On Sunday, February 25, Aaron Bushnell became the first active-duty American soldier to use self-immolation to protest the actions of his military force. “I’m going to carry out an extreme act of protest,” said the young soldier in a video he recorded outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, capital of the United States.

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“But compared to what the Palestinian people have experienced at the hands of their colonizers, what I am going to do is not an extreme act. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.” Then Bushnell set himself on fire. He died in hospital as a result of the burns.

Before carrying out his final act of protest, Bushnell – who worked in the IT department of the United States Air Force – made a post on Facebook which reads “Many of us ask ourselves ‘what would I do if I were alive during slavery?’ Or the time of Jim Crow laws [que segregavam afro-americanos no sul dos EUA]? Or during apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide? The answer is: you are living in this era right now.”

American anti-imperialist and Palestine solidarity organizations made several statements in honor of Bushnell.

Brian Brecker, executive director of the ANSWER Coalition (an acronym for Act Now to End Wars and End Racismin free translation) wrote in an official statement released on the morning of February 26 that “this was an act of martyrdom by an American soldier outraged by the actions of a government that speaks in his name”.

The statement continues: “Aaron Bushnell’s act is a reflection, indicator and marker of a profound shift in consciousness in the United States. The previously dominant narrative supporting the Israeli government’s apartheid is drastically shifting to one based on the truth: Palestinians have been victims of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, violence of all kinds and, now, a wave of genocidal killing in Gaza. People in the United States and around the world are horrified and mobilized on different fronts to show support for Palestine.”

The Palestinian Youth Movement also published a note highlighting the message sent by Bushnell’s protest. “By making the most extreme sacrifice a human being can make in support of a moral cause – giving up his own life – Aaron sent a message on behalf of the people of the United States and the world: that conscious people across the planet they will refuse, until their last breath, to be complicit in the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people,” the movement stated.

The statement concludes with “allow Aaron’s words and his final act to shine brightly in your minds. Let it propel and move us in continuing the struggle for a free Palestine now and until the moment of liberation.”

Iraq war veteran Mike Prysner wrote a tribute to Bushnell commenting on the crisis of conscience that many US military personnel face as part of a “killing institution”. In Prysner’s words, “The torment of Israeli barbarism has been an ordeal for all those with a conscience. For months, we have all been reeling in anger and hopelessness… For Bushnell, this also meant having to don the uniform of the institution that carries the weapons, provides tactical and strategic assistance to the genocide, as well as carries out the killing, with carrying out airstrikes in Yemen, Iraq and Syria against people we have no reason or right to kill.”

Prysner emphasized that “Bushnell saw the unvarnished truth: he was an accomplice in all this. The truth killed him. Pentagon bosses killed him. Joe Biden and the US Congress killed Aaron Bushnell.”

However, Prysner also recalled the historically crucial role of soldiers and veterans in organized opposition to wars and urged this group of Americans to speak out, through their refusal to participate in these actions, against their country’s complicity in the genocide perpetrated by Israel.

The campaign No Tech for Apartheid (No technology for apartheidin free translation), organized by employees of Google and Amazon against these companies’ contracts with the Israeli government and armed forces, released a statement highlighting the role of workers in the technology sector – such as Bushnell himself – in opposing the genocide.

“The US military deploys thousands of technology workers to Israel as military operations become increasingly driven by artificial intelligence. These operations are also powered by technology companies like Amazon and Google, which are enabling the Israeli military to carry out the world’s first genocide powered by the use of AI.” The campaign calls on technology workers to join the movement and refuse any collusion with the genocide.

In several US cities, pro-Palestinian and anti-war groups have organized vigils in honor of Bushnell. In the city of Washington, the vigil was held in front of the Israeli embassy where he self-immolated.

International repercussion

The relevance of Bushnell’s protest and the fact that an active-duty American soldier carried out such an extreme act in demonstration against the United States’ support for genocide shocked the world. The words “Washington”, “Aaron Bushnell” and “Free Palestine – the last thing he said – appeared in the trending topics on X (formerly Twitter) in countless countries.

Bushnell’s act was intensely shared in Yemen, a country where the population constantly mobilizes and participates in direct acts of solidarity with Gaza, following the example of the militants of the movement Ansar Allah [também conhecidos como “houthis”], who have blocked the Red Sea to prevent ships linked to Israel from passing through. In a post made by Yemeni doctor Ahmed Ali Alhareb on Platform X, he stated that Bushnell: “refused to be annihilated and do nothing. On the contrary, he took a practical step – self-immolation – and gave his soul to carry the message of refusal [à cumplicidade com o genocídio] to all corners of the world. From his position in the US military, Bushnell sent his message to the Arab and Muslim armed forces, who remain silent, that the fire of the world is easier than that of the Hereafter. There is no justification for anyone before God.”

The left-aligned Palestinian resistance group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine published a statement after the Bushnell protest, emphasizing that the act “confirms the feeling of anger among Americans regarding the country’s official involvement in the Zionist genocide in the Strip. Gaza. This also indicates that the status of the Palestinian cause, especially in American circles, is sinking deeper into the global consciousness, as well as revealing the truth about the Zionist entity as a cheap colonial weapon in the hands of savage imperialism.”

Many also drew a connection between the death of the young American soldier and the murder of his compatriot Rachel Corrie. In 2003, she died in the city of Rafah, Gaza, while trying to stop an excavator that was demolishing a Palestinian home.

At the beginning of Bushnell’s broadcast before self-immolation, his first words after introducing himself as an active soldier were: “I will no longer be an accomplice in genocide.” Many in the United States, including those who have been taking to the streets in pro-Palestine protest since October 7, 2023, have reached the same conclusion.

Source: www.brasildefato.com.br

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