COLUMBUS _ We were lying down, reading, ready for lights out when the phone rang late Sunday night. I looked at the caller I.D. before answering, "You're too old to be up at this hour."
"Obama's on TV, says we just killed Osama," Uncle Chet said.
"Reagan's `freedom fighter?"'
"That's the one," he said. "He's dead."
"I thought he died years ago."
"So did I, but he was hanging out in Pakistan. Obama said he sent in a SWAT team today."
"Wow. I wonder if it's real ... ?" I mused aloud.
"Don't turn birther on me. Of course it's real; they've got the body," Uncle Chet said.
"What are they going to do with that?"
"Throw it in the ocean," he said.
Hon sat up in bed. "What's going on?" She put down her book on the Kennedys.
"Not much," I said aside. "Except we've killed Osama and we're going to throw his body in the ocean."
"Don't you mean Gadhafi?" she said.
"Almost got him, too," said the voice on the phone."He'll never last 10 years, like Osama. Too soft from palace life."
"Well, it looks like we've finally won the war on terror," I said.
"We lost that war years ago," Uncle Chet said. "When Osama hit us in 2001, we were awash in cash, fresh from eight years of Clinton, still talking about how to divvy up the `peace dividend."'
"I remember," I said.
"So, Osama sent over 19 Saudis and Egyptians, armed them with razor blades and airplane tickets and did a couple of trillion dollars worth of damage. Ten years later, we're fighting three Mideast wars and the Republicans are trying to do away Social Security and Medicare, saying we can't afford the American way of life anymore ... Does that sound like a victory?"
"I can't hear any more; I'll never get to sleep," I said.
"Osama took away our freedoms, turned the world ugly for everyone, uglier for Muslim Americans, made them into suspects, sympathizers. People were arrested, beaten, and the rule of law, the Constitution, took a beating under the so-called `Patriot Act.'
"They always think of a good, confusing name," I said.
"Osama might have spent half a million, and in return, I bet he cost us $3 trillion."
"The towers were big, but not worth trillions," I said.
"The towers, the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq," Uncle Chet said. "Add it up and you'll be in the trillions, and we haven't seen the last dollar yet. As a matter of fact, I was wondering how the world will react to Osama's death. Will it help us, or cost us more, over the long haul?"
"Don't know, but it's almost midnight," I noted.
"It's going to stir the pot in Pakistan, and that pot's already boiling," Uncle Chet said.
"But it should help Obama get out of Afghanistan," he said. "On his watch, we got rid of the 9/11 devil, so now it's time to go home."
"And it's going to help him politically. After eight years of Bush's floundering, it took a Dem. to do it, avenge 3,000 deaths. I can see a button that says, `It took a Dem. to do it,' and they won't even have to say what."
"Call me in the morning and we'll talk," I said.
"It's going to make Obama impossible to beat in 2012," he continued. "It might lead to a Democratic takeover in the House, too, as everyone rides the coattails of a commander-in-chief who hunted down and exterminated the mass murderer."
"Still got 18 months to go," I said.
"But you know what really gets me," he said. "No trial by jury, no chance to set the record straight, no perspective, no lessons learned. Osama was armed and trained by the CIA in the 1980s _ Reagan's freedom fighter _ because he was a bulwark against the Soviets, the enemy of our enemy. As we retire him on May Day 2011, after 10 years of strife, what are we doing in Libya?"
"Good night," I said.
"Training another generation of freedom fighters, enemies of our enemy," he said.
"Bombing again, and praying it won't come back to bite us."
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.