Statement by ANSWER National Director Brian Becker on the Self-Immolation of U.S. Airman Aaron Bushnell at the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C.

The decision by U.S. Airman Aaron Bushnell to set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy while condemning the U.S.-backed Israeli genocide being carried out against the people of Gaza was a desperate act designed to arouse public outrage. He made the ultimate personal sacrifice to end a genocide that the entire world has been witnessing for the past months. 

This was an act of martyrdom by a U.S. service member who was outraged by the actions of a government that speaks in his name. Aaron said as he set himself on fire, “I will not be complicit with genocide”. 

His actions cannot but remind one of the self-immolation of 22 year-old anti-war activist Norman Morrison, who doused himself in kerosene and set himself on fire below the office of then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at the Pentagon to protest the escalating genocidal war waged by the United States against the people of Vietnam. Six months before Norman Morrison took his own life, president Lyndon Johnson had authorized the mass use of napalm against the people of Vietnam and escalated the carpet bombing that was killing thousands of civilians each week. Morrison’s act was also in line with the self-immolation protests carried out by Buddhist monks in South Vietnam to protest the South Vietnamese puppet government. Daniel Ellsberg witnessed Norman Morrison’s self-immolation. He was horrified and cited it, along with the mass anti-war protests sweeping the country, as one of the factors that affected him deeply as he moved into active opposition to the war. He ultimately released the Pentagon Papers to the media, which revealed that the U.S. government had been lying about the Vietnam War for a decade. 

People all over the United States, in the millions, have been involved in mass actions to protest the U.S. support for Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people in recent months. People have also engaged in civil disobedience actions of many types. Many have been arrested and are facing trial, including many whose constitutional rights were violated by violent police repression. 

Aaron Bushnell’s action is a reflection, an indicator, a marker, of the profound change in consciousness in the United States. The previously dominant narrative that backed the Israeli apartheid government is dramatically giving way to a narrative based on the truth: that the Palestinian people have been the victims of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, violence of all types and now a genocidal killing spree in Gaza. And people in the United States and around the world are horrified and are mobilizing on multiple fronts in support of Palestine. 

Aaron Bushnell’s sacrifice takes place on the eve of a planned invasion of Rafah by the Israeli military. People all over the United States are coming together on March 2nd for mass actions in cities and towns across the United States as part of a global day of protest demanding no invasion of Rafah, a ceasefire to end the Israeli killing spree and the lifting of the siege of Gaza.

We send our sympathy and solidarity to Aaron Bushnell's family and loved ones. He has made the ultimate sacrifice in a quest for justice and in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine. 

Brian Becker,
National Director, ANSWER Coalition

follow us

get updates