This phrase is one of the most overused and least understood clichés of our time. Broadly speaking, “weapons of mass destruction” refers to what the US military terms “NBC warfare”: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical weapons, which by nature are capable of killing or incapacitating large numbers of people, with little or no warning, and often with a lingering effect in the target area.

These are not rare and or semi-mythical artifacts possessed only by evil nations and wicked men. Nearly a dozen nations are known to possess fission or fusion bombs, and a dozen more are technologically capable. Most industrialized nations have agreed to destroy their stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, but some have also been slow to comply with these agreements-including the US. There are also numerous methods of inflicting large-scale destruction and death that are not generally considered “WMDs”-such as fuel-air explosives or flying aircraft into buildings.