Weapons of mass destruction

Weapons of mass destruction

Overview
A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

 that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s (and other life forms) and/or cause great damage to man-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

 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
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 with chemical explosives, it has come to distinguish large-scale weaponry of other technologies, such as chemical
Chemical warfare
Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from Nuclear warfare and Biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical...

, biological
Biological warfare
Biological warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war...

, radiological
Radiological weapon
A radiological weapon or radiological dispersion device is any weapon that is designed to spread radioactive material with the intent to kill, and cause disruption upon a city or nation....

, or nuclear
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

.
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Encyclopedia
A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

 that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s (and other life forms) and/or cause great damage to man-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

 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
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 with chemical explosives, it has come to distinguish large-scale weaponry of other technologies, such as chemical
Chemical warfare
Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from Nuclear warfare and Biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical...

, biological
Biological warfare
Biological warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war...

, radiological
Radiological weapon
A radiological weapon or radiological dispersion device is any weapon that is designed to spread radioactive material with the intent to kill, and cause disruption upon a city or nation....

, or nuclear
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

. This differentiates the term from more technical ones such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons (CBRN).

Early uses of the term weapon of mass destruction


The first use of the term "weapon of mass destruction" on record is by Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

, in 1937 in reference to the aerial bombardment
Bombing of Guernica
The bombing of Guernica was an aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths, during the Spanish Civil War...

 of Guernica, Spain:
At that time, there were no nuclear weapons, Japan conducted research on biological weapons (see Unit 731
Unit 731
was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Japanese...

), and chemical weapons had seen wide use, most notably in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

.

Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

, and progressing through the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the term came to refer more to non-conventional weapon
Conventional weapon
The terms conventional weapons or conventional arms generally refer to weapons that are in relatively wide use that are not weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Conventional weapons include small arms and light weapons, sea and land mines, as well as ...

s. The application of the term to specifically nuclear and radiological weapons is traced by William Safire
William Safire
William Lewis Safire was an American author, columnist, journalist and presidential speechwriter....

 to the Russian phrase "Оружие массового поражения" - oruzhiye massovogo porazheniya (weapons of mass destruction).

He credits James Goodby (of the Brookings Institution
Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., in the United States. One of Washington's oldest think tanks, Brookings conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and...

) with tracing what he considers the earliest known English-language use soon after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

 and Nagasaki (although it is not quite verbatim): a communique from a November 15, 1945, meeting of Harry Truman, Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

 and Mackenzie King (probably drafted by Vannevar Bush
Vannevar Bush
Vannevar Bush was an American engineer and science administrator known for his work on analog computing, his political role in the development of the atomic bomb as a primary organizer of the Manhattan Project, the founding of Raytheon, and the idea of the memex, an adjustable microfilm viewer...

– or so Bush claimed in 1970) referred to "weapons adaptable to mass destruction".

That exact phrase, says Safire, was also used by Bernard Baruch
Bernard Baruch
Bernard Mannes Baruch was an American financier, stock-market speculator, statesman, and political consultant. After his success in business, he devoted his time toward advising U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt on economic matters and became a philanthropist.-Early life...

 in 1946 (in a speech at the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 probably written by Herbert Bayard Swope
Herbert Bayard Swope
Herbert Bayard Swope was a U.S. editor, journalist and intimate of the Algonquin Round Table. Swope spent most of his career at the New York World newspaper. He was the first and three time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting...

). The same phrase found its way into the very first resolution adopted by the United Nations General assembly in January 1946 in London, which used the wording "...the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other weapons adaptable to mass destruction." This resolution also created the Atomic Energy Commission
United Nations Atomic Energy Commission
The United Nations Atomic Energy Commission was founded on 24 January 1946 by Resolution 1 of the United Nations General Assembly "to deal with the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy."...

 (predecessor of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

).

