But we could also say that deaths caused by illegal drugs are not even close to those caused by cigarette smoking.
We discussed the fact that in 1997, about sixteen thousand American died as a result of illegal and illicit drug use. In comparison, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that smoking related deaths worldwide will reach 10 million per year by 2030! And we know that 40,000-50,000 people die each year in the United States from automobile accidents. Is the automobile a WMD? Are cigarettes?
Where is the "cutoff" for the definition of "mass destruction" and widespread death? Do
we now label everything that kills a lot of people a WMD?
What is a "weapon?" According the MSN Encarta online dictionary (2009) (and several others), a weapon is "a device designed to injure or kill: a device designed to inflict injury or death on an opponent; or something used to gain advantage in a situation."
This definition definitely fits a WMD. but, does it fit illegal drugs? Automobiles? Cigarettes? Drugs are not grown as a weapon, or manufactured as a weapon, or sold as a weapon, or used as a weapon.
Heroin is defined as an addictive drug. It is used illegally and "wrongly" and stupidly, and, yes, it can certainly kill. And I suppose if we stretched it, we could say an "opponent" or enemy could use it to inflict injury or death.
The difference is that word "designed." A WMD is a weapon that is designed for the purpose of injuring or killing an enemy. A drug is not "designed" for that purpose. Like it or not, and as much as many of us consider drugs in all those evil and dangerous ways, we can't say it's designed to kill or injure.
There is also an unspoken part of the definition of a WMD. And this one is not a technicality but rather goes right to the heart of whether or not illegal drugs can be defined in the same breath as WMD. The unspoken word is "Armageddon."
Armageddon is the massive (and short) final battle between God and Satan. It is awesome, enormous, totally destructive, and will be a visual wonder of the world. It is, in fact, that even today is used to describe a nuclear end to the world.
In the public's mind, that is what a WMD is. It portends the end of civilization as we know it. it's not that it really is, but that is definitely the perception. or, at a minimum it would be the end of the world for the significant portion of it affected by the small (or large) nuclear WMD, or spray bottle, or radiation poisoning, etc.
There is that awe-inspiring, awful, tremendous, earth-shattering, explosive and annihilating force to it that makes it what it is -- a weapon of massive destruction. Even in the case of anthrax spread via small doses that can kill thousands, there is an evil, massive side to it that makes it what it is.
With illegal drugs, we don't get that sense. For one thing we have lived with drugs for so long. We know they will never go away. We know they will do their awful damage day after day, year after year. We are aware they kill the people stupid enough to use them, who somehow think this is a unique way of committing suicide...or don't think at all.
We don't have to guess when it will happen or how or be shocked by it when it happens. There is no Armageddon effect to it. It will just happen because...it will. It won't be something an enemy suddenly envelops the world in, or shocks humanity with.
No, we will simply go on doing something incredibly dumb -- killing ourselves because we're hooked and have given our lives over to a little bag of powder that we will kill and steal to get money for. There will be no massive devastation -- only individuals accumulating over time as corpses -- slowly, predictably, almost effortlessly as the death toll climbs.
After all, are the after-effects of illegal drugs anything at all like the after-effects of a WMD? I don't think so, for all the reasons stated. Equivalency between the two is impossible to define because there is no equivalency. They are separate; they are both awful; they both kill a lot of people. But equivalent -- no. Neither is equivalent to the other; they just both terrible.
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Cryptome.org. "FBI'S WATSON CITES EFFORTS to COMBAT TERRORIST ATTACK ." 1999. jya Cryptome. 13 April 2009 .
"Drug related problems." n.d. Australian Government. 13 April 2009 .
"Drug Use." 14 August 2008. U.S. Department of Justice. 13 April 2009 .
EU Business. "Russian drug deaths total 30,000 a year." 4 December 2008. eubusiness.com. 13 April 2009 .
ONDCP. "The Consequences of Illegal Drug Use." 1998. Office of the National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). 13 April 2009 .
Schneier, Bruce. "Definition of "Weapon of Mass Destruction." 6 April 2009. Schneier.com. 13 April 2009 .
WebMD. "U.S. Leads the World in Illegal Drug Use." 1 July 2008. CBS News. 13 April 2009 .