Weapons of mass destruction: the career of a concept

Oren, I. and Solomon, T. (2013) Weapons of mass destruction: the career of a concept. New Political Science, 35(1), pp. 109-135. (doi: 10.1080/07393148.2012.754683)

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The danger posed by “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) was the Bush administration's chief justification for invading Iraq. Amid the din of the chorus that ceaselessly repeated this phrase in 2002–2003, hardly anyone stopped to ask: what is “WMD” anyway? Is it not a mutable social construct rather than a timeless, self-evident concept? Guided by Nietzsche's view of the truth as a “mobile army of metaphors [and] metonyms… which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically,” we present a history of the metonym WMD. We describe how it was coined by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1937, and subsequently how its meaning was “transposed” and “enhanced” throughout Cold War arms negotiations, in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and in US domestic law. We also discuss how, in the run-up to the Iraq war, “WMD” did not merely describe an Iraqi threat; it was rather “embellished poetically and rhetorically” in ways that produced and inflated the threat.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Solomon, Dr Ty
Authors: Oren, I., and Solomon, T.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Journal Name:New Political Science
Publisher:Taylor and Francis
ISSN (Online):1469-9931

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