defence forces

If the first casualty of war is truth, then language itself sustains the heaviest collateral damage, as Orwell used to point out (before "collateral damage" proved his point by entering the vocabulary of poisonous euphemism). The Iraq war has produced its own rich crop of Newspeak, but the choicest of all is the phrase "weapons of mass destruction".

Even the most credulous supporters of Tony Blair's war are beginning to see they were sold a pup. MPs angrily demand evidence of the WMDs, which they, in their innocence, believed were the reason for the war, rather than its flimsy pretext, while the prime minister insists that WMDs will be found.

But what are they anyway? The very phrase "weapons of mass destruction" is of recent coinage, and a specious one. It replaced "ABC weapons", for atomic, biological and chemical, which was neater, although already misleading as it conflated types of weaponry quite different in kind and in destructive capacity. WMD is even more empty and dishonest as a concept.

By definition atomic and hydrogen bombs cause mass destruction. Ever since they were first built and used in war (by the US, in case anyone has forgotten), they have cast a peculiar thrall of horror, although this is not entirely logical. The quarter-million dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been preceded by nearly a million German and Japanese civilians killed by "conventional" bombing, whose conventionality was small consolation for the victims.

Even supposing that nuclear weapons are uniquely horrible, the Iraq war and its aftermath have only served to confirm what Hans Blix learned, and what the International Institute for Strategic Studies said last summer: that Saddam had no fissile material to build atomic warheads. Nor did he have (for all the shockingly mendacious propaganda) the wherewithal for acquiring such material. Had he possessed warheads, he never had the means of striking London, let alone New York. And if he had ever been tempted to lob one at Israel, he would have been constrained by the certain knowledge that Baghdad would have been nuked minutes later.

Certainly he possessed the biological and chemical material in ABC, although here again the "W" in WMD is notably misleading: "weaponised" was just what this material was not, a fact which makes the pretext for war even more phoney. And certainly Saddam had used biological and chemical weapons against Iran as well as the Kurds. Very nasty they are, but that does not make them mass-destructive in the same sense as nuclear warheads.

A height of absurdity was reached with the claim that one of Saddam's WMDs was mustard gas - a weapon we were using in 1917, and which British politicians at the time defended as comparatively humane beside high-explosive artillery and machine-gun fire.

Even terrorism isn't always more dangerous because of access to toxic substances, and doesn't need a dictator like Saddam to provide them anyway. Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman have written about biological and chemical weapons in their book, A Higher Form of Killing. Harris has pointed out that "a reasonably competent chemist could produce nerve agent on a kitchen table".

In 1995, a terrorist religious cult in Japan did just that, thereby providing an illuminating comparison. Those cultists released sarin nerve gas - another of Saddam's alleged WMDs - into the Tokyo metro during rush hour. Last February in the South Korean city of Daegu, an underground train was attacked, with a milk carton containing inflammable liquid. Twelve people died in the "WMD" attack; old-fashioned arson killed 120.

Soon after September 11, a number of letters containing anthrax spores were posted in America. In the overwrought climate of the moment, it was claimed that this batch of "WMD" could kill the American population many times over, and that may have been true according to some abstract calculation. In the event, five people died.

While terrorism is murderous, it mostly remains technologically primitive. Three people were killed in Tel Aviv on Tuesday by a suicide bomber's belt of explosive and metal scraps, and the IRA have shown how bloodthirsty "spectaculars" can be mounted with nothing more than fertiliser, sugar, and condoms for the timers.

As for the greatest spectacular of all, Blair has repeatedly linked September 11 with the threat of WMDs. But the 3,000 victims in New York weren't killed by WMDs of any kind, they were murdered by a dozen fanatics armed with box cutters. Although it has been irritating subsequently to have the contents of one's sponge bag confiscated at the airport in the name of security, that scarcely makes a pair of nail scissors a WMD.

The truth is that "weapons of mass destruction" is a concept defined by the person using it. "I like a drink, you are a drunk, he is an alcoholic," runs the old conjugation. Now there's another: "We have defence forces, you have dangerous arms, he has weapons of mass destruction." As usual, it depends who you are.
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Old 05-06-2003, 12:01 AM   #2
Zolmaz Zo'Boto
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Default Interesting Post.

Aackman,
What are your feelings about this article?

You can't just post a link and not post an opinion.

Lets hear what you have to say about this link you brought here!


And Btw, At the very least check out everything this article says
that you think is truth, before you post.

All you Aackman.




GOD BLESS AMERICA

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Old 05-06-2003, 12:05 AM   #3
Zolmaz Zo'Boto
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Oh damn.

No link. And no Opinion. Only a Guardian post without issues pertaining
to fact. How pethetic.


GOD BLESS AMERICA

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Old 05-06-2003, 09:22 AM   #4
Aackman
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My feelings are obvious by the choice of material I post. The facts speak for themselves. I feel the articles speak more eloquently then I can and represent the truth or I would not post them.
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Old 05-06-2003, 09:43 AM   #5
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My feelings are obvious by the choice of material I post. The facts speak for themselves. I feel the articles speak more eloquently then I can and represent the truth or I would not post them.
This is an Op-ed. For you to claim it fact would be the same as claiming Harry Potter was a factual work about the history of wizards in the world. Nice try though..but sorry it's nothing but opinionated drivel.


