Imagine a terrorist in an explosive suicide vest.

I don’t take credit for this metaphor, but it’s a useful way to consider the danger that nuclear weapons create for us all.

Consider that the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, and policy, are a suicide vest that America wears, as does every other nuclear-armed nation on the planet. The U.S. is currently reheating Cold War hostilities with Russia and China, two of the nine nuclear-armed nations.

If the terrorist pushes the button to explode his vest, his own death is certain. Similarly, any nation who uses such weapons as exist today will likely cause a nuclear winter to envelop the whole planet. A nuclear exchange would destroy enough ozone to let in dangerously more ultra-violet radiation. The dust raised would inflict worldwide shade on everyone, regardless of who started it. Disrupted weather conditions would create waves of refugees who’d overwhelm “safe” places, even those not blown up.

“Launch-on-warning” policies of nuclear nations guarantee that not a few, but many weapons would be used, a guarantee that mutually assured destruction (MAD) would be self-assured destruction.

The terrorist in his suicide vest can’t enjoy his life while projecting terror. Just so, our nuclear policy causes the U.S. to divert trillions to weapons and systems, money locked away where we hope and pray it will never be used, instead of becoming part of the economy. Even if we aren’t thinking about the impact of our nuclear weapons policies, we still live with the impacts of having to pay for them.

Wouldn’t we rather spend this money on food and housing for our families, or improvements to our schools and health care, instead of this dangerous and expensive suicide vest?

Nuclear-armed nations, including the USA, secretly plan the details of mass-murder, and publicly try to convince us it’s OK. The U.N. has passed, and 64 nations have ratified, a treaty that makes this illegal. International agreements that limit, and promise to reduce, the numbers of weapons, do not unstrap our suicide vests. Detonator buttons remain within reach of unpredictable leaders.

The U.S. should move back from the brink of nuclear war. We should each ask: “Am I safer wearing this suicide vest?’