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What Aaron Bushnell Had To Teach Us

Above photo: Aaron Bushnell.

Aaron Bushnell was desperate for the world to know what was happening to the people of Gaza.

So much so that he died by his own hand, publicly, and in a painful way. But Palestinians are dying painfully and publicly and all because of decisions made by the U.S. and Israel. Aaron Bushnell presente!

“My name is Aaron Bushnell, I am an active-duty member of the United States Air Force and I will no longer be complicit in genocide. I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it is not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.”
Aaron Bushnell’s video statement before he self-immolated at the Israeli embassy in Washington

On December 1, 2023 an as yet unknown person self-immolated outside of the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia. It is strange that no one was ever publicly identified, that no name, age, or gender was ever revealed. There were no follow-up stories as to their condition or whether any criminal charges were filed against them. The public hasn’t been informed as to this person’s current whereabouts.

We only know that this person was taken to the hospital in critical condition and that a security guard who tried to extinguish the flames was himself burned, treated at a hospital, and later released. Police chief Darin Schierbaum labeled the incident, “Extreme political protest,” but no other information was given. It appears that Atlanta media, law enforcement, and the Black plantation overseers wanted that person to be disappeared, and unfortunately, they succeeded.

The entire world has been in protest against the U.S. and Israeli war crimes being carried out in Gaza. As they did in Atlanta, the corporate media discredit any action that exposes the ongoing genocide. Even after the Republic of South Africa brought charges of genocide against Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the media still worked hard to hide and to obfuscate on behalf of the state. The ICJ declared the genocide charge “plausible” but the misleading New York Times headline read in part, “The top United Nations court in The Hague did not rule on whether Israel was committing genocide in Gaza .”

The New York Times and other media are still up to their old tricks. Along with the Washington Post, Reuters, and CNN they reported on the death by self-immolation of Aaron Bushnell without mentioning the words Palestine, Gaza, or genocide. On February 25, 2024, Bushnell, a cyber defense operations specialist with the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron, self-immolated at the Israeli embassy in Washington. He set up his phone to record dousing himself with a flammable liquid, lighting a match, and yelling, “Free Palestine” repeatedly until he collapsed.

Unlike the still-unknown protester in Atlanta Bushnell identified himself in a social media post with this statement. “Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?’ The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now.”

The corporate media either buried the entire story outright, or they questioned Bushnell’s mental health without reporting on why he and millions of other people around the world feel so strongly about the plight of the people of Gaza. Self-immolation as a form of protest is not new. Both Vietnamese and Americans used the same tactic to protest the U.S. war against the people of Vietnam.

When the protest is one which fits U.S. state narratives, it is applauded, as happened in the case of Russian journalist Irina Slavina . Barack Obama compared Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi to Rosa Parks and to the founding fathers too. Bouazizi’s death helped make the case for the so-called Arab Spring, which Obama turned into a campaign of conquest against Libya and an attempt to destroy Syria as well. Apparently, there are deserving self-immolators and then again those who are to be dismissed.

It is difficult to wrap our heads around intentional death by burning, but it should be equally difficult to accept war crimes and genocides carried out with our money and in our collective name. We must also ask about other suicides carried out on behalf of the state. All over the world, young people are propagandized into dying for corrupt causes and lauded if they come home in a coffin. Those that survive are thanked for their “service.”

Questions about mental health shouldn’t focus solely on Bushnell. What about the mental health of those carrying out the Gaza war crime? Joe Biden tells lies about beheaded babies and claims to have conflicts with Israeli leadership when he continues to give them money and weapons. Are those behaviors sane? What about members of Congress? They are either true believers in the bloody cause or they are cynical or cowardly and go along. Perhaps we should question their mental health.

Unfortunately, we do not know what pushed Bushnell to take this final act. Was it the realization that the Air Force was assisting Israel in targeting civilians in Gaza? Was he ordered to be involved directly? We will never know, but millions of people are alternately enraged and numbed by state-sanctioned killing or by the killing of humanity by greedy and corrupt people as the planet sets warming records every year and sea levels continue to rise.

The last indignity that Bushnell suffered is that the state was posed to kill him even as he killed himself. A Secret Service officer, tasked with protecting foreign embassies, stood over his burning body with a gun as another said, “I don’t need a gun. I need fire extinguishers.”

We must all be revolutionary in our acts, and be in solidarity with others so that we may discover how to take action. As Bushnell said, the ruling class has decided that all manner of suffering should be considered normal. We have to say that war and planetary destruction and poverty and state terror are not normal and that the people who carry out atrocities are not normal. The mass of humanity is quite sane but is ruled by the insane and that is what Bushnell wanted us all to know.

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