Radical Media - by Maajid Nawaz
Active Duty US Air Force Aaron Bushnell Dies After Setting Himself Ablaze Outside Israeli Embassy in Protest at "Gaza Genocide"

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Active Duty US Air Force Aaron Bushnell Dies After Setting Himself Ablaze Outside Israeli Embassy in Protest at "Gaza Genocide"



At the top of this Newszine, Resistance Radio presents our WARRIOR CREED podcast from yesterday Tuesday 27th February 2024, with a transcript provided: Active Duty US Air Force Aaron Bushnell Dies After Setting Himself Ablaze Outside Israeli Embassy in Protest at "Gaza Genocide."

Caution: this hour long podcast contains a 43 second graphic depiction of self-immolation.

This podcast is for premium members of Radical Media only. To listen, basic members should upgrade to the premium service here:

The rest of this Newszine is the write-up of our topic and is provided free. Read On.


Active Duty US Air Force Aaron Bushnell Dies After Setting Himself Ablaze Outside Israeli Embassy in Protest at "Gaza Genocide"

CAUTION: this Newszine contains a graphic depiction of self-immolation.

- A Radical Dispatch

Active duty US Air Force serviceman Aaron Bushnell (25) has tragically succumbed to his wounds after setting himself ablaze outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC. Bushnell was protesting what he labelled an ongoing genocide in Gaza.

The Times of London reports Monday February 26 2024:

Taking a surprisingly neutral tone, CNN has covered the story - click to play:

CNN Host: “We're learning new details today about a deadly protest outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Authorities identified Aaron Bushnell as the person who, on Sunday, set himself on fire. The 25-year-old was an active duty member of the US Air Force. CNN's Gabe Cohen joins us now with the details. And Gabe, this is something that he did in protest?”

CNN correspondent: “Yeah, that's correct. And we're learning much more about this 25-year-old active duty airman, Aaron Bushnell, as you mentioned. He's from San Antonio, Texas, and he livestreamed his actions on Sunday in broad daylight on the streets of DC outside the Israeli Embassy. We’re not going to show that video. It is extremely graphic and disturbing. I have watched the video. I can tell you at the beginning, at the start of it, you can see Bushnell walking up to the embassy on the street in his military fatigues. He is speaking calmly to the camera. I wanna read a portion of what he says.

He said, quote, ‘I will no longer be complicit in genocide. I'm about to engage in an extreme act of protest. But compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonisers, it is not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.’

He then goes on to pour some sort of accelerant, it looks like, on his head out of a water bottle he was carrying and then he lights himself on fire Boris, and as the flames engulf him you can hear him yelling ‘free Palestine’, ‘free Palestine’, again and again until finally he collapses and that is when officers you can see them race in one of them with a fire extinguisher in their hands trying to put out the flames, but it takes time and as we have learned Bushnell died in the hospital at some point later on. And look it really speaks to the tensions that are continuing to escalate around the war in Gaza not just across the world but here in the United States. We saw a similar incident in December when someone self-immolated - lit themselves on fire - outside an Israeli consulate in Atlanta but this feels different, this is an active duty member of the military burning himself to death on the streets of the nations capital.”

CNN host: “OK Cohen, thanks so much for the details, appreciate it.”

Most news sites decided not to show the video of Bushnell burning to death, but we at Radical Media have viewed the protest video and have decided to provide it for our members.

This is because the manner of Bushnell’s protest, and his determination - even while burning to death - to repeatedly scream ‘Free Palestine, Free Palestine’ as he remained standing on his feet until his last moments, begs the question: what could possibly have driven such determined conviction and self-sacrifice as protest?

Our own reflections upon seeing Bushnell’s desperate final act, and the ensuing conversation, would presumably be the best way to honour Bushnell. One imagines that he took his own life precisely so that we may speak about why he did so. And to ask why must include an understanding of the sheer determination on display in Bushnell’s final livestream.

Before that, it is important to consider the below reflection of a social media user:

The post is correct. It should be considered mental illness to justify the deaths of over 15,000 children as somehow strategic.

As for self-harming to raise awareness around extreme acts of tyranny against innocents, this will obviously contain elements of sub-optimal mental health and depression. But depression triggered by what? Disturbingly for the rest of us, Aaron Bushnell would argue that it was depression brought on by his own US Armed Forces “complicity in genocide”.

Graphic warning: this video is a 43 second graphic depiction of active duty US airforce serviceman Aaron Bushnell’s self-immolation as an extreme act of protest.

Many observers have noted the reaction of one of the guards at the Israeli embassy who did not stop aiming his weapon at Bushnell, even as he lay burning to death in a heap of flames on the floor. The other guards present were understandably more concerned with putting the flames out.

As shocking as all of this may be for many, such forms of desperate protest have centuries of long history. More memorably, the Arab Uprisings were sparked by street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolating in Tunisia

Also touching on modern American history is the self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc in Saigon in 1963 during the Vietnam War to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the US-backed South Vietnamese government. Several other monks followed his example. 