An exact use of this term was given in a lecture "Atomic Energy
Nuclear reaction
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, a nuclear reaction is semantically considered to be the process in which two nuclei, or else a nucleus of an atom and a subatomic particle from outside the atom, collide to produce products different from the initial particles...

 as an Atomic Problem" by J. Robert Oppenheimer. The lecture was delivered to the Foreign Service
United States Foreign Service
The United States Foreign Service is a component of the United States federal government under the aegis of the United States Department of State. It consists of approximately 11,500 professionals carrying out the foreign policy of the United States and aiding U.S...

 and the State Department, on September 17, 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".


The term was also used in the introduction to the hugely influential US Government Document known as NSC-68
NSC-68
National Security Council Report 68 was a 58-page formerly-classified report issued by the United States National Security Council on April 14, 1950, during the presidency of Harry S. Truman. Written during the formative stage of the Cold War, it was top secret until the 1970s when it was made...

 written in April 1950.

During a televised presentation about the Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...

 on 22 October 1962, John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 made reference to "offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction. "

An early use of the exact phrase in an international treaty was in the Outer Space Treaty
Outer Space Treaty
The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law...

 of 1967, however no definition was provided.

Evolution of its use


During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the term "weapons of mass destruction" was primarily a reference to nuclear weapons. At the time, in the West the euphemism "strategic weapons" was used to refer to the American nuclear arsenal, which was presented as a necessary deterrent against nuclear or conventional attack from the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 (see Mutual Assured Destruction
Mutual assured destruction
Mutual Assured Destruction, or mutually assured destruction , is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two opposing sides would effectively result in the complete, utter and irrevocable annihilation of...

).

The term "weapons of mass destruction" continued to see periodic use throughout this time, usually in the context of nuclear arms control
Arms control
Arms control is an umbrella term for restrictions upon the development, production, stockpiling, proliferation, and usage of weapons, especially weapons of mass destruction...

; Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 used it during the 1986 Reykjavík Summit
Reykjavik Summit
The Reykjavík Summit was a summit meeting between U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, held in the famous house of Höfði in Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, on October 11–12, 1986...

, when referring to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty
Outer Space Treaty
The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law...

. Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush, used the term in an 1989 speech to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, using it primarily in reference to chemical arms.

The end of the Cold War reduced U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons as a deterrent, causing it to shift its focus to disarmament. This period coincided with an increasing threat to U.S. interests from Islamic nations and independent Islamic groups. With the 1990 invasion of Kuwait
Invasion of Kuwait
The Invasion of Kuwait, also known as the Iraq-Kuwait War, was a major conflict between the Republic of Iraq and the State of Kuwait, which resulted in the seven-month long Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, which subsequently led to direct military intervention by United States-led forces in the Gulf...

 and 1991 Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs became a particular concern of the first Bush Administration. Following the war, Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 and other western politicians and media continued to use the term, usually in reference to ongoing attempts to dismantle Iraq's weapons programs
Iraq and weapons of mass destruction
During the regime of Saddam Hussein, the nation of Iraq used, possessed, and made efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction . Hussein was internationally known for his use of chemical weapons in the 1980s against Iranian and Kurdish civilians during and after the Iran–Iraq War...

.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks
September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

 and the 2001 anthrax attacks
2001 anthrax attacks
The 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, also known as Amerithrax from its Federal Bureau of Investigation case name, occurred over the course of several weeks beginning on Tuesday, September 18, 2001, one week after the September 11 attacks. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to...

, an increased fear of non-conventional weapons and asymmetrical warfare took hold of the United States and other Western powers. This fear reached a crescendo with the 2002 Iraq disarmament crisis
Iraq disarmament crisis
The issue of Iraq's disarmament reached a crisis in 2002-2003, when U.S. President George W. Bush demanded a complete end to what he alleged was Iraqi production of weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq comply with UN Resolutions requiring UN weapons inspectors unfettered access to areas those...

 and the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that became the primary justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

. However, no WMD were found in Iraq.