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Old 05-06-2003, 10:13 AM   #6
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Originally posted by Trith
This is an Op-ed. For you to claim it fact would be the same as claiming Harry Potter was a factual work about the history of wizards in the world. Nice try though..but sorry it's nothing but opinionated drivel.
Trith there is a vast difference between an Op-Ed and a fictional work. Op-Eds, while an opinion, are likely to contain some truth.
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Old 05-06-2003, 11:50 AM   #7
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To be under the impression that biological and chemical weapons aren't dangerous is naive. I realize that terrorists haven't been real sucessful with them, but that doesn't mean they won't have the potental to wipe out a hundred thousand people with ABC weapons in the future.
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Old 05-06-2003, 12:18 PM   #8
bumbleroot
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No link. And no Opinion. Only a Guardian post without issues pertaining
to fact. How pethetic.
Zolmaz, you still haven't learned how to spell pathetic even after I showed you before? P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C. Please please please learn to spell it next time you use it.
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Old 05-06-2003, 12:30 PM   #9
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while an opinion, are likely to contain some truth.
That's an oxymoron.


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Old 05-06-2003, 12:58 PM   #10
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Originally posted by Trith
That's an oxymoron.
It is to those who hold to a correspondence theory of "Truth". Truth is not comprised of statements that correspond with some state of affairs in the world. Rather, truth consists of statements entailed by a set of statements regarded as being true by the community.

Very briefly, a community of language speakers determine what statements regarding the world are true or false. So, my statement was contradictory to you, but that is due to your beliefs about what consists of truth.
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Old 05-06-2003, 09:36 PM   #11
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MF: Are swords and knives going to be considered WMD, too. They're dangerous, too. What about guns? Simple TNT? RPG'S? There's lots and lots of dangerous things in the world, many of which can kill more people than any bio or chem weapon that Iraq had been suspected of having available. It's the false label of "Mass" destruction which has received the criticism. It's just rhetoric to make it sound like he could kill tens of thousands, and that he's thereby worthy of bombing the shit out of.
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Old 05-06-2003, 11:47 PM   #12
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Because one person can't kill a hundred thousand people with a gun or knife. It is possible however to do it with some VX, weapon's grade anthrax, nuke, ect.

Did you ever see "The Rock" Raedwulf?
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Old 05-07-2003, 09:18 AM   #13
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Chemical agents (etc.) are not "weapons of mass destruction" by themselves, but only when prepared, intended, and/or used in such a way. A little anthrax on a piece of mail is not a weapon of mass destruction, but a rocket loaded with a nerve toxin for wide dispersal pattern is. The real difference between "ABC" and "WMD" is the possibility for a massive number of deaths in one attack.

As for the comparison to knives, etc., it would have taken a damn long time to kill all those thousands of Kurds by knifing them to death. (Not that this hasn't been attempted in Africa *sigh*)

Now, as to the article:

(1) Yes, mustard gas was used in World War One. Guess what--it was removed from the British and American arsenals because it was too cruel. So is is hypocritical to be against it now? Not at all. To use it after the effects were fully known and explored and its use was rejected by the very people who employed it *is* something to be guilty of, however.

(2) Yes, the U.S. dropped atomic weapons 'offensively' in World War II. Since then, the U.S. has tried its damndest to make sure that doesn't happen again, by them *or* anyone else. It's a bit "big brother" of the U.S., but the nation truly feels it has evolved to the point where it does not want to employ such weapons and is responsible enough not to do so--what it does not support are nations it feels are willing or inclined to use such weapons. The difference between a defensive weapon and a weapon of mass destruction is not the actual weapon, but rather the intended use (although, I would argue that biological adn chemical weapons could or should never be defensive, but that's just my opinion).

As far as Iraq's capability, perhaps they were or were not currently working on an atomic weapons program, but twice in the past they have developed such programs. Even if the 'coalition' was incorrect in their supposition, they at least had good historical reason to be suspicious. Same goes for the chemical and biological weapons. I would not at all be suprised to find out U.S. intelligence had been jumping at shadows, but I don't believe they were incorrect in estimating Saddam's likelihood to employ the weapons if they existed or were in development or production stages.

(3) The link between terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction is how much more terrible such attacks would be if the terrorists *had* that capability. The point is to prevent them from having the capability. The nail scissors on the airplane is a separate issue, relating to *current* methods and capabilities. (As far as the comments linking the anthrax attacks to ther term WMD, I cannot really comment as I did not hear them, but I would imagine it was either sensationalistic reporting or a genuine fear that massive attacks would happen before the government could put a stop to them, which might not technically be a case of "WMD," but could reasonably feared to cause great numbers of deaths and panic)

(4) The difference between "I have a drink" and "He is a drunk/alcoholic" can be fairly clear when a person has one social drink a month or less compared to someone who drinks large amounts every day. The difference does not lay in the person but in the use of the item.

Finally, it's just irresponsible to mention the Japanese and German dead from bombing without mentioning the British and Americans killed by the same thing. Such pointless willful misstatement certainly caused me to have much doubt as to the veracity of *any* of the author's claims.
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