Time Magazine reports 26th February 2024:

Quang Duc sat still as he was engulfed in flame.Malcolm Browne–AP

Indeed anti-war protests, even by active duty US service personnel, are not uncommon in recent times.

Commentators should remember these examples of the Arab Uprisings and anti-Vietnam protests, before rushing to simplistic media condemnations of Aaron Bushnell as a ‘left wing extremist’ or ‘mentally ill’ person. Neither of these two descriptions fully satisfy the inquisitive mind as to what motivates extreme acts of self-harming altruism.

Just as was the case in Tunisia and Vietnam, the desperation of wanting to draw attention to prolonged yet ignored human suffering, while being unable to attract such attention via conventional means, is almost certainly an underlying factor. So what is the nature of this prolonged yet ignored human suffering that Aaron Bushnell was pointing us towards?

The sad fact is that since November 2023 President Biden has mandatorily deployed the US Airforce to participate in Netanyahu’s war ethnic cleansing of Gaza.

This is why Bushnell used the term “complicit” in his protest.

The Intercept reports 11th January 2024:

TARGETING INTELLIGENCE — The information used to conduct airstrikes and fire long-range artillery weapons — has played a central role in Israel’s siege of Gaza. A document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act suggests that the U.S. Air Force sent officers specializing in this exact form of intelligence to Israel in late November…

..on November 21, the U.S. Air Force issued deployment guidelines for officers, including intelligence engagement officers, headed to Israel. Experts say that a team of targeting officers like this would be used to provide satellite intelligence to the Israelis for the purpose of offensive targeting

…’They’re probably targeting people, targeting officers,’ Lawrence Cline, who served as an intelligence engagement officer in Iraq before retirement, told The Intercept.

..The Israeli military intentionally strikes Palestinian civilian infrastructure, known as ‘power targets,’ in order to ‘create a shock,’ according to an investigation by the Israeli news website +972 Magazine. Targets are generated using an artificial intelligence system known as ‘Habsora,’ Hebrew for ‘gospel.’

‘Nothing happens by accident,’ an Israeli military intelligence source told +972 Magazine. ‘When a 3-year-old girl is killed in a home in Gaza, it’s because someone in the army decided it wasn’t a big deal for her to be killed — that it was a price worth paying in order to hit [another] target. We are not Hamas. These are not random rockets. Everything is intentional. We know exactly how much collateral damage there is in every home’.

Clearly, whatever Aaron Bushnell knew of the US Airforce’s (USAF) own actions in Gaza was so disturbing to him that he felt the need to decry his and their complicity by burning himself alive and repeatedly screaming ‘Free Palestine’.

Here are President Biden’s mandatory US Air Force deployment guidelines for Israel - click through for access to full document:

This warrants further and urgent media scrutiny into the USAF’s role in Gaza.

Bushnell was clearly pointing to his concern that what US airforce personnel are being ordered to participate in over the skies of Gaza is so indefensible that simply ‘following orders’ won’t cut it.

Perhaps most dystopian and concerning is the ongoing Israeli use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems to determine civilian death.

The Israeli news magazine +972 reports 30th November 2023:

The Israeli army’s expanded authorization for bombing non-military targets, the loosening of constraints regarding expected civilian casualties, and the use of an artificial intelligence system to generate more potential targets than ever before, appear to have contributed to the destructive nature of the initial stages of Israel’s current war on the Gaza Strip..

..the Israeli military command knowingly approved the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in an attempt to assassinate a single top Hamas military commander. ‘The numbers increased from dozens of civilian deaths [permitted] as collateral damage as part of an attack on a senior official in previous operations, to hundreds of civilian deaths as collateral damage,’ said one source.

..The result of these policies is the staggering loss of human life in Gaza since October 7. Over 300 families have lost 10 or more family members in Israeli bombings in the past two months — a number that is 15 times higher than the figure from what was previously Israel’s deadliest war on Gaza, in 2014. At the time of writing, around 15,000 Palestinians have been reported killed in the war, and counting.

Bushnell’s final and desperate act should therefore draw attention to the human suffering that lies at the other end of the sanitised AI screen and detached authorisations of those who sit dislocated from the very real human consequences of their decisions on the ground.

This is what Gaza looks like every day.

Bushnell was not the first to have attempted to place Palestinian lives above their own American life. In March 2003 Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while attempting to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the West Bank.

Yet despite all this, Time magazine would like you to know that what Aaron Bushnell did was against the rules.

Time Magazine reports 26th February 2024:

Perhaps Time magazine would prefer that US airforce personnel continue to simply ‘follow orders’ in such circumstances? Clearly, anti-genocide protestors would not care for such rules in such circumstances.

A vigil was organised in the place of Bushnell’s death by protest.

If what Aaron Bushnell did is to achieve anything at all, it should be to force us all to ask his below question to ourselves, of ourselves:

May you rest in peace, soldier.

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