Because of its prolific use during this period, the American Dialect Society
American Dialect Society
The American Dialect Society, founded in 1889, is a learned society "dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other languages, influencing it or influenced by it." The Society publishes the academic journal, American Speech...

 voted "weapons of mass destruction" (and its abbreviation, "WMD") the word of the year
Word of the year
The word of the year, sometimes capitalized as Word of the Year and abbreviated WOTY or WotY, refers to any of various assessments as to the most important word or expression in the public sphere during a specific year....

 in 2002, and in 2003 Lake Superior State University
Lake Superior State University
Lake Superior State University is a small public university in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. It is Michigan's smallest public university with an enrollment around 3,000 students. Due to its proximity to the border, notably the twin city of Sault Ste...

 added WMD to its list of terms banished for "Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness".

Strategic


The most widely used definition of "weapons of mass destruction" is that of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons (NBC) although there is no treaty
Treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

 or customary international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

 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 acronyms NBC (for nuclear, biological and chemical) or CBR (chemical, biological, radiological) are used with regards to battlefield protection systems for armored vehicles, because all three 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 and biological weapons do not belong in the same category as chemical and "dirty bomb
Dirty bomb
A dirty bomb is a speculative radiological weapon that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. The purpose of the weapon is to contaminate the area around the explosion with radioactive material, hence the attribute "dirty"....

" radiological weapons, which have limited destructive potential (and close to none, as far as property is concerned), whereas nuclear and biological weapons have the unique ability to kill large numbers of people with very small amounts of material, and thus could be said to belong in a class by themselves.

The NBC definition has also been used in official U.S. documents, by the U.S. President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office
Government Accountability Office
The Government Accountability Office is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the United States Congress. It is located in the legislative branch of the United States government.-History:...

.

Other documents expand the definition of WMD to also include radiological or conventional weapon
Conventional weapon
The terms conventional weapons or conventional arms generally refer to weapons that are in relatively wide use that are not weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Conventional weapons include small arms and light weapons, sea and land mines, as well as ...

s. The U.S. military refers to WMD as:
Chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons capable of a high order of destruction or causing mass casualties and exclude the means of transporting or propelling the weapon where such means is a separable and divisible part from the weapon. Also called WMD.


The significance of the words separable and divisible part of the weapon is that missiles such as the Pershing II and the SCUD
Scud
Scud is a series of tactical ballistic missiles developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and exported widely to other countries. The term comes from the NATO reporting name SS-1 Scud which was attached to the missile by Western intelligence agencies...

 are considered weapons of mass destruction, while aircraft capable of carrying bombloads are not.

In 2004, the United Kingdom's Butler Review
Butler Review
On February 3, 2004, the British Government announced an inquiry into the intelligence relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction which played a key part in the Government's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. A similar investigation was set up in the USA...

 recognized the "considerable and long-standing academic debate about the proper interpretation of the phrase ‘weapons of mass destruction’". The committee set out to avoid the general term but when using it, employed the definition of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687
United Nations Security Council Resolution 687
United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, adopted on April 3, 1991, after reaffirming resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, 677, 678 and 686 , the Council set the terms, in a comprehensive resolution, with which Iraq was to comply after losing the Gulf War.The...

, which defined the systems which Iraq was required to abandon:
  • "Nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable material or any sub-systems or components or any research, development, support or manufacturing facilities relating to [nuclear weapons].
  • Chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research,development,support and manufacturing facilities.
  • Ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres and related major parts, and repair and production facilities."


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, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Dundes Wolfowitz is a former United States Ambassador to Indonesia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, President of the World Bank, and former dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University...

 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.

Gustavo Bell Lemus, the Vice President of Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, 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
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

, in which Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006...

 said that small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

 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
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

 and Nagasaki".

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
Total war
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

 as targeting the means a country would use to support and supply its war effort, specifically its population, industry, and natural resources.

Within U.S. civil defense
Civil defense
Civil defense, civil defence or civil protection is an effort to protect the citizens of a state from military attack. It uses the principles of emergency operations: prevention, mitigation, preparation, response, or emergency evacuation, and recovery...

 organizations, the category is now Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE), which defines WMD as:
(1) Any explosive, incendiary
Incendiary device
Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices or incendiary bombs are bombs designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using materials such as napalm, thermite, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus....

, poison gas, bomb
Bomb
A bomb is any of a range of explosive weapons that only rely on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy...

, grenade
Grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

, or rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

 having a propellant
Propellant
A propellant is a material that produces pressurized gas that:* can be directed through a nozzle, thereby producing thrust ;...

 charge of more than four ounces [113 g], missile
Missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

 having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce [7 g], or mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

 or device similar to the above. (2) Poison gas. (3) Any weapon involving a disease organism. (4) Any weapon that is designed to release radiation
Radioactive contamination
Radioactive contamination, also called radiological contamination, is radioactive substances on surfaces, or within solids, liquids or gases , where their presence is unintended or undesirable, or the process giving rise to their presence in such places...

 at a level dangerous to human life.

Military


For the general purposes of national defense, US Code defines a weapon of mass destruction as:
  • any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of:
    • toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors
    • a disease organism
    • radiation or radioactivity


For the purposes of the prevention of weapons proliferation
Proliferation
Proliferation may refer to:*Nuclear proliferation*Chemical weapon proliferation*Cell proliferation* The proliferative phase of wound healing...

, US Code defines weapons of mass destruction as "chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and chemical, biological, and nuclear materials used in the manufacture of such weapons."

Criminal (Civilian)


For the purposes of US Criminal law
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

 concerning terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

, weapons of mass destruction are defined as:
  • any destructive device defined as any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas bomb, grenade, rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces, missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce, mine, or device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses
  • 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
  • any weapon involving a biological agent, toxin, or vector
  • any weapon that is designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life


The Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

's definition is similar to that presented above from the terrorism statute:
  • any explosive or incendiary device, as defined in Title 18 USC, Section 921: bomb, grenade, rocket, missile, mine, or other device with a charge of more than four ounces
  • any weapon designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors
  • any weapon involving a disease organism
  • any weapon designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life
  • any device or weapon designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury by causing a malfunction of or destruction of an aircraft or other vehicle that carries humans or of an aircraft or other vehicle whose malfunction or destruction may cause said aircraft or other vehicle to cause death or serious bodily injury to humans who may be within range of the vector in its course of travel or the travel of its debris.


Indictments and convictions for possession and use of WMD such as truck bombs, pipe bombs, shoe bombs, cactus needles coated with botulin toxin, etc. have been obtained under 18 USC 2332a.

The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

 reported on 30 March 2006: "Jurors asked the judge in the death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui is a French citizen who was convicted of conspiring to kill citizens of the US as part of the September 11 attacks...

 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.

Treaties



The development and use of WMD is governed by international conventions and treaties, although not all countries have signed and ratified them:
  • Partial Test Ban Treaty
    Partial Test Ban Treaty
    The treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, often abbreviated as the Partial Test Ban Treaty , Limited Test Ban Treaty , or Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a treaty prohibiting all test detonations of nuclear weapons...

  • Outer Space Treaty
    Outer Space Treaty
    The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law...

  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
    Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
    The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to...

     (NPT)
  • Seabed Arms Control Treaty
    Seabed Arms Control Treaty
    The Seabed Arms Control Treaty is a multilateral agreement between the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and 84 other countries banning the emplacement of nuclear weapons or "weapons of mass destruction" on the ocean floor beyond a 12-mile coastal zone...

  • Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
    Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
    The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996 but it has not entered into force.-Status:...

     (CTBT, has not entered into force as of 2011)
  • Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC)
  • Chemical Weapons Convention
    Chemical Weapons Convention
    The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction...

     (CWC)

Nuclear weapons




The only country to have used a nuclear weapon in war is the United States, which dropped two atomic bombs
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

 on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

 and Nagasaki
Nagasaki
is the capital and the largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Nagasaki was founded by the Portuguese in the second half of the 16th century on the site of a small fishing village, formerly part of Nishisonogi District...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. 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 are People's Republic of China, France
France and weapons of mass destruction
France is known to have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. France is one of the five "Nuclear Weapons States" under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; but is not known to possess or develop any chemical or biological weapons. France was the fourth country to test an independently...

, India
India and weapons of mass destruction
India possesses nuclear weapons and maintains short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable aircraft, surface ships, and submarines under development as possible delivery systems and platforms...

, Pakistan
Pakistan and weapons of mass destruction
Pakistan began focusing on nuclear weapons development in January 1972 under the leadership of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who delegated the program to the Chairman of PAEC Munir Ahmad Khan...

, Russia
Russia and weapons of mass destruction
Russia possesses the largest stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the world. The country declared an arsenal of 39,967 tons of chemical weapons in 1997, of which 48% have been destroyed. The Federation of American Scientists, a renowned organization for assessing nuclear weapon...

, the United Kingdom, the United States of America
Nuclear weapons and the United States
The United States was the first country to develop nuclear weapons, and is the only country to have used them in warfare, with the separate bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. Before and during the Cold War it conducted over a thousand nuclear tests and developed many long-range...

, and North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

.

Israel
Israel and weapons of mass destruction
Israel is widely believed to possess weapons of mass destruction, and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...

 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
Iran and weapons of mass destruction
Iran is not known to currently possess weapons of mass destruction and has signed treaties repudiating the possession of weapons of mass destruction including the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...

 is suspected by western countries of seeking nuclear weapons, a claim that it denies. While the truth is unknown, the November 2007 NIE on Iran stated that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003.

South Africa
South Africa and weapons of mass destruction
From the 1960s to the 1980s, South Africa pursued research into weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Six nuclear weapons were assembled...

 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
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

, and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 inherited stockpiles of nuclear arms following the break-up of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, but relinquished them to the Russian Federation.

Countries with access to nuclear weapons through nuclear sharing
Nuclear sharing
Nuclear sharing is a concept in NATO's policy of nuclear deterrence, which involves member countries without nuclear weapons of their own in the planning for the use of nuclear weapons by NATO, and in particular provides for the armed forces of these countries to be involved in delivering these...

 agreements include Belgium, Germany
Germany and weapons of mass destruction
Though Germany is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, since World War II it has generally refrained from using this technology to outfit its own armed forces with weapons of mass destruction , although it participates in the NATO nuclear weapons sharing arrangements and...

, Italy, the Netherlands
Netherlands and weapons of mass destruction
Although the Netherlands does not have weapons of mass destruction made by itself, the country participates in the NATO nuclear weapons sharing arrangements and trains for delivering U.S...

, and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. North Korea
North Korea and weapons of mass destruction
North Korea has declared that it has nuclear weapons and is believed by many to have nuclear weapons. The CIA assesses that North Korea also has a substantial arsenal of chemical weapons...

 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


Due to the indiscriminate impact of WMDs, the fear of a WMD attack 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.

Fear of WMD, or of threats diminished by the possession of WMD, has long been used to catalyze 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
Buzzword
A buzzword is a term of art, salesmanship, politics, or technical jargon that is used in the media and wider society outside of its originally narrow technical context....

 or to generate a culture of fear
Culture of fear
Culture of fear is a term used by certain scholars, writers, journalists and politicians who believe that some in society incite fear in the general public to achieve political goals, for example......

. It is also used ambiguously, particularly by not distinguishing among the different types of WMD.

A television commercial called Daisy
Daisy (television commercial)
"Daisy," sometimes known as "Daisy Girl" or "Peace, Little Girl," was a controversial political advertisement aired on television during the 1964 United States presidential election by incumbent president Lyndon B. Johnson's campaign...

, 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 President 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 President 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
Multinational force in Iraq
The Multi-National Force – Iraq was a military command, led by the United States, which was responsible for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Multi-National Force – Iraq replaced the previous force, Combined Joint Task Force 7, on 15 May 2004, and was later itself reorganized into its successor, United...

 have found mainly degraded artillery shells.

