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Army officer resigns in protest of U.S. support for Israel in Gaza

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Maj. Harrison Mann said he feels “incredible shame and guilt” to know his work at the Defense Intelligence Agency has contributed to Palestinians’ suffering and death. 

By Alex Horton and John Hudson, The Washington Post

Updated May 13, 2024 at 7:43 p.m. EDT|Published May 13, 2024 at 4:22 p.m. EDT

Israeli tanks in southern Israel near Rafah on Saturday, following operations in Gaza. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

A U.S. Army officer working at the Defense Intelligence Agency has resigned from the military, citing his objection to Israel’s war in Gaza, according to an open letter he published online Monday saying he is distressed that his work has contributed to the deaths of Palestinian civilians.

Maj. Harrison Mann posted his letter on the social networking site LinkedIn, where his work history shows experience as an analyst focused on the Middle East and Africa. His time at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) coincided with the Hamas attack on Israel last year and the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza, where local health authorities say more than 35,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the fighting began in early October and officials have warned of spreading famine.

U.S. support for Israel has included weaponry and intelligence.

“My work here — however administrative or marginal it appeared — has unquestionably contributed to that support,” Mann wrote in his letter. “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.”

“This unconditional support also encourages reckless escalation that risks wider war,” he wrote.

Middle East conflict 

Israeli tanks at a staging site in southern Israel near the border with Gaza on May 7. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

Israeli forces are advancing on the southern city of Rafah, aiming to destroy what Israeli officials have called the last significant Hamas stronghold in Gaza, at the same time thatIsrael and the militant group are again clashing in areas in the north.

Mann confirmed to The Washington Post his resignation and the authenticity of his letter, news of which was reported earlier by the New York Times, but he declined to comment further.

An Army spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Ruth Castro, said in a statement that Mann asked to resign in late November and received approval in early January. It will become effective June 3, she said.

The DIA, in a statement affirming that Mann was previously assigned to the agency, said, “Employee resignations are a routine occurrence at DIA as they are at other employers, and employees resign their positions for any number of reasons and motivation.”

Mann describes himself as a “transitioning Army officer” on his LinkedIn page.

President Biden’s management of the Gaza crisis has deeply divided U.S. personnel, prompting expressions of dissent across the government, but only a handful have resigned in protest.

At the State Department, officials have written multiple cables about Gaza in the agency’s dissent channel, a Vietnam War-era mechanism for internal protest, advocating a permanent cease-fire and restrictions on U.S. military support. Josh Paul, who worked at the State Department for more than a decade, resigned in October from his job processing weapons transfers, saying the decision to rush “more arms to one side of the conflict” was “shortsighted, destructive,” and “unjust.”

Annelle Sheline, a State Department fellow working on human rights issues, resigned in March, saying she couldn’t do her job anymore. “Trying to advocate for human rights just became impossible,” she said. In April, the State Department’s Arabic language spokesperson, Hala Rharrit, a long-serving U.S. diplomat, resigned in protest, expressing doubts about any career officials’ ability to influence U.S. policy. “No career Foreign Service officer could really effect any change,” she told The Post.

At the U.S. Agency for International Development, hundreds of employees endorsed a letter in November calling for the Biden administration to use its leverage to initiate a cease-fire. Other officials have challenged agency leaders during public events.

Mann distributed an earlier version of his letter April 16, he said in his LinkedIn post, as the Israeli military ramped up its plans to storm the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Biden administration officials have criticized that decision, saying a more limited and targeted operation was more appropriate, and that Israel had a responsibility to protect the 1.3 million Palestinians who took refuge there after fleeing from other parts of Gaza under Israeli orders.

That escalating operation appeared to propel Mann’s decision to publicize his letter.

“It is clear that this week, some of you will still be asked to provide support — directly or indirectly — to the Israeli military as it conducts operations into Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza,” he wrote in his post.

Mann said his reservations were manageable and that he had held out hope the war would end quickly or U.S. influence would change how Israel conducts its military campaign. He noted, too, that it is understood within the Defense Department that personnel sometimes must support something they did not personally endorse.

“At some point — whatever the justification — you’re either advancing a policy that enables the mass starvation of children, or you’re not,” he wrote. “And I want to clarify that 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.”

The Biden administration said in a report to Congress on Friday it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel violated international law using U.S. weapons in its military campaign in Gaza, but found there was insufficient information to draw a firm conclusion in any specific instances.

Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.


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