U.S. Army Officer Resigns From Defense Intelligence Agency Over Gaza Policy

Maj. Harrison Mann's letter criticized the U.S. for still supporting Israel, "which has enabled and empowered the killing and starvation" of Palestinians.
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An active-duty officer with the U.S. Army publicly announced his resignation on Monday from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the service over the American government’s policy on Gaza ― the latest official to leave their post in protest of the Biden administration’s continued support for Israel’s military offensive in the Palestinian enclave.

Army Maj. Harrison Mann, who has specialized in the Middle East and Africa for about half of his 13-year military career, distributed his resignation letter internally on April 16 before deciding to publicly post a “lightly edited” version on LinkedIn this week in light of the continued U.S. support for Israel despite its recent invasion into Rafah.

“This office does not only inform policy. It facilitates, and, at times, directly executes policy,” Mann wrote in his letter addressed to colleagues at the Middle East/Africa Regional Center. “And the policy that has never been far from my mind for the past six months is the nearly unqualified support for the government of Israel, which has enabled and empowered the killing and starvation of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians.”

Since Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people and took about 250 hostage in Israel on Oct. 7, Israeli forces have killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, most of whom are women and children; displaced most of the Palestinian population; created a starvation crisis by blocking access to aid; bombed hospitals; detained and tortured men and boys; and targeted journalists, aid workers and health care officials. Those casualties do not include the violence also facing Palestinians in the West Bank by Israeli settlers and soldiers.

In his letter, Mann reflected on his own position at the DIA, and how he “has unquestionably contributed” to the unconditional U.S. support for Israel through his role in the military.

“The past months have presented us with the most horrific and heartbreaking images imaginable ― sometimes playing on the news in our own spaces ― and I have been unable to ignore the connection between those images and my duties here,” he wrote. “This caused me incredible shame and guilt.”

An image on the LinkedIn profile of Army Maj. Harrison Mann, who on Monday publicly announced his resignation from the military and the Defense Intelligence Agency over the U.S. government's continued support for Israel's 7-month-long bombardment of Gaza.
An image on the LinkedIn profile of Army Maj. Harrison Mann, who on Monday publicly announced his resignation from the military and the Defense Intelligence Agency over the U.S. government's continued support for Israel's 7-month-long bombardment of Gaza.
Maj. Harrison Mann

The Pentagon’s regional specialists like Mann can serve as defense attachés who diplomatically represent the military at U.S. embassies around the world. The attachés can also evaluate foreign powers’ requests for weapons and training, and recommend to the State Department whether providing military aid is both necessary and abides by U.S. human rights law.

Mann said in his letter that despite his internal conflict over Gaza, he continued to do his job without voicing his concerns ― hoping that Israel’s military campaign would soon be over, that a wave of public outrage would finally change the U.S. position on Israel, or that his individual contribution was insignificant and that it was not his place to question policy decisions.

But the major decided to make his resignation letter public after the State Department sent its highly-anticipated report to Congress on whether Israel is using U.S. military aid to break international and American human rights laws in Gaza. While the NSM-20 report from Friday says that it’s “reasonable” to assess that Israel is violating international law, it maintains that the country can continue receiving U.S. military support ― prompting lawmakers, human rights groups and activists to blast the Biden administration for its complicity in potential war crimes.

“As the descendant of European Jews, I was raised in a particularly unforgiving moral environment when it came to the topic of bearing responsibility for ethnic cleansing – my grandfather to ever purchase products manufactured in Germany – where the paramount importance of ‘never again’ and the inadequacy of ‘just following orders’ were oft-repeated,” Mann wrote in his letter.

“I am haunted by the knowledge that I have failed those principles,” he continued. “But I also have hope that my grandfather would afford me some grace; that he would still be proud of me for stepping away from this war, however belatedly.”

Mann’s resignation comes after Palestinian American and former Biden appointee Tariq Habash publicly resigned from the Department of Education earlier this year over the administration’s stance on Gaza. HuffPost also broke the news that former State Department official Josh Paul resigned in October, citing his opposition to the Biden administration’s policies of continuing to arm Israel during its military offensive in Gaza.

Mann’s exit is also not the only high-profile opposition from the U.S. military. In February, active-duty Air Force member Aaron Bushnell died after self-immolating outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., in protest of U.S. support for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. The 25-year-old airman livestreamed himself saying he “will no longer be complicit in genocide” before self-immolating and yelling “Free Palestine!”

“Each of us signed up to serve knowing we might have to support policies we weren’t fully convinced of. Our defense institutions couldn’t function otherwise,” Mann wrote in his letter. “However, at some point it became difficult to defend the outcomes of this particular policy. At some point – whatever the justification – you’re either advancing a policy that enables the mass starvation of children, or you’re not.”

Mann said that most of his team was already aware he planned to leave the Army “at some point,” but that his deep conflict with the military’s Gaza policy is what led him to submit his resignation on Nov. 1 and leave his assignment at the DIA early. It’s unclear when his separation from the military will be officially completed.

“The hardest part of the past six months was feeling totally alone – like I was the only one disturbed by the footage from Gaza. The only one who felt like a participant, not just a passive observer, in the destruction there. For six months, I never heard anyone speak about the war in those terms, ever. I felt like I was living in an alternate universe,” he wrote. “I now realize the obvious – if I was afraid to voice my concerns, you were too.”

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