“I see that your peace-prize president is now in his fourth war," my Martian friend ,YYuran, said.
“If you mean that little incident in Libya, that's no big deal," I said.
"It's a war," he said. “Your Constitution says that only Congress can declare war.”
“It is not a war," I said rather hotly, “It is a time-limited, scope-limited military action, in concert with our international partners, with the objective of protecting civilian life in Libya.”
He laughed. I don't know if you have ever heard a Martian laugh. Yyuran's ears vibrated like tuning forks and he sounded like a pig being slaughtered by a chainsaw. “You don't talk like that. Who are you quoting?"
I winced. "Unh, it was the president's press secretary,” I admitted. “I thought he stated it very well,” I added.
“And how much is this ‘time-limited, scope-limited military action' going to cost?”
"I don't know. Not very much. A few billion dollars or so, probably.”
"Right," he said. “And how many people will die in this war?”
“I don’t know. But it isn’t a war!” I almost shouted. “Declaring war is technical nonsense anyhow: Congress hasn’t officially declared war since WW2 and we’ve fought a lot of wars since then.”
"Like Libya," he said casually. He can be infuriating. “That makes at least 30 countries you have bombed, raided, invaded, whatever since World War II. Quite a record."
"What are you talking about? We've done no such thing.”
“Korea, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, Vietnam…” he began reciting.
“You can’t be right about all those,” I said, talking loudly over his list.
“…Cambodia, Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia…”
I cut him off. “I don't know where you got that list but..”
I’m sorry I ever showed him how to use it. Before I could say any more, he switched ground again. He's good at that.
"You told me you had democracy, but if your peace president can start a war anytime he wants, without even talking to Congress, it sounds like you have a king."
"That's pure nonsense. He's not a king. He has to be elected. As for the war in Libya …” I winced again when I realized what I had said but hurried on hoping he wouldn’t notice, "Congress will get involved somehow, sometime, if only to pay for it.”
“How are you going to pay for it? Your politicians say you have a budget problem, and that's why they have to cut food stamps, close libraries, cut back police and fire departments. How can you pay for another war? Raise taxes”
“Good Lord, no,” I said. "We can't raise taxes.”
“Not even on corporations, like the big banks, and other rich people?"
“Corporations aren't people," I said, trying to be flippant. I realized immediately I left him an opening and he jumped on it before I could say anything more.
“Your Supreme Court said they are.”
I gave up. "Never mind, you haven't been here long enough to understand us.”
“I don't think I ever will," he said.