Aaron Bushnell: No sacrifice greater than laying down his life

Ogunsakin Mustapha
9 Min Read
Aaron Bushnnel

By Owei Lakemfa

JUST 25. I mean Aaron Bushnell, a soldier of humanity. Inside his United States Air Force uniform, he wore the conscience of sacrifice for a people he may never have met. He was trained by the most powerful military in the world to obey the last order. But he was not going to obey the order of the US Commander-in-Chief, President Joe Biden, an elderly grandfather making excuses for the continuous massacre of Palestinian babies and children, even in hospitals where they seek medical care. As a principled soldier, the last order Bushnell was willing to obey, was that of his conscience.

He was not going to sit by, watching genocide visited on a people, not by aliens, but by their neighbours whose past knew genocide. He was not going to be part of an establishment which at every turn and corner, blocked the urgent ceasefire, necessary to save tens of thousands of lives. As a soldier, he knew that unless decisive steps are taken, these figures would easily climb to hundreds of thousands sent to avoidable early graves.

What greater love can a human have than to sacrifice his life for others? On Sunday, February 25, 2024, at approximately 12:58pm local time, the Development Operations engineer of the United States Air Force, donned the uniform of his service and walked smartly to the Israeli Embassy. As he did so, he said: “…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, in the hands of their colonisers, is not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.”

When he got to the embassy gates, he doused himself in inflammable liquid and set himself ablaze, shouting continuously: “Free Palestine! Free Palestine!! Free Palestine!!!”

Aaron Bushnnel

As a first responder security man tried to put off the flames, rather than help, an obvious secret service agent, merely trained his gun at the burning Bushnell. This prompted the former to shout: “I don’t need guns, I need fire extinguisher!” In this brief moment, we see two species of human beings: a conscientious one, intent on saving life, and a conscienceless secret service agent ready to shoot a dying man engulfed in flames.

The flames that extinguished the life of young Bushnell were in the United States, but they were seen all over the world. They were flames of love for humanity. It was a symbolic act, but worth far more than the combined rhetoric of those sitting in the White House, Downing Street, Elysee Palace, Bellevue Palace or the comfortable chambers of the United Nations.

I will not put it past people who have lost their humanity, to claim that Bushnell was a psychiatric case. Such persons cannot understand how a person could sacrifice his life this way. Their Biblical progenitors would have blamed Jesus Christ for needlessly losing his life for the helpless and defenceless, and standing up against the Israeli establishment.

This explains why US Secret Service Spokesperson, Joe Routh, told the press that the security services responded to what appeared as “an individual that was experiencing a possible medical/mental health emergency”. But it was not Bushnell that was in a mental health emergency, it is the millions of human beings that stand by watching genocide perpetrated before their very eyes.

I had thought that after colonial Germany from 1904 to 1907 wiped out half of the Namibian people; the Turks between 1915 and 1923 exterminated 1.5 million Armenians; Hitlerite Germany, exterminated six million Jews; Belgium under Leopold II massacred 15 million Congolese; and the 1994 Rwandan genocide, humanity would never again allow genocide. But with one going on today in the Palestine, I am convinced that a large section of humankind has lost its soul.

Amongst those who remain human, is Netherlands Deputy Ambassador, Angelique Eijpe. She, after 21 years in service, including in Gaza, resigned in protest against the Dutch government’s support for the genocide in the Palestine. She tried to dialogue with government officials under Prime Minister Mark Rutte, but failed. She participated in weekly sit-ins by civil servants of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, expressing dissent against the government’s policies in the Palestine. But little or nothing was achieved. So, Eijpe decided to resign.

She said of her resignation letter: “I wrote about the moral standing we have lost in the Netherlands. For example, the government has refused to define what’s going on as war crimes or potential war crimes. We have abstained twice in the UN General Assembly where it comes to voting for a cease-fire. We are here in The Hague, the capital of peace and justice, and our credibility has really suffered an extreme blow. Some civil servants in the US and Europe are taking a stand against their governments’ support for Israel’s war in Gaza. Several have resigned because they no longer feel able to implement government policies they disagree with.”

One of the most courageous steps taken by a country to stop this genocide was that by South Africa under President Cyril Ramaphosa. Where the Apartheid Zionists in Israel were being protected by the US and some European countries, South Africa dragged a yelling Israel to the International Court of Justice. The international court in January 2024 gave an interim ruling ordering Israel to stop its acts of genocide, including the wilful destruction of hospitals and homes, and allow humanitarian assistance to be provided the civil populace. But like an international outlaw protected by a powerful mafia, Israel has continued to ignore the ruling and common sense.

Bushnnel’s sacrifice reminds me of that by John Brown who on Sunday October 16, 1859, decided to strike a blow for enslaved Black peoples who were regarded as no higher than mules. Brown lost his two sons in that battle while he himself was captured.

The seriously injured Brown was brought to court in a stretcher and sentenced within one week. But he scored a moral victory over the lynch mob that tried him and the establishment that put them in place. On being sentenced to death, he told the court: “I see a book kissed here which is the Bible, and which teaches me all things; that I would have men do unto me, so must I do unto them. I endeavoured to act up to that instruction. I fought for the poor; and I say I was right.” History proved the saintly John Brown right. That same history, will prove Aaron Bushnnel right.

May his soul rest in power.

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