Portal:Weapons of mass destruction

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Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is a phrase used to describe a munition with the capacity to indiscriminately kill large numbers of humans. The phrase broadly encompasses several areas of weapon synthesis, including nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) and, increasingly, radiological weapons.

The phrase first arose in 1937 in reference to the mass destruction of Gernika, Spain, by aerial bombardment. Following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and progressing through the Cold War, the term came to refer more to non-conventional weapons. The phrase entered popular usage in relation to the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. Phrases used in a military context include atomic, biological, and chemical warfare (ABC warfare), nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) after the invention of the hydrogen bomb, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN), recognizing the threat of non-explosive radiological weapons.

Due to the indiscriminate impacts caused by WMD, the fear of WMD has shaped political policies and campaigns, fostered social movements, and has been the central theme of many films. Support for different levels of WMD development and control varies nationally and internationally. Yet understanding of the nature of the threats is not high, in part because of imprecise usage of the phrase by politicians and the media.

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Chemical warfare is warfare (and associated military operations) using the toxic properties of chemical substances to kill, injure or incapacitate an enemy.

Chemical warfare is very different from the use of conventional weapons or nuclear weapons because the destructive effects of chemical weapons are not primarily due to any explosive force. The offensive use of living organisms (such as anthrax) is considered to be biological warfare rather than chemical warfare; the use of nonliving toxic products produced by living organisms (e.g., toxins such as botulinum toxin, ricin, or saxitoxin) is considered chemical warfare under the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Under this Convention, any toxic chemical, regardless of its origin, is considered as a chemical weapon unless it is used for purposes that are not prohibited (an important legal definition, known as the General Purpose Criterion).


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The LGM-118A Peacekeeper was a land-based ICBM deployed by the United States starting in 1986. Under the START II treaty, which never entered into force, the missile was to be removed from the US nuclear arsenal in 2005, leaving the LGM-30 Minuteman as the only type of land-based ICBM in the US arsenal. In spite of the demise of START II, the last of the LGM-118A "Peacekeeper" ICBMs were decommissioned on September 19, 2005.

The Peacekeeper was a MIRVed missile: each rocket could carry up to 10 re-entry vehicles armed with a 300-kiloton W87 warhead/Mk21 RVs (twenty-five times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II).

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J. Robert Oppenheimer (April 22, 1904 – February 18, 1967) was an American theoretical physicist, best known for his role as the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, the World War II effort to develop the first nuclear weapons, at the secret Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico. His younger brother Frank Oppenheimer is also a physicist. Known colloquially as "the father of the atomic bomb", Oppenheimer lamented the weapon's killing power after it was used to destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, he was a chief advisor to the newly created United States Atomic Energy Commission and used that position to lobby for international control of atomic energy and to avert the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. After invoking the ire of many politicians and scientists with his outspoken political opinions during the Second Red Scare, he had his security clearance revoked in a much-publicized and politicized hearing in 1954. Though stripped of his direct political influence, Oppenheimer continued to lecture, write, and work in physics. A decade later, President John F. Kennedy awarded him the Enrico Fermi Award as a gesture of rehabilitation. As a scientist, Oppenheimer is remembered most for being a chief founder of the American school of theoretical physics while at the University of California, Berkeley.


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The 2006 North Korean nuclear test was the detonation of a nuclear device conducted on October 9, 2006 by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. North Korea announced its intention to conduct a test on October 3, six days prior. The blast is estimated to have had an explosive force of less than one kiloton, and some radioactive output was detected. United States officials suggested the device may have been a nuclear explosive that misfired. An anonymous official at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing told a South Korean newspaper that the explosive output was smaller than expected. Due to the secretive nature of North Korea and small yield of the test, there remains some question as to whether it was an unusually small successful test, or a partially failed "fizzle" or dud.



We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now, I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another. - J. Robert Oppenheimer

So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations. It's real, and that's the reason why we have to intensify our efforts, and that's why this is so important. - William S. Cohen

I don't know how World War 3 will be fought, but I know how World War 4 will be: With sticks and stones. - Albert Einstein

Did you know...


  • That the first class of nerve agents, the so-called G-Series, was accidentally discovered in Germany on December 23, 1936 by a research team headed by Dr. Gerhard Schrader. Since 1934, Schrader had been in charge of a laboratory in Leverkusen to develop new types of insecticides for IG Farben. While working toward his goal of improved insecticide, Schrader experimented with numerous fluorine-containing compounds, eventually leading to the preparation of tabun.


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