Weapons of Mass Destruction

Weapons of Mass Destruction scope

Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) represent a group of weaponry that has the potential to kill a multitude of people within a very short time. Also, WMDs are known to have catastrophic effects that last for many years after an attack. WMDs include biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Biological weapons include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other contaminants that are deliberately manufactured to cause death or induce diseases to plants, animals or humans (Curley, 2012). Chemical weapons are lethal chemicals whose effects are capable of causing death, permanent or temporary injuries to animals and people. Such chemicals include nerve and tear gas. Subsequently, nuclear weapons represent explosives such as bombs and missiles that rely on nuclear energy to cause death or destruction to the targeted people or place.

All these weapons have been used in the past and it has become apparent to the whole world that they pose a great threat to both living and non-living things (Curley, 2012). While WMDs are used as part of security measures by various countries, it could be detrimental and disastrous if the same weapons land on the hands of terrorists or states that are allied to terrorist organizations. In the wake of rising terrorism and animosity between various countries, there have been concerns about the likelihood of the usage of WMDs to launch attacks against perceived enemies which may cause great harm to innocent civilians. This paper explores WMDs terrorism from the perspective of invasive species, biological threats, and the logic behind suicide terrorism.

Invasive species are categorized under biological weapons. WMDs terrorism associated with biological weapons is referred to as bioterrorism. This form of terrorism ranges from strategic and tactical military acts or state-supported terrorism to isolated acts by individuals against individuals such as rogue scientists to inflict mass casualties to humans, plants or animals (Chomel & Sun, 2010). Invasive species involves the introduction of exotic organisms such as animals or plants to foreign ecosystems to destroy the biotic or abiotic factors within such an ecosystem (Curley, 2012). When used as a bioweapon, the motive might be to sabotage staple foods of a certain region or a country to cause starvation or kill an important source of income within an economy. Also, invasive species such as Anthrax or tularemia poses a great danger to animals leading mass deaths if not contained. Although acts of bioterrorism are rare, their potential to cause devastating repercussions remains a matter of great concern.  

The use of invasive species in bioterrorism can lead to an epidemic. The probability of an epidemic arises from the fact that most pathogenic organisms that are likely to be used by bioterrorists can spread easily through direct contact, flying insects, or aerosol (Chomel & Sun, 2010). From past occurrences, two viruses have been manifested their potential to cause enormous harm to livestock and human beings. These viruses are Foot and mouth disease (FMD) as well as Rift Valley fever (RVF) (Chomel & Sun, 2010). FMD has been reported to be one of the most contagious viruses on earth and if introduced on livestock, it can lead to millions of deaths. For instance, the United Kingdom experienced an FMD outbreak in 2001 which claimed the lives of 11 million livestock causing huge financial losses to those who depended on livestock farming. This outbreak was attributed to the illegal importation of meat. Furthermore, RVF can be introduced to a place through the dispersion of the virus to a major breeding ground for ruminants where such vectors as mosquitoes are plentiful. Mosquito carriers can spread the virus far and wide infecting multitudes of livestock. The major health impact of the virus is that it can end up in humans through the consumption of infected livestock. Bioterrorists can use such pathogenic organisms to undermine food security in an area of interest intending to cause hunger and great suffering to the occupants of such an area.

Invasive species can be one of the most effective bioweapons because in many cases, it is difficult to trace the perpetrator. This difficulty results from the general assumption that invasive species originates from natural disasters (Chomel & Sun, 2010). Besides, most investigations that have been conducted in the past concerning incidences of biological invasions have failed to come up with evidence suggesting the likelihood of deliberate human intervention. Preventive measures do not prioritize stopping future acts of bioterrorism but only focus on eradicating the species giving the perpetrators a chance to attack again and again. Thus, invasive species pose a serious threat if used by terrorists to advance their agendas.

Biological threats from WMDs terrorism can be highly disastrous to plants, animals and human beings with both immediate and long-term effects. WMDs mostly associated with biological threats are chemical and biological weapons although nuclear weapons cannot be excluded from the list (Curley, 2012). The use of chemical weapons is characterized by various chemical agents such as blood, blister and, nerve agents. Chemical agents are linked to numerous short-term health risks such as skin blisters, respiratory problems, paralysis, convulsions, and dyspnea amongst many others (Gosden & Gardener, 2005). Long-term health impacts include cancers, damage to reproductive and immune systems as well as blindness. On the other hand, bioweapons are used in form invasive species that may carry bacteria, toxins, or viruses (Gosden & Gardener, 2005). Such biological agents are catastrophic as they are highly infectious and can spread over a large area leaving a trail of casualties and deaths. The risks are grave in the absence of effective treatments or vaccines.  

 Still, on biological threats, WMDs can lead to the destruction of basic resources leading to devastating epidemiological impacts on numerous living organisms. The major primary natural resources that are prone to biological threats are air, water, and food (Gosden & Gardener, 2005). Air can be contaminated through various germs that are mostly used in bioweapons. For instance, the air that is contaminated with fungi can lead to widespread infections of healthy plants leading to numerous harms or permanent extinction of targeted plants. Subsequently, water is can be contaminated with various lethal agents which can cause serious injuries to aquatic life and humans. For example, water contaminated with a gram of the poisonous Clostridium tetani is capable of killing an estimated 8 million individuals within 6 hours. Furthermore, food represents one of the most effective techniques that can be used in WMDs terrorism especially in biowarfare. Various lethal food contaminants such as lead and aflatoxins can kill millions of people and animals within a few hours after consumption. Thus, biological threats of WMDs terrorism cannot be underestimated due to their life-threatening impacts through the destruction of fundamental resources.

