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“I will no longer be complicit in genocide”, Aaron Bushnell’s last words

On February 25, 2024, Aaron Bushnell, an active member of the U.S. Air Force, perished after self-immolating in front of the Embassy of Israel located in Washington, D.C. Upon receiving orders for deployment to Israel, Bushnell realised that he could soon find himself complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people at the hands of Israel and the United States.


As an act of protest, Bushnell decided to livestream on Twitch and declared, "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's not extreme at all." While dousing himself with flammable liquid and attempting to set himself on fire, Bushnell declared, "I will no longer be complicit in genocide." As the flames engulfed him, Bushnell shouted, "Free Palestine!"


He was confronted by Secret Service officers, one of whom aimed a gun at him. Users on X, previously known as Twitter, have highlighted the irony of a police officer, whose duty is to protect people, aiming his weapon at a man who is only harming himself. Many are outraged at this officier for not helping Bushnell. However, this situation has caused people to question whom the police are meant to protect. 


According to CrimethInc, which has published Bushnell's will and testimonials from friends and family, Bushnell stated, "I wish for my remains to be cremated. If a time comes when Palestinians regain control of their land, and if the indigenous people are open to the possibility, I would love for my ashes to be scattered in a free Palestine."


Bushnell was not only protesting the genocide of the Palestinian people, which has claimed over 30,000 lives, but also the role of the U.S. military in this genocide by providing Israel with resources and refusing to call for a ceasefire. In his will, Bushnell stated, "The machine demands blood."


The video of Bushnell's protest has spread across all social media platforms as people begin to debate whether his act will have significance and effect change, but Bushnell’s action will not be forgotten or disregarded. People have begun to protest more across the nation, and protest art is being spread across social media platforms. One X user, Bad_Idea70, called Bushnell, “The new symbol of freedom,” and shared an AI-generated photo of a man engulfed in flames wearing a military uniform alongside a photo of the Statue of Liberty.


Many critics label Bushnell's act as "extremist" and "an act of mental illness." This raises the question of why standing up for the right thing is perceived as a mental illness and further criticizes the US military. If Bushnell was indeed mentally ill, were they going to deploy a person with mental illness to war? Bushnell’s sacrifice highlights the problems within the US military and exposes the numerous flaws within the system.


The United States has put themselves in a difficult position with this situation. If they acknowledge that Bushnell was mentally ill, it would raise serious questions about their military recruitment and deployment practices, specifically why they would send someone with mental illness into combat. On the other hand, the entire country, political system, and army would be seen as contemptible if they acknowledge Bushnell’s claims, conceding to complicity in genocide.


In response to these accusations, a friend of Bushnell's states on CrimethInc, "On the contrary, Aaron's choice was a political action arising from his deeply held anarchist convictions." Bushnell's actions were fuelled by his strong belief in the rights and freedom of the Palestinian people.


Bushnell's close friends and family urge people to contemplate his sacrifice and protest as a call to action. Bushnell's friend, Moon, states on CrimethInc, "I would like to draw attention to the risk that many of us face in the imperial core: complacency."


Moon highlights the role we all play in becoming complacent: "We organize in the streets, get ignored, and then become complacent and further complicit." By not educating ourselves on Palestine, we are complicit in the genocide taking place against them. By not educating the people around us, we make it easier for corrupt governments to wage wars paid for by the people's tax dollars and blood. By exercising our rights to speak out on what is right, to speak about the lives being viciously taken, we keep the momentum going in the protest against the ongoing genocide.

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