The littlest rebel
Outside a pizza joint in one of Benghazi’s better neighborhoods, I met a rebel fighter they called “the littlest rebel.” He had a red-checked kuffiyah (neckerchief) wrapped around his head and was sitting together with three or four guys twice his size on the bed of a pickup truck. The truck was patrolling the city with a large machine gun mounted on it.
Me: “How old are you?”
The Littlest Rebel: “Thirteen.”
Me: “Do you know how to use that thing?”
The Littlest Rebel: “Yup.”
Another guy in the truck, probably in his early 20s: “We’ve taught him how to use it, but he doesn’t man the thing. I do. But if I’m killed during the fighting, he’ll know how to step in and man it.”
I imagined this thirteen-year-old stepping up to operate a mounted machine gun much bigger than him after his comrades had been killed.
He was clearly proud of what he was doing. I mean, all of the rebels are proud of what they’re doing, in the sense that they believe in it. But he was proud in that thirteen-year-old-hanging-with-the-big-boys kind of way.
Me: “What do your parents think of you being out here?”
The Littlest Rebel: “They support it. They’re proud of me.”
Me: “Be careful, buddy.”
They drove off.