 Past attacks have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that WMDs terrorism poses far-reaching biological threats to humans and their surroundings. For example, the Iraqi government once attacked its deviant civilians in Halabja with a mixture of nerve agents and mustard gas which left 5000 civilians dead and scores others with long-term bodily defects and diseases such as hematological malignancies, infertility, and tumors of the head and neck (Gosden & Gardener, 2005).

Besides, some chemical agents such as nerve agents have been linked with lifetime health conditions such as cardiac arrhythmias, psychiatric and neurological disorders. Also, WMDs have been linked with blood cancers such as leukemia. It is documented that the victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack in Japan have reported high leukemia cases after the attack (Gosden & Gardener, 2005). With the advancement of technology, there is a higher risk that terrorists might develop WMDs that can cause major biological threats to both living and non-living things. Besides, WMDs have proven the potential of wiping an entire population if used for malicious purposes, especially on non-armed civilians.

 Suicide terrorism is so far the most effective and lethal technique that has been used and tested by terrorists. From the definition of WMDs, the weapons are connected to either of two major consequences; mass deaths or multiple casualties. Thus, suicide terrorism fits the definition of WMDs due to its potential to cause many deaths and casualties at the same time. In other words, a suicide terrorist is equal to a WMD only that one is a living thing and the other is a non-living thing. Experts argue that suicide terrorism is by far the worst weapon used by terrorists because it is hard to detect a suicide terrorist than it is to detect an improvised explosive device (IED) (Horowitz, 2015).

Suicide terrorism has been used in the past by terrorist and the consequences have been fatal. One of the most infamous acts of suicide terrorism happened in the U.S during the 9/11 attack that left more 2000 people dead and hundreds of others injured due to both direct and indirect impacts of the attack (Horowitz, 2015). From an inner perspective of WMDs terrorism, there is a high likelihood that suicide terrorists can advance to more lethal techniques such as injecting themselves with bioweapons such as highly contagious viruses and traveling to targeted to cause a pandemic.

 To get a better understanding of suicide terrorism, there is a need to first investigate the logic behind suicide terrorism. The main reason for trying to get into the mind of a suicide terrorist is to know the underlying factors that motivate such individuals to sacrifice their lives. Various explanations have been developed to explain the motives behind suicide terrorism but the world is yet to come up with a standard explanation. While it is true that suicide attackers might be motivated by religious reasons, psychologists and experts provided a variety of arguments about the matter. Horowitz (2015) argues that suicide terrorism originated from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a rebel group that fought for Sri Lanka’s independence between 1980 and 2001. During this time, suicide attacks amounted to 75 which is so far the highest number of attacks of a similar nature conducted by a single group. The motive of the LTTE attackers can be attributed to fighting for freedom because all the attacks were directed towards military targets unlike in Islamic group suicide attacks which are targeted to both government forces and unarmed civilians.

 Some suicide bombings have been connected to economic motives. Psychologists believe that some terrorist organizations lure people into suicide terrorism on grounds that once they commit the offense, they shall be paid a lumpsum amount that will go to their next of kin. Potential candidates have been identified to be poor, uneducated, unemployed, or college/university graduates who have lost hope of getting a job (Horowitz, 2015). These groups of people are likely to be highly desperate to do anything that can ensure that their families are provided with basic requirements. Economic motives are used to refute the notion that suicide terrorism is perpetrated by Islamic believers. In essence, the main aim of the argument is indicating suicide terrorists come from a range of cultural and spiritual teachings provided that they are desperate enough to sacrifice themselves to better the lives of their next of kin.

While many explanations have been used to demystify suicide terrorism, it is quite essential to note that modern terrorism applies coercive logic. Crucially, it is a strategy meant to send a message to the target that there is no turning back until the demands of the terrorist are met (Horowitz, 2015). The first aim is to cause as many deaths as possible especially to innocent civilians to cause panic and fear among citizens and push the target government to heed to the requirements of the terrorist organization responsible for such attacks. Secondly, terrorist groups use suicide attackers to coerce the target based on the accuracy and fatality of the attack. A suicide terrorist is a reliable weapon because someone ready to die is likely to achieve a mission and cause the greatest damage possible (Horowitz, 2015). Moreover, suicide attackers can reach guarded targets as they do not require an escape plan. Thus, the main logic behind suicide terrorism appears to be coercive to intimidate the target to surrender.

In summary, WMDs have been proven to have catastrophic impacts when used against innocent or un-armed civilians. The weapons become even dangerous when they are used by terrorists or states that are allied to terrorists. Terrorists can go to the extent of introducing invasive species as bioweapons against the target. This weapon can be effective because it can cause great damage to its origin going undetected. Besides, WMDs terrorism is capable of causing biological threats that are disastrous to both living and non-living things. Moreover, suicide terrorism has the potential of advancing from the use of explosives to the use of WMDs. This possibility is evidenced by the coercive logic behind terrorism whose desire is to cause maximum harm to the target. Thus, there is a need to ensure that WMDs do not end up in the hands of terrorists and people of such caliber as it can be disastrous to the world.    


Chomel, B.& Sun, B. (2010). Bioterrorism and Invasive Species. National Center for Biotechnology Information, 29(2), 193–199. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

Curley, R. (2012). Weapons of Mass Destruction. Rosen Pub.

Gosden, C.& Gardener, D. (2005). Weapons of Mass Destruction—Threats and Responses. BMJ331(7513), 397–400. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7513.397

Horowitz, M. C. (2015). The Rise and Spread of Suicide Bombing. Annual Review of Political Science18(1), 69–84. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-polisci-062813-051049

Weapons of Mass Destruction

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