Coming to terms on the war in Iraq

One of the aspects of the anti-war movement that has gotten on my nerves is the blatant dishonesty of the debate. In order to have a reasonable discussion, both sides have to agree on the terminology to use, and just what words mean. A lot of the terms have had very clear definitions for years, but the Left has been of late subtly changing the meanings of various words, intending to win the debate by redefining the language.

With that in mind, and armed with my copy of The Dictionary Of Modern War and other, online resources, I’m going to spell out just what a few of the key terms mean — and, in some cases, just what they don’t mean.

WMD: Abbreviation for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Easily remembered by the acronym “NBC” — Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical.

Nuclear Weapons: Originally, this referred to weapons that used a nuclear reaction — fusion or fission — to cause destruction. Lately, however, radiological weapons (“dirty bombs,”) weapons that contain radioactive material intended to harm people, have been added to the definition. They are not true nuclear weapons, but this is the category where they come closest to fitting in to.

Biological Weapons: Germs and viruses used as weapons, designed to kill or incapacitate through disease.

Chemical Weapons: Weapons that use chemical reactions other than combustion to cause death, injury, or incapacitation. Chemical weapons attack the skin, nervous system, respiratory system, or other part of the body.

Torture: The United Nations has a very high-sounding definition of torture, that they wrote in 1975. The United States Senate, in 1990, saw the rhetoric as having enough loopholes to drop Saddam’s mass graves through and expressed its tentative support, with some very important reservations and caveats. I happen to agree with much of what the Senate said, and find that, as always, the devil is in the details.

The UN defines torture as such:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

The key word there is “severe.” In the hierarchy of adjectives, “severe” is pretty much near the top. Lesser, comparative words would be “slight,” “light,” “moderate,” “tolerable,” and “significant,” while “extreme” would be greater. To my reading, that means that physical and/or emotional pain and suffering can be inflicted to a certain degree, but not to extremes.

But where do you draw the line? That’s the tough part. Some would say that to be safe, one should simply refrain from inflicting any sort of discomfort. But that’s too limiting. There are times when coercive techniques, both physical and mental, are called for — and we must be prepared and willing to use them, and accept the consequences thereof.

So, with those definitions out of the way, let’s look at a couple of items that have come up during the course of the war:

Depleted Uranium. Depleted Uranium is an incredibly useful substance. Made from used nuclear fuel, it is incredibly dense. It also has other militarily useful qualities: it burns quite efficiently, and it tends to keep its sharp edges when it breaks. The military has found it exceptionally well-suited for penetrating armor, or actually making armor.

But it’s still URANIUM. Doesn’t that make it a nuclear or chemical weapon?

In a word, no. It is virtually useless in causing a nuclear reaction. (In fact, its use in nuclear weapons is as a damping agent, slowing down the reaction at a crucial segment to increase the ultimate yield of the bomb.) It has almost no radioactivity — hence the name “depleted uranium”. Yes, it’s highly toxic, but only in the way lead or other heavy metals are poisonous. To attempt to use DU as a nuclear or chemical weapon is incredibly inefficient, as well as a waste of material that has far better uses.

White Phosphorus: Last week, it was alleged that the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah constituted the use of chemical weapons, and therefore WMDs, by the US in Fallujah. This was a complete and utter load of crap, perpetuated by the ignorant in pursuit of their illicit agenda.

WP is used mainly for generating smoke, to obscure vision. The smoke isn’t especially pleasant, but it’s hardly a poison gas. Further, it can also be used as a flare, generating light on the battlefield to illuminate the enemy.

Yes, it burns rather hot, but it’s hardly an incindiary agent. Again, we have far better substances available than WP for use that way.

Finally, the chemical weapons ban specifically excludes combustion as a banned chemical process in weapons. That’s all WP does — it burns up. It doesn’t poison, or create an acid, or destroy nerves, or shred lungs — it just burns up.

So I’d like to see the Left set aside some of these tired canards that they HAVE to know are utterly false, along with the tired old “chickenhawk” schlock and the like, and present some REAL arguments. I know there are legitimate cases to be made against the war — but you can’t prove it by what a lot of them are saying.

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