Redefining WMD

MSNBC ran the startling headline this morning: Man arrested near Capitol faces WMD charge. How intriguing! Was a criminal mastermind skulking through the streets of DC with a nuclear bomb in his trunk?

[The suspect] tried to manufacture a “weapon of mass destruction, that is, an explosive device capable of causing multiple deaths or serious bodily injuries to multiple persons, or massive destruction of property,”

At the height of the Cold War, “weapons of mass destruction” meant nuclear warheads that were capable of eliminating broad swaths of humanity with a single explosion. With the onset of the “war on terror” we expanded WMD to include bio-weapons that could infect the water supply for an entire city or chemicals that could poison the air of a local community.

Now it seems that our redefinition of the phrase has gone too far. From the article:

The device was made of a can of gunpowder taped to a box of shotgun shells and a bottle with buckshot or BB pellets, according to court documents.

Excuse me? Our BB Bomber constructed a make-shift bomb from a coffee can and some shotgun shells and he is being charged with trying to manufacture a WMD? What can the phrase mean if a quick trip to Wal-Mart and some duct tape yields a weapon of mass destruction? I fear that our language is deteriorating faster than our laws.

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