Aaron Bushnell’s Self-Immolation Protesting Gaza Genocide Was Courageous Act Of Moral Resistance

By Kary Love\PeaceVoice

Aaron Bushnell the 25-year-old USAF active duty member who set himself on fire to renounce “aiding and abetting genocide” in Gaza, was “one of the most principled comrades I’ve ever known” according to a friend who worked with him to support the homeless community in San Antonio, Texas.

 The moral courage of Airman Bushnell stands in sharp distinction to the many moral cowards, myself included, who seek ethical cover by “voting for the lesser of two evils” for Commander in Chief of the Empire’s War Machine. I was reading Fritz Thyssen’s book, “I Paid Hitler,” when I first learned of Bushnell’s manifest refusal to follow illegal, criminal, orders to aid and abet genocide in Gaza, a crime against humanity conducted on the ground by Israel but largely paid for by US taxpayers and supported by the US Air Force. 

Thyssen, owner of a German Bank and industrial factories, supported Hitler until 1939 when he realized Hitler was a primitive barbarian whose wars of aggression and genocidal murders would ultimately destroy Germany morally, legally, and financially, so he expatriated to Switzerland.

I pay for US wars of aggression with my tax dollars and feel the soul-crushing burden of my complicity. I can emphasize with U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Aaron Bushnell’s moral quandary, as Airman Bushnell declared to all the world: “I do not want to be complicit in the genocide of Gaza! Free Palestine!” As an active member of a self-proclaimed “civilized” military, Airman Bushnell was obligated to obey the law of war which includes the duty to refuse orders to commit war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. 

I do not know if Airman Bushnell had received orders to participate but it is reported that the US is quietly providing intelligence to Israel for targeting purposes in Gaza, deploying US Air Force “intelligence engagement officers on the ground,” according to a deployment order obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and published at the Intercept.

It is beyond dispute that the US is supplying weaponry for use in Gaza and that the International Court of Justice, reviewing the evidence, finds probable cause genocide is being committed. Thus, Airman Bushnell had reasonable cause to object to participation in the crime and substantial moral grounds for his repudiation of his nation’s descent into primitive barbarism.

Similar moral challenges were made to the US war of aggression in Vietnam, though the corporate controlled media of the US, a de facto “Ministry of Propaganda,” has attempted to excise those stories from our purged “history” of whitewash and myth. Not only Buddhist monks, but even US citizens self-immolated in protest of the slaughter in Vietnam. 

Far from being immoral, such suicide is reflective of Jesus of Nazareth’s moral triumph over the military Empire of Rome. Jesus was Himself a suicide: Jesus knew He was to be crucified should He not turn from the path of the Prophets.

Rather than save Himself, Jesus followed precisely the path of moral justice to the Golgotha, awakening a moral revulsion against the war makers that spread across humankind, giving hope that swords would one day be beaten into plowshares.

Abraham Lincoln no longer speaks for the Republican Party, nor possibly America, as the degeneracy into primitive violence has taken the nation by the throat from the Bully Pulpit down to the mass shootings in schools. This species of madness that infects the nation Airman Bushnell’s moral sacrifice disdains.

Lincoln’s humanitarian insight to consecrating the graves of those who died at Gettysburg appears to be fully applicable to the sacrifice of Aaron Bushnell and the consecration of his death outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C., a 4.3 miles walk from the Lincoln Memorial: 

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

It falls to us the living, the taxpaying, the enablers of violence, to finish the work Airman Bushnell nobly advanced and for which he gave the “last full measure of devotion”: the new birth of the rule of law and peace rather than genocide and war, so that Airman Bushnell did not die in vain. 

Airman Bushnell has triumphed over the primitive and exalted the moral potential within the human soul. From his honored example we must assume the task of repudiating the decline into the primitive, into the crimes once thought extirpated from the human condition with the end of World War II and the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo. 

Airman Bushnell’s courage and example gives hope to a new world renouncing war and violence. We should follow his example of resistance, each in our way, and by doing so, truly, significantly, and meaningfully, Thank him for his Consecrated Service.

Kary Love, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Michigan attorney who has defended nuclear resisters in court for decades.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *