If nuclear weapons are so bad, why do we have them?

And why do so many countries want to have them, too?

The U.S. is revving up it’s nuclear program. North Korea has nuclear weapons, Russia is modernizing its nuclear arsenal, the “Doomsday Clock” is closer to midnight than it has been since the Cold War, plus seven other countries have nukes.

People may be wondering what would happen to them if a nuclear weapon hit their city — “How dead would I be?” is a website where you can type in the name of a city and see what would happen if a nuclear missile hit nearby.

According to the Ploughshares Fund, nine countries possess a total of 14,175 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia account for 92 percent of them.

In the current issue of the Progressive, Ira Helfand, copresident of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, points out that studies have shown that 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs over urban targets could trigger a global famine endangering up to 2 billion people.

Perhaps we have become comfortable with nuclear weapons and assume that just having them would deter any sane leaders from ever using them. But President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton has argued for attacking North Korea, which could set off “a horrific war costing tens of thousands of lives” according to the New York Times. Bolton, in particular, seems to believe the United States can do what it wants without regard to international law, treaties or the political commitments of previous administrations.

It’s no wonder that Russia is expanding its arsenal and other countries including North Korea have them or want them when the U.S. seems to be using the threat of them to maintain military superiority and “world dominance.”

Helfand describes the “Back from the Brink” campaign that calls on the United States to declare it will never use nuclear weapons first. The campaign also demands that the United States take its nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; end the unchecked authority of any president to launch nuclear war; abandon plans to spend $1.7 trillion enhancing our nuclear forces; and enter into negotiations with the other eight nuclear powers for an enforceable, verifiable, timebound agreement to dismantle the world’s remaining nuclear weapons.

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.

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