The American Who Died for the Libyan Revolution

PHOTO Muhannad bin Sadik, 21, shown in this file photo, was shot to death by Muammar Gadhafi?s troops in the tiny town of Bishir, Libya.
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Muhannad Bensadik didn't have to be here.

He could have been in Virginia, with his family.

He could have been going to school, leading his scout team and living with his mother and his four siblings, all younger and all but one born in the United States.

But Bensadik, 21, decided to stay in Benghazi, Libya -- where he had recently moved -- as the revolution exploded throughout this country and millions of people who've lived under fear and tyranny for 42 years suddenly tasted freedom.

He protested the regime on Feb. 15 and braved walls of bullets during the initial crackdown. He lived to celebrate the expulsion of Col. Moammar Gadhafi's government in eastern Libya. And, then, as Gadhafi's troops advanced, he grabbed a gun and joined the fight.

"Dad, we're not cowards," he told his father, Libya-born Osama Bensadik. "I can go to the States and can have everything. But how about the kids here? They don't have the opportunity to do that.

"Libya is as much my country as the United States is. And we'd like to make sure that this revolution goes through. If everyone leaves, who's going to lead the revolution?"

Muhannad Bensadik died Saturday for that revolution, apparently shot to death by Gadhafi's troops in the tiny town of Bishir.

His body still lies on the frontline of this war, about 7,000 miles from his birthplace of Eden, N.C., and his father is trying to retrieve it.

He doesn't know if it will be safe enough to reach Bishir, and he doesn't know how far he'll get. But he says he has to try.

"The sad part about this story is that my son had the opportunity not to come to Benghazi," Bensadik said today in Benghazi, the opposition stronghold, where he flew after the revolution began because he knew his son would want to fight.

He didn't want his son to fight alone.

"The American revolutionary Patrick Henry, he said, 'Give me my freedom or give me my death,'" Bensadik said, crying over the phone. "And that's how my son lived."

Life under Gadhafi, Bensadik said, was "inhuman," and the whole family opposed him. Muhannad Bensadik's younger brother, Yuosef, is still in Benghazi, working with the struggling opposition government.

Like Son, Like Father

It's a fight that Osama will continue, even as he tries to send his son's body back to his wife in Virginia.

"I'm going to go back to the battlefield as soon as I can. I will not allow my son's blood to go in vain," he says. "Two people going together; one dies, then the other one picks up. That's how the revolution keeps going. There's no U-turn now."

Like almost everyone here, Bensadik has a direct request for the United States: institute a no-fly zone and give the opposition a fighting chance.

"If there's no no-fly zone," he warns, "then Gadhafi won't distinguish between people, won't spare hospitals or anyone. He said he will go house by house, and we all know he will. It will be a massacre."

And so the father will continue to fight as his son did, bravely, and knowing the risks.

"Gadhafi will never return. His rule will never happen again. I promise you myself. Even," he says, pausing, "if I have to die like my son."

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