On Feb. 26 Senior Airman Aaron Bushnell, 25, a cyber defense operations specialist with the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron reportedly died from injuries sustained in a brutal and unusual way. Most Americans mourn the death of any service member. I hope he is mourned as well. He made a tragic sacrifice for a higher ideal. Bushnell set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC to protest the continuing atrocious assault of Israeli forces on Gaza. As an experienced airman and defense expert, he probably had a pretty clear insight into what the current Israeli bombing would do on the ground. Reuters reports him as saying in a final statement, "I will no longer be complicit in genocide."

In 1963, Buddhist monks in Vietnam chose to sacrifice themselves in the same way. Their self immolations helped focus the world on the tragedy then occurring in Vietnam. Their acts helped change the trajectory of that conflict. I sincerely hope that the death of Aaron Bushnell will do the same for the ongoing carnage in Gaza. 

True to usual form, Israel keeps trying to direct everyone’s attention to the singular events of October 7th. The actions of Hamas (and various other groups on that day) were truly appalling, Almost everyone has acknowledged that time and again. 

What is of much greater concern at this point is the nature and scale of Israel’s response. Israel desperately wants to make everyone look away from that reality and dismiss it. The truth is, of the 1139 people allegedly killed by Hamas, reporting suggests that about 20% were killed by “friendly” (Israeli) fire. That number seems to hold true of Israeli operations in Gaza itself.  Given that Israel has mandatory national service for both men and women, a lot of the Israeli victims were not truly “civilians” either. That holds true for the hostages as well. 

On the other side, almost 33,000 Palestinians have been killed (about 300 a day for 6 months) mostly (by a large margin) civilians. Over 17,000 were children. About 80,000 have been seriously wounded. There is no longer a single functional hospital in Gaza. Doctors are limited to performing first aid. Months ago, reports suggested that thousands of amputations had already been performed. There were also reports that doctors had been reduced to performing operations without anesthetic and were using vinegar as a substitute for antiseptic. This is barbaric. 

CNN recently reports that Israeli PM Netanyahu told visiting American lawmakers that the defeat of Hamas was just weeks away. What bizarre fantasy land is he living in? He made that same claim months ago: “There is light at the end of the tunnel,” and we are “about to turn a corner.” He claimed that Israeli forces had killed the number 3 and 4 in Hamas and would soon get 1 and 2. So what? They will just promote the next guy (who might be worse than today’s guy).

Even US defense secretary Lloyd Austin told Netanyahu that their strategy was going nowhere.  I believe airman Aaron Bushnell saw the same truth. He had the courage to act to expose the brutal truth. I believe it was the best in him that moved him to his extraordinary act. It is tragic when the best in us moves us to such acts of desperation. 

Many Americans seem to truly believe that Israel is a great ally of the US. That is no longer true. Israel’s current policy does irreparable harm to the US. It doesn’t help Israel either. It is now high time for the US to part ways with Israel. America’s founding fathers warned us about “entangling foreign alliances.” America’s relationship with Israel has become a cultish kind of idol: a golden calf we must all bow down to. That is not healthy. That is what an “entangling alliance” is. During WWII, Russia and China were staunch US allies. A few years later, they were mortal enemies. When national interests no longer match up, it is time for a change. I sincerely hope that the sacrifice of our airman helps bring this truth home. The US should cut off all military and diplomatic aid to Israel. I hope local readers will call their representatives and urge them to do that. Then Mr. Bushnell’s sacrifice will not have been in vain. 

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