There was almost no dissent on the issue. Molly Ivins wrote: "The ONLY (source) to report skeptically on the administration's claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before the war? Knight-Ridder and its terrific reporters Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay."

On June 21, 2006, then-United States Republican Senator Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum
Richard John "Rick" Santorum is a lawyer and a former United States Senator from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Santorum was the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference -making him the third-ranking Senate Republican from 2001 until his leave in 2007. Santorum is considered both a social...

 claimed "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 of Iraq." The shells had been uncovered and reported on in 2004.

In 2004, Polish troops found nineteen 1980s-era rocket warheads, thwarting an attempt by militants to buy them at $5000 each. Some of the rockets contained extremely deteriorated nerve agent.

Media coverage of WMD


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
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 nuclear weapons tests
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

 in May 1998; the US announcement of evidence of a North Korean nuclear weapons program
North Korea and weapons of mass destruction
North Korea has declared that it has nuclear weapons and is believed by many to have nuclear weapons. The CIA assesses that North Korea also has a substantial arsenal of chemical weapons...

 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
Media bias
Media bias refers to the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the...

 than from tired journalistic conventions. The report’s major findings were that:
  1. Most media outlets represented WMD as a monolithic menace, failing to adequately distinguish between weapons programs and actual weapons or to address the real differences among chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons.
  2. Most journalists accepted the Bush administration’s
    Foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration
    During his campaign for election as President of the United States, George W. Bush's foreign policy platform included support for a stronger economic and political relationship with Latin America, especially Mexico, and a reduction of involvement in "nation building" and other small-scale military...

     formulation of the “War on Terror
    War on Terrorism
    The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

    ” as a campaign against WMD, in contrast to coverage during the Clinton
    Bill Clinton
    William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

     era, when many journalists made careful distinctions between acts of terrorism
    Terrorism
    Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

     and the acquisition and use of WMD.
  3. Many stories stenographically reported the incumbent administration’s perspective on WMD, giving too little critical examination of the way officials framed the events, issues, threats, and policy options.
  4. Too few stories proffered alternative perspectives to official line, a problem exacerbated by the journalistic
    Journalism
    Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

     prioritizing of breaking-news stories and the “inverted pyramid
    Inverted pyramid
    The inverted pyramid is a metaphor used by journalists and other writers to illustrate the placing of the most important information first within a text...

    ” style of storytelling.


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
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

 regarding the search for WMD in Iraq
Iraq and weapons of mass destruction
During the regime of Saddam Hussein, the nation of Iraq used, possessed, and made efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction . Hussein was internationally known for his use of chemical weapons in the 1980s against Iranian and Kurdish civilians during and after the Iran–Iraq War...

 during the 2003 Iraq War. The study focused on populations in two coalition
Coalition of the willing
The term coalition of the willing is a post-1990 political phrase used to collectively describe participants in military or military-humanitarian interventions for which the United Nations Security Council cannot agree to mount a full UN peacekeeping operation...

 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:
  1. The repetition of tentative news stories, even if they are subsequently disconfirmed, can assist in the creation of false memories in a substantial proportion of people.
  2. Once information is published, its subsequent correction does not alter people's beliefs unless they are suspicious about the motives underlying the events the news stories are about.
  3. When people ignore corrections, they do so irrespective of how certain they are that the corrections occurred.


A poll conducted between June and September 2003 asked people whether they thought evidence of 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 of 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.
Media source Respondents believing evidence of WMD had been found in Iraq
Fox 33%
CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

23%
NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

20%
CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

20%
ABC
American Broadcasting Company
The American Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. Its first broadcast on television was in 1948...

19%
Print media 17%
PBS
Public Broadcasting Service
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

–NPR
11%

Based on a series of polls taken from June–September 2003.

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
National Ground Intelligence Center
The National Ground Intelligence Center is part of the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command. The NGIC provides scientific and technical intelligence and general military intelligence on foreign ground forces in support of the warfighting commanders, force and material developers,...

