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View Full Version : What counts as a WMD: where to draw the line.



DanSkorupka
12-20-2012, 07:25 PM
Weapons of Mass Destruction are pretty clear conceptually: A weapon that has abnormally high capacity to destroy relative to its size and if used in anger essentially guarantees that large numbers of innocents will be killed.

It is pretty unanimous that nuclear and biological weapons are WMDs.
Chemical weapons cause argument, in small quantities carefully placed they only kill those nearby.

Percent damage wise there were a number of other cities that got off worse in firebombing than the atom raids.
Nagasaki: 45% destroyed, Hiroshima: 70% destroyed mostly due to fire, had numerous waterways as firebreaks.

One of the worst disasters to befall a city was the Peshtigo Fire. Worse than a small atom bomb.
The reason you don't hear about it much is:
A: It happened to a small town not a major city.
B: It happened in the same country at the same time as Chicago was facing less extreme but still horrific devastation to a much larger area resulting in a higher death toll in a more famous location.

Fire has the potential to cause mass destruction but Peshtigo in 1871 and Nagoya in 1945 were exceptional results.
Most use of incendiary weapons is much less damaging and it takes a well coordinated attack on a flammable target to end up like that.

It is more up for debate whenever someone unpopular is caught with a pipe bomb and no prior destructive device priors gets life without parole for having a weapon of mass destruction when owning a gun without a license is one year lockup, and "destructive device" possession or voluntary manslaughter both get 10 years or less.

Unless that pipe is a uranium gun I don't call that fair justice.

Mrleft8
12-20-2012, 09:09 PM
What do you call Dresden?

skuthorp
12-20-2012, 09:14 PM
Unfortunate, but revisionist history by those who were not there is a real minefield. What do you call Hiroshima? Probably an experiment but it probably saved more lives on both sides than it killed.

Ian McColgin
12-20-2012, 09:23 PM
" Dresden?" [#2] "Unfortunate, but revisionist history by those who were not there." [#3]

Kurt Vonnegut do?

Peerie Maa
12-21-2012, 04:43 AM
To adress the OP. I think it is the size of the kill produced by one weapon.
A pipe bomb will not wipe out a village. Chemical weapons have wiped out entire Kurdish villages.
One bomb did not cause Dresden, countless plane loads of bombs were nessesary.

Another issue to consider is the indiscriminate effects. WMD are terror weapons, the "colateral" damage is disproportionate, where as it is possible to target conventional weapons with presision.

As to the question about sanctions.
Pipe bombs are for the perpetration of a crime, and for no other purpose, they are used with the expectation of committing indiscriminate murder.
Under US law, gun ownership is ligitimised, so failure to comply with regulations is the criminal offence. If the weapon is drawn and cocked ready for use, it then moves into a different area of the law.

PhaseLockedLoop
12-22-2012, 10:47 AM
Unfortunate, but revisionist history by those who were not there is a real minefield. What do you call Hiroshima? Probably an experiment but it probably saved more lives on both sides than it killed.

Not remotely true. The war was over. Japan had already offered to quit, subject only to the guarantee that the Emperor be retained.

John Smith
12-22-2012, 11:55 AM
Not remotely true. The war was over. Japan had already offered to quit, subject only to the guarantee that the Emperor be retained.

That seems to be somewhate debatable. As I learned it, it took two bombs to get Japan to surrender. Failure to surrender after the first bomb would, to me, jusify using the two bombs.

Arguments over this, today, are much like debating the "Immaculate Reception" Pointless.

Defining a weapon of mass destruction requires defining mass destruction. How many people or how large an area can a single weapon kill/destroy. How much "collateral damage" is acceptable?

Air born chemicals or disease can travel a long way given the right wind. That is something we can't control, and are less than accurate in predicting.

PhaseLockedLoop
12-22-2012, 12:38 PM
That seems to be somewhate debatable. As I learned it, it took two bombs to get Japan to surrender. Failure to surrender after the first bomb would, to me, jusify using the two bombs.

Arguments over this, today, are much like debating the "Immaculate Reception" Pointless.

I'm sure that's how you learned it. As to pointlessness, much documentation about the persons and decisions weren't released until twenty or thirty years ago, and there has been much scholarship devoted to the decision to use the bomb. A 1995 book titled "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb" by Gar Alperovitz is a long, heavily documented, highly detailed study of the decision process. Eisenhower, Arnold and Lahey saw no reason to use the bomb, nor did most cabinet members, who urged Truman to clarify the surrender terms to Japan. Truman listened to Byrnes, who saw the bomb as a "diplomatic" instrument in dealing with Russia. The notion that using it saved millions, or even thousands, of lives is so much after-the-fact propaganda, and the issue was not even raised when the decision was undertaken. There's plenty of archival material.

But this is thread drift. I only brought it up to object to skuthorp's tired recitation of what we're told in High School.

DanSkorupka
12-22-2012, 09:14 PM
What do you call Dresden?
A large conventional air raid with that was not as bad as usually thought.
The goal and result was dehousing not extermination.

The death toll of 18,000 and 25,000 was high even for a large well organized air raid but a small percentage of the city's population.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/onthefrontline/3123512/Dresden-bombing-death-toll-lower-than-thought.html
German propagandists lied that the death toll was much higher for two reasons:
1: Make the allies overestimate the effects of their weapons
2: Make the allies look bad

Captain Intrepid
12-22-2012, 09:32 PM
It's a buzzword, designed to stir up sentiment against folk we don't like.

