"Where are the French?" Uncle Chet asked from across the table where we were having coffee.
"Weren't they supposed to run this new war, Sarkozy in the lead plane? We were going to hand this off to our European allies, but now, it's American cruise missiles in the air, CIA advisers on the ground, almost $700 million pumped out of the Treasury so far."
"So far as we know," I said.
"And I'd like to know where that money's going," he said. "When we spend $700 million, it doesn't disappear; it just goes from public hands to private hands."
"To stockholders in the arms dealers," I said.
"And oil companies," he said. "War runs on oil, and oil runs on war; the two go hand-in-hand. Why else do we park our Navy in the Red Sea, if not to act as an escort service for Exxon and BP?"
"Got to have that gas, and not at $4 a gallon."
"So another war over oil," he said. "And I could almost go for this one, except for our miserable track record."
"I'm surprised to hear you say that," I said.
"Have you noticed that every war we get into lately seems to start the same way?" he said.
"How's that?" I glanced out the window at a pile of firewood that needed to be stacked and covered before it rained tomorrow.
"There's always a militant billionaire," he said. "A dirt bag, the focus of evil for the Western world, who's got a big cache of weapons and an army that terrorizes the locals."
"That sounds right."
"You can't have a war without a villain, so we always find one, one we can loath for all the murdering, raping, gassing, lying, cheating, torturing he's done over years when he was our ally."
"Sorry, Moammar, Osama, Noriega, those days are done," I said.
"And once we cross them off the list, they're dead meat, and any move to defend them or question the new war is akin to treason."
"You're either with us or against us," I said. "Isn't that the Bush Doctrine?"
"In the last 20 years, we've been at war with Saddam, Osama, Saddam again and now Moammar, while on the other side we've had our allies, the lovers of democracy, the freedom fighters, the young have-nots fighting desperately because they're fed up with the ruling class."
"But why is it exploding now?" I said.
"Rising food prices, expanding Internet," Uncle Chet said. "The key is the Internet, a way for people to share their misery and organize. We'd never have seen anything in Tunisia or Egypt, let alone Libya, if not for Facebook and Twitter."
"They're changing the map," I said.
"My question is how do we act as the world turns toward economic democracy? Do we keep coddling dictators as they're playing along, then turn on them as soon as there's a hint of rebellion? Or do we stand against the autocrats, sultans and corporate bosses, who've rigged the economic system, bled the middle class and filled the world's prisons?"
"Or we could just stack the wood," I pushed my chair back.
"Or we could tell the truth, act ethically," Uncle Chet said. "We could decline to dine with the Saudi king. We could refuse to back any regime that isn't popularly elected and where wealth is hoarded by the few. And we could refuse to attack, intervene, blow up anyone unless the United Nations agrees to act in concert to start and finish wars, with everyone chipping in."
"We could, but I don't think we will."
"No, we'll just keep finding bogeymen and firing missiles, sending troops off until the rebellion reaches our own shores."
"That'll work as long as they can get volunteers to `be-all-you-can-be,"' I said.
"That's why they got rid of our manufacturing jobs," Uncle Chet said. "Now, for a lot of us, that is all you can be. Want a steady job, with benefits, in the USA? Just sign here, then slip into that uniform."
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.