. Quoting from the report Senator Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum
Richard John "Rick" Santorum is a lawyer and a former United States Senator from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Santorum was the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference -making him the third-ranking Senate Republican from 2001 until his leave in 2007. Santorum is considered both a social...

 said "Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent". According to David Kay, who appeared before the US House Armed Services Committee to discuss these badly corroded munitions, they were leftovers, many years old, improperly stored or destroyed by the Iraqis. Charles Duelfer agreed, stating on NPR's Talk of the Nation: "When I was running the ISG – the Iraq Survey Group – we had a couple of them that had been turned in to these IEDs, the improvised explosive devices. But they are local hazards. They are not a major, you know, weapon of mass destruction."

Later, wikileaks would show that these kind of WMDs continued to be found as the Iraqi occupation continued

Many news agencies, including Fox News, reported the conclusions of the CIA that, based upon the investigation of the Iraq Survey Group
Iraq Survey Group
The Iraq Survey Group was a fact-finding mission sent by the multinational force in Iraq after the 2003 invasion of Iraq to find the alleged weapons of mass destruction alleged to be possessed by Iraq that had been the main ostensible reason for the invasion. Its final report is commonly called...

, WMDs have yet to be 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
Nuclear disarmament
Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated....

, and led to the formation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is an anti-nuclear organisation that advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation through agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...

.

In order to increase awareness of all kinds of WMD, in 2004 the nuclear physicist and Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 winner Joseph Rotblat
Joseph Rotblat
Sir Joseph Rotblat, KCMG, CBE, FRS , was a Polish-born, British-naturalised physicist.His work on nuclear fallout was a major contribution to the agreement of the Partial Test Ban Treaty...

 inspired the creation of The WMD Awareness Programme to provide trustworthy and up to date information on WMD world wide.

In 1998 University of New Mexico
University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico at Albuquerque is a public research university located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the United States. It is the state's flagship research institution...

's Institute for Public Policy released their third report on US perceptions – including the general public, politicians and scientists – of nuclear weapons since the breakup of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Risks of nuclear conflict, 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
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Prior to the election the Bharatiya Janata Party
Bharatiya Janata Party
The Bharatiya Janata Party ,; translation: Indian People's Party) is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Indian National Congress. Established in 1980, it is India's second largest political party in terms of representation in the parliament...

 (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
Program on International Policy Attitudes
The Program on International Policy Attitudes is an institution devoted to research on the public opinion of international politics...

 (PIPA) reported that US citizens showed high levels of concern regarding WMD, and that preventing the spread of nuclear weapons
Nuclear proliferation
Nuclear proliferation is a term now used to describe the spread of nuclear weapons, fissile material, and weapons-applicable nuclear technology and information, to nations which are not recognized as "Nuclear Weapon States" by the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also known as the...

 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 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to...

 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 have the right to possess nuclear weapons. 39% believes the Russian stockpile should be reduced, though not fully eliminated.

WMD in popular culture


Weapons of mass destruction and their related impacts have been a mainstay of popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 since the beginning of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, as both political commentary and humorous outlet.

Common hazard symbols


Symbol Unicode Image
Toxic symbol U+2620
Radioactive symbol U+2622
Biohazard
Biological hazard
Biological hazards, refer to biological substances that pose a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily that of humans. This can include medical waste or samples of a microorganism, virus or toxin that can impact human health. It can also include substances harmful to animals...

 symbol
U+2623

Radioactive weaponry/hazard symbol


The international radioactivity symbol (also known as trefoil
Trefoil
Trefoil is a graphic form composed of the outline of three overlapping rings used in architecture and Christian symbolism...

) first appeared in 1946, at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 Radiation Laboratory. At the time, it was rendered as magenta
Magenta
Magenta is a color evoked by light stronger in blue and red wavelengths than in yellowish-green wavelengths . In light experiments, magenta can be produced by removing the lime-green wavelengths from white light...

, and was set on a blue
Blue
Blue is a colour, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 440–490 nm. It is considered one of the additive primary colours. On the HSV Colour Wheel, the complement of blue is yellow; that is, a colour corresponding to an equal...

