x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

It's a revolution, dude

A California college student who thought it would be cool to hang out with the Libyan rebels got his wish. It's a charming story but a revolution is not just a tourist attraction.

You might admire Chris Jeon's bravery, but we pity his parents. Taking a series of planes, trains and automobiles, the 21-year-old Californian made it to Tripoli just in time to celebrate the overthrow of Col Muammar Qaddafi.

But Mr Jeon is no ambitious war reporter or daring photojournalist. He's just a Los Angeles university student, who doesn't speak Arabic, with some free time on his hands. "It is the end of my summer vacation, so I thought it would be cool to join the rebels," he said. Images of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure come to mind.

The long road from LA to Tripoli, via Cairo and Benghazi, delivered the wannabe warrior to the throngs of anti-Qaddafi forces now roaming the streets. In keeping with a time-honoured tradition, militants showed Mr Jeon how to fire several rounds into the air from a trusty AK-47 rifle. But Mr Jeon is no rebel and stray bullets have a nasty habit of creating pockets of tragedy at times of joy.

A slightly older student might remember another Californian, John Walker Lindh, who was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 and is now serving 20 years in US prison. War, it turns out, is not always so cool.

It may be a little early for war tourism, but we hope Mr Jeon emerges unscathed and even a little wiser. Perhaps he will even be inspired to do something that actually helps Libya.