We were on our way to the dump Saturday, three across the bench seat, when we heard the news.
"Holy Shi-moly!" Uncle Chet glanced at Buddy, 10, sitting between us as we tooled along King Settlement Road.
"Where is Libya?" the fourth-grader asked, worry in his voice.
"We're going to find out," Uncle Chet muttered, listening to how a new coalition-of-the-willing was bombing Libya, trying to save the rebels in Benghazi.
"That's how we learn our geography," he said. "First, we fire cruise missiles at someone. Then later, on TV, we learn about the target areas that have been destroyed and a little patter about the country."
"It's in North Africa," I said.
"Are the rebels good?" Buddy asked.
"Depends who you ask," I said as I checked in the rearview mirror to make sure the blue tarp wasn't blowing off.
"He asked you," Uncle Chet said, and I could feel his eyes, as he added, "What do you think?"
"I don't like Gadhafi," I said. "He's a dirtbag, probably was going to torture thousands of people."
"Just like Saddam," I turned the radio down. "But Saddam wasn't poised to do it, was he? He didn't have his armies on the march. There was no reason to hit Saddam, except Bush lying about `weapons of mass destruction.'
"Now, in this case," I continued as the truck was slowing down, nearing the city, "Gadhafi said he was going to crush the rebellion."
"So, you're saying the morality really amounts to timing," Uncle Chet said. "It's OK to start a war as long as we're helping an active rebel force?"
"Which side are we on?" Buddy asked.
"Not the government's," I said.
"The poor people's?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "Rich people don't rebel."
"Well, if timing's important, why didn't we intervene in Bahrain?" Uncle Chet asked. "A few weeks ago, they were having huge protests against the monarchy, then the Saudis cracked down."
"I don't know much about that one. You don't hear as much about Bahrain," I said.
"Funny thing about that," Uncle Chet nodded. "No, the answer is simple: oil, O-I-L. We have to appease the Saudis, who hold the world's largest reserves."
"Yep. That sounds right."
"And oil's the reason we're in Libya," he said. "It's got plenty, and it was going to the French and Italians, across the Mediterranean. Then a couple of weeks ago, American oil companies shut down the oil trade in Libya."
"To weaken Gadhafi," I said.
"It didn't help the French, either, not at a time of soaring oil prices," he said. "And two weeks later, what do we see? The French president, Sarkozy, leading the charge, trying to revolve the crisis in Libya."
"That is amazing."
"Remember `freedom fries?"'
"That's what I meant. The French have changed."
"So has the mission," he said. "This isn't Iraq, or even Afghanistan. People might have been massacred, but I still can't buy it, not while we're fighting two other wars, not while we're $12 trillion in debt, not when Congress, which is supposed to have the power to declare war, hasn't even held a hearing."
"You know Congress is hopeless," I said.
"I give it three weeks," Uncle Chet said. "If Gadhafi's still in power, Obama's going to be on the hot seat."
Cooperstown bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week. For more of his columns, visit www.thedailystar.com/tomgrace