The Places WMDs Take You

Boston Bomber charged with using weapon of mass destruction, or WMD?  Really?

Up until now I’d always thought of WMDs as the big three: 1) nuclear effect weapons (nuclear blast or a nuclear “dirty” bomb; 2) biological effect weapons (anthrax, ebola); and 3) chemical weapons (with nerve agents).

Sure enough, US code 18-§ 2332a (c)(2) defines a WMD  as the big three, plus “any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title.”

Off to Title 18, section 921, where explosive device is defined as:

(A) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas—

(i) bomb,
(ii) grenade,
(iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,
(iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,
(v) mine, or
(vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses;
(B) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and
(C) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device described in subparagraph (A) or (B) and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.
The term “destructive device” shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a s…
blah, blah, blah
So, there you have it.  Bomb.  A bomb, or any device with a projectile with an incendiary charge of more than 1/4-ounce (one presumes this is standard gun powder), IS A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION.
Can we now admit that Bush-43 — and the intelligence of Israel — and Britain — and France — and Russia were right? With a definition like that, of course there were WMDs in Iraq!
Naturally, I’m being a bit silly.  Everyone thought Bush and SecState Powell were talking chemical weapons, and possible nukes.  That’s what they — and Cheney — led us to believe.  By the way, a nuclear effects weapon need not be a thermonuclear device to qualify as a WMD.  Per 18-§223a, any device “designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life” is a WMD.   If memory serves, Iraq was harboring 550 tons of Uranium Yellowcake, which was safely and furtively sent to someone who could put it to good use: the Canadians.
Yes, while we were all fawning over “the One” during the summer of 2008, our country’s state and defense departments were going about the important business of getting this hazard to a safe place.  The existence of 550 tons of enriched uranium yellowcake does not prove that Iraq was about to re-start their nuclear program.  It’s a long way from yellowcake to weapons grade or even reactor grade.  Still, that’s enhanced enough to turn a several thousand Scud missiles into dirty bombs, and according to title 18 of the US code of regulations, a WMD.
Zooming to the present.  According to many sources, Syria has used chemical weapons based on the nerve agent Sarin.  This was supposed to represent some sort of “red line” which would bring the United States — and her allies, if she so committed — to some sort of elevated activity or intervention.   Perhaps even military intervention.
Really?  After 75,000 dead and now … now after a few dozen or hundred more are killed by the legal equivalent of a pressure cooker laced with nails and ball bearings … now we are saying Assad and his Lex Luther henchmen have crossed a “red line”??
I recall just a couple of years ago, when a thousand or perhaps two thousand deaths in Libya led us to declare that there was some “moral imperative” that we (the US and the West)  intervene.  We launched several hundred cruise missiles at Moammar Qadafi’s strategic military and state sites (don’t quibble with how I spelled his name; I think there are at least 1,000 western attempts to spell his name phonetically).
75,000 dead in Syria.  A huge humanitarian and refugee problem.  A dilemma for our friends in Jordan and Israel, to say nothing of the struggling new democracy in neighboring Iraq, and the struggles in neighboring Lebanon as well.
Compared to only 1,000 dead in Libya with neighbors like Tunisia, and Egypt (well into their own Arab spring) and Algiers.   Was Qadafi really that much worse than Assad?  In fact, after witnessing what “the Coalition of the Willing” had done to Saddam Hussein, Qadafi swore to totally give up on obtaining WMDs.  Ever.
I’m not saying that getting belligerently involved in Libya was wrong; nor am I saying that staying out of Syrian belligerence is wrong too.  I am suggesting that looking at moral “red lines” like use (or presence) of WMDs, and number of deaths, presents a limited scope that is a distraction from issues more important …
For one, Syria has close ties to both Russia and Iran.  Libya was fairly isolated, diplomatically speaking.
And Libya  produces about 1.65 Million Barrels of oil per day — about 2% of the world’s production.  Most of that oil goes to Europe, which can hardly afford another economic wobble  … which would indeed have happened had Libya stayed politically unstable much longer.  Syria’s petroleum production?  A tiny fraction as much. With Libya producing, the world can do without Syria’s pittance of oil, which it has done for several years now.
Rest well when you can.  You might need it.
Joe Girard (c) 2013