From that, we could come to the definition: "A weapon we have the capacity (and or capability) to use that we publicly don't want unfriendly nations to possess."

Utterly meaningless.

LeeG
12-22-2012, 10:06 PM
It's a buzzword, designed to stir up sentiment against folk we don't like.

From that, we could come to the definition: "A weapon we have the capacity (and or capability) to use that we publicly don't want unfriendly nations to possess."

Utterly meaningless.

Pretty much...a general term that implied specific consequences but never went into specifics

DanSkorupka
12-22-2012, 11:32 PM
Pretty much...a general term that implied specific consequences but never went into specifics

Too many laws are like that, that's why we need so many lawyers to argue about them.

Guy with no priors and a small conventional bomb without added shrapnel or incendiary components geting life without parole for WMD instead of 10 years for destructive device with malicious intent is a goldmine for a semantics loving defense attorney.

Laws can have uncertainty even if they are carefully written.
Frequently intentionally for various reasons.
Even more often something new comes up; culture or technology changes, debate as to whether a loophole exists, a law gets used for a different purpose than originally expected, someone unpopular violates the letter of the law but not the spirit and that law has an automatic minimum sentence, infrequently used laws get used by activist courts or to give a dangerous but difficult to convict criminal extra time behind bars, a zero tolerance policy ends up causing more unequal punishment instead of less, Someone shamelessly breaks the letter and spirit of a law without automatic sentencing and gets too little punishment, a hated law is endorsed by one part of constitution but maybe not another, a troll accuses a genuinely beneficial law gets of not being allowed by a preexisting higher ranking law, someone reinterprets part of a contract and acts on it but the other party doesn't agree and is loosing money, a new discovery is made that discredits the argument used to create the law, a legit sounding but rare and therefore unlisted extenuating circumstance is used in a defense but the district attorney and prosecution team still are bent on prosecuting a crime they see as especially diabolical, or are under a must prosecute ordinance, or have a chip on their shoulder and try to convict anyway.

It happens to the best of governments and it is not fun or easy to deal with.
The explicit purpose of the Judicial branch of the US government is to interpret the law.

LeeG
12-23-2012, 09:52 AM
Dan, what made you bring this up? One of the things about the invasion of the Iraq war was the reliance on imprecision for justifying action. I'd been interested in nukes since high school then bio weapons as existential threats but the way they were portrayed by the White House Iraq Group reflected a sixth graders grasp of scale and type. They were obviously smart people so that simplistic portrayal could mean they thought Congress and the public aren't that bright or my suspicion they were appealing to more primitive thinking that occurs when one is afraid. When one is frightened there isn't much desire to dig into details.

John Smith
12-23-2012, 10:05 AM
I'm sure that's how you learned it. As to pointlessness, much documentation about the persons and decisions weren't released until twenty or thirty years ago, and there has been much scholarship devoted to the decision to use the bomb. A 1995 book titled "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb" by Gar Alperovitz is a long, heavily documented, highly detailed study of the decision process. Eisenhower, Arnold and Lahey saw no reason to use the bomb, nor did most cabinet members, who urged Truman to clarify the surrender terms to Japan. Truman listened to Byrnes, who saw the bomb as a "diplomatic" instrument in dealing with Russia. The notion that using it saved millions, or even thousands, of lives is so much after-the-fact propaganda, and the issue was not even raised when the decision was undertaken. There's plenty of archival material.

But this is thread drift. I only brought it up to object to skuthorp's tired recitation of what we're told in High School.

Anyone can write a book. Different people can write different "facts". In today's world we have varied "facts" as to the necessity of torture.

For those "diplomatic" reasons, one bomb would have beenn sufficient. The second bomb, IMO, lends credence to the necessity of dropping the bombs to end the war. All my life I've heard debate over whether or not we should have dropped "the bomb". It seems to ignore always that we dropped two bombs. I think the second bomb is important to remember.

To the thread question, we are delving perhaps into something similar to the difference between a religion and a cult. A cult is the other guy's religion.


One other thought. I always found it a strangely lucky coincidence that when Pearl Harbor was attacked the aircraft carriers were all at sea.

Chris Coose
12-23-2012, 10:31 AM
Simple.

Newtown = Mass Destruction by a domestic terrorist.

DanSkorupka
12-23-2012, 03:32 PM
Simple.
Newtown = Mass Destruction by a domestic terrorist.

Newtown was not mass destruction. 26 dead and no buildings destroyed isn't enough to count as mass destruction
I am starting another thread about what school killing is really about.

Chris Coose
12-23-2012, 04:11 PM
Might change your mind if you got a hold of a photo or two from inside that school.

That slaughter was most certainly mass destruction.

Peerie Maa
12-23-2012, 05:15 PM
Newtown was not mass destruction. 26 dead and no buildings destroyed isn't enough to count as mass destruction
I am starting another thread about what school killing is really about.

In the photos of dead Kurdish villagers the buildings were intact. You guys are chopping semantics to no purpose.

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
12-23-2012, 05:27 PM
No mention of the Hamburg firestorm.