In light of the bombings that rocked the Boston marathon on April 15th, the United States - for the first time ever - has charged 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with using weapons of mass destruction (under 18 USC § 2332a). The bombs used by the Tsarnaev brothers are described as "pressure cookers" containing bits of metal, nails, and ball bearings. Officials have described the Boston bombings as one of the worst acts of terrorism on U.S. soil since the September 11 attacks. The bombs planted by the Tsarnaev brothers killed 3 people and injured over 260 people.
Keeping in mind the recent events, remember way back in 2003 when, then, President Bush proclaimed "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." Based on those sentiments, President Bush used the threat of weapons of mass destruction to enter into a very unpopular war with Iraq. In the years that followed, Bush was repeatedly criticized by the media, politicians and the public alike for never actually uncovering Iraq's "WMDs" (which was the so-called basis for the war in the first place). During the Iraq war, the U.S. government seemed to consider "weapons of mass destruction" to be weapons greater than the average firearm or bomb. In fact, a decade ago the weapons being searched for by the U.N. included yellowcake uranium bombs, poison gas, and biological weapons.
Fast forward to 2013. Today, the federal weapons of mass destruction statute (18 USC § 2332a) describes a "destructive device" as any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas bomb, grenade, rocket, missile, or mine. Basically, any explosive device constitutes a weapon of mass destruction under the statute.
First, doesn't this broad definition in the federal statute, in some ways, vindicate President Bush for taking us to war? I mean, Iraq certainly possessed explosives, grenades, missiles, and mines. Under such a broad definition, doesn't any individual/group/nation who possesses one of the said devices - technically - possess a WMD? [Obviously I am comparing a federal statute to the rationale given for an international conflict, which I realize is not a perfect comparison. The point is: shouldn't a WMD be something greater than merely a crudely built bomb?]. Second, isn't such a broad statute just a simple attempt to hold a wide-range of suspects accountable as terrorists? I can understand the goal behind this statute, however it begs the question: "When is a bomb just a bomb?"