Posted by: quiscus | March 31, 2013

March 31, 2013

1. “Let’s All Stop Saying ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ Forever

Any term that conflates nuclear weapons with any other kind of weapon is bound to be a poor descriptor. But the U.S. government has reached peak absurdity by labeling a rocket-propelled grenade a weapon of mass destruction.

Technically, Eric Harroun, a U.S. Army veteran who joined the rebellion in Syria, has only been charged with using a “destructive device.” (More on him in a second.) But U.S. law isn’t particularly diligent about differentiating dangerous weapons from apocalyptic ones. The affidavit of FBI agent Paul Higginbotham undergirding Harroun’s recent arrest and charge sums it up like this: “There is probable cause to believe that, in or about January 2013 to March 2013, Eric Harroun conspired to use a weapon of mass destruction, i.e. a Rocket Propelled Grenade, outside of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2332a(b).”

Other weapons of mass destruction, legally speaking: Bombs. Grenades. Mines. Missiles “having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce.”

The law, as Charles Dickens wrote, is a ass. But to be fair to the lawyers, the problem resides within the term itself. “Weapons of mass destruction” are a bitter punchline, thanks to the war that the United States launched, ostensibly to secure ones that weren’t there. But the term endures, obscuring the fact that the holy trinity of weapons contained therein — nuclear, chemical and biological — are very different things.

It’s very easy to kill lots of people with a nuclear weapon. It’s harder, but possible, for a nuclear exchange to disrupt planetary climate patterns and kill vastly more once crops die and famines result. These are not things that chemical and biological weapons, as dangerous as they are, can do. Chemical weapons are subject to atmospheric dissipation and need people packed into a dense area to do maximum damage, as with Saddam Hussein’s chemical massacre at Halabja. Biological weapons are potentially more deadly, but their distribution patterns — particularly when passed through humans or animals — can limit their virulence. Rocket-propelled grenades, missiles, bombs, mines — just, no.

In fact, as a fascinating paper by W. Seth Carus at the National Defense University shows (.pdf), the Defense Department’s definition of the term has long been problematic. For years, its official definition included “high explosives,” to make it consistent with the federal statute that Harroun ran up against. But “most military weaponry relies on high explosive charges,” Carus writes, “meaning that even the mortars and grenades used by infantrymen might qualify as WMD.” The doctrinal answer was ultimately to limit the definition to “chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons capable of a high order of destruction or causing mass casualties.”

But clearly those weapons are not created equal. As many have pointed out through the years, there’s an inherent threat inflation that occurs when you say So-and-So possesses weapons of mass destruction to mean So-and-so possesses chemical weapons. Better, and more responsible, to simply describe an arsenal specifically. ”

2. “Was the Iraq War About Grabbing Oil … Or Keeping It Off the Market?

Was the Real Purpose of the Iraq War to Restrict Oil … So As to Raise Oil Prices?

Palast concludes that Cheney – a neo-con, but also a long-time oil man – sided with the oil companies, and decided not to divvy up the Iraqi oil spoils, but instead to make sure that the oil supply remained relatively scarce.

Indeed, top oil economists have said that the Iraq war substantially raised the price of oil … making a lot of people rich.

As bizarre as the oil-restriction theory may sound, the big U.S. oil companies have been doing that kind of stuff for years.”

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