 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°. It is meant to represent a radiating atom.

The International Atomic Energy Agency
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

 found, however, that the symbol is unintuitive and can be variously interpreted by those uneducated in its meaning, and that its role as a hazard warning was compromised as it did not clearly indicate "danger" to many non-Westerners and children who encountered it. As a result of research, a new radiation hazard symbol was developed to be placed near the most dangerous parts of radiation sources featuring a skull, someone running away, and using the color red rather than yellow as the background.

Biological weaponry/hazard symbol


Developed by Dow Chemical company in the 1960s for their containment products.

According to Charles Dullin, an environmental-health engineer who contributed to its development:

See also


  • Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Commission on the Prevention of WMD proliferation and terrorism
    Commission on the Prevention of WMD proliferation and terrorism
    The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism was set up "to assess, within 180 days, any and all of the nation's activities, initiatives, and programs to prevent weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism." The Graham/Talent WMD...

  • Ethnic bioweapons
  • Fallout shelter
    Fallout shelter
    A fallout shelter is an enclosed space specially designed to protect occupants from radioactive debris or fallout resulting from a nuclear explosion. Many such shelters were constructed as civil defense measures during the Cold War....


Fictional weapons of mass destruction
  • Iraq and weapons of mass destruction
    Iraq and weapons of mass destruction
    During the regime of Saddam Hussein, the nation of Iraq used, possessed, and made efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction . Hussein was internationally known for his use of chemical weapons in the 1980s against Iranian and Kurdish civilians during and after the Iran–Iraq War...

  • NBC suit
    NBC suit
    An NBC suit is a type of military personal protective equipment designed to provide protection against direct contact with and contamination by radioactive, biological or chemical substances, and provides protection from contamination with radioactive materials and some types of radiation,...

  • Nuclear terrorism
    Nuclear terrorism
    Nuclear terrorism denotes the use, or threat of the use, of nuclear weapons or radiological weapons in acts of terrorism, includingattacks against facilities where radioactive materials are present...

  • Orbital bombardment
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission
    Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission
    The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission is established on an initiative by the late Foreign Minister of Sweden, Anna Lindh, acting on a proposal by then United Nations Under-Secretary-General Jayantha Dhanapala. The Swedish Government invited Dr. Hans Blix to set up and chair the Commission...

  • Russia & weapons of mass destruction
    Russia and weapons of mass destruction
    Russia possesses the largest stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the world. The country declared an arsenal of 39,967 tons of chemical weapons in 1997, of which 48% have been destroyed. The Federation of American Scientists, a renowned organization for assessing nuclear weapon...


Debate


Weapons of Mass Destruction was the 2001–2002 Debate Resolution (policy debate)
Resolution (policy debate)
In policy debate, a resolution or topic is a normative statement which the affirmative team affirms and the negative team negates. Resolutions are selected annually by affiliated schools....

.

"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

  • WMD: Where Did the Phrase Come from?, by William Mallon
    William Mallon
    William Mallon is an American playwright and Artist currently residing in Washington, DC.-Career:Mallon gained exposure with his essay, "WMD: Where Did the Phrase Come From?", Which appeared on the History News Network in June 2003...

    , 2003, History News Network.
  • Definitions of WMD, Monterey Institute's Center for Nonproliferation Studies, September, 2004.
  • WMD: Words of mass dissemination, BBC News
    BBC News
    BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

    , February 12, 2003.
  • What makes a weapon one of mass destruction?, by Michael Evans, The Times
    The Times
    The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

    , February 6, 2004.

International law


Media


Ethics

  • Is All Fair in Biological Warfare? by Jacob Appel
    Jacob M. Appel
    Jacob M. Appel is an American author, bioethicist and social critic. He is best known for his short stories, his work as a playwright, and his writing in the fields of reproductive ethics, organ donation, neuroethics and euthanasia....

    , Journal of Medical Ethics, June 2009.

Public perceptions


External links