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Army officer resigns after being ‘haunted’ by US support for Gaza’s ‘ethnic cleansing’

Major Harrison Mann's departure marks first public high-profile resignation of US military officer and member of intelligence community
Palestinians check the rubble of a residential building destroyed in an Israeli strike in al-Zawayda in central Gaza Strip, on 11 May 2024 (AFP)

A US Army officer has publicly resigned from the Department of Defense in protest against the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza.

Major Harrison Mann said he resigned from the Department of Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) over the “nearly unqualified support” the US has provided Israel “which has enabled and empowered the killing and starvation of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians [in Gaza]". 

In a resignation letter posted on LinkedIn on Monday, Mann, who resigned on 1 November, explained to colleagues the reason for his “abrupt departure” from the agency.

“At some point…you’re either advancing a policy that enables [the] mass starvation of children, or you’re not,” he wrote. “I know that I did, in my small way, wittingly advance that policy.”

Mann served as a US Army officer for 13 years, with a posting as a security cooperation officer at the US embassy in Tunis.

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Following his stint in Tunisia, he served as a Middle East intelligence analyst at DIA, and most recently as an “executive officer” at the agency’s Middle East and Africa centre, according to his LinkedIn account.

Mann’s departure is the first time a US Army officer and member of the intelligence community has publicly resigned in protest against US support for Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Department of State has seen two public resignations over the Biden administration’s Gaza policy, the most high-profile of which was the departure of Josh Paul, a former director overseeing US arms transfers.

Annelle Sheline, a foreign affairs officer on a two-year contract with the State Department, also resigned in March.

Mann acknowledged the junior role he played at DIA, noting that his work may have appeared “administrative or marginal".

“The past months have presented us with the most horrific and heartbreaking images imaginable…and I have been unable to ignore the connection between those images and my duties here. This caused me incredible shame and guilt.”

'Living an alternate universe'

Mann cited his European Jewish ancestry, saying he was “haunted” by what he believed was his failure to live up to the“unforgiving moral environment when it came to the topic of bearing responsibility for ethnic cleansing”.

Mann is not the first member of the US military to protest against US support for Israel.

In February, Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old US Air Force serviceman, self-immolated outside Israel's embassy in Washington DC as he screamed "Free Palestine," in protest against the Biden administration's Gaza policy. He later died of his injuries.

Aaron Bushnell: The US air man who shouted 'Free Palestine' before lighting himself on fire
Read More »

However, Mann’s letter is notable because he lays out how he wrestled with the notion of military duty and respect for senior officers with his personal opposition to US support for Israel.

“I told myself, I don’t make policy and it’s not my place to question it,” he said, adding that he was sure some colleagues would “feel betrayed”.

He described an environment where few colleagues spoke out about the war in Gaza and US support for Israel. “I felt like I was living in an alternate universe.

“I now realize the obvious - if I was afraid to voice my concerns, you were too,” he wrote.

Middle East Eye contacted Mann for comment on this article but didn't receive a reply by the time of publication.

Mann’s resignation letter comes as US and Israeli defence ties are under intense scrutiny, with President Biden threatening to withhold offensive arms from Israel over Rafah.

On Friday, the Biden administration released a report stating that there are reasonable grounds to believe Israel used American-supplied weapons "inconsistent" with international humanitarian law but stopped short of issuing a final judgement.

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