US army official resigns over ‘unqualified’ US support for Israel’s war in Gaza

Major Harrison Mann decided to resign from the US Army after serving in it for 13 years over the United States’ handling of Israel’s war in Gaza.

The World

It’s rare for US military officers to resign in protest, but Army Major Harrison Mann decided he had to. Until yesterday, he worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency, specializing in the Middle East.

Former Army Maj. Harrison Mann resigned from the Defense Intelligence Agency to protest what he calls Washington’s “unqualified” support for Israel that he says has “enabled” the killing of Palestinian civilians.Courtesy of Harrison Mann

Mann served in the army for 13 years and is the first from the US military, the first from the intelligence community and the first Jewish US government official to resign over Israel’s war in Gaza.

“I think I, for better or worse, had a front row seat to everything that was happening in Gaza,” Mann said.

He submitted a request to resign last November, citing what he called “unqualified” US support for Israel that he says has “enabled” the killing of Palestinian civilians.

“The US support that me and my colleagues were definitely going to be a part of, was going to be unwavering, and essentially unlimited,” he said.

Harrison Mann was not free to discuss his decision until he left active duty on June 3. This is his first radio interview about his resignation.

Carolyn Beeler: Describe the moment when you decided that you could no longer, in good conscience, continue with your job.
US Army Major Harrison Mann: If you recall back to mid-October, I think Oct. 17, there was a lot of attention around an explosion at the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza that killed 100 plus Palestinians. You know, there were conflicting accusations of who was responsible. And the intelligence community put a lot of effort into investigating this event. And in the end, they determined that it was not Israel, it was a Palestinian militant group. When we correctly assessed that it was not the Israelis, everybody kind of patted themselves on the back, and that was the last time that we ever looked into Israelis bombing hospitals. Even though, in less disputed instances, they bombed several Palestinian hospitals that same month. And so, I kind of lost hope that normally controversial or legally questionable acts like bombing hospitals were going to be something that we objected to, on the US side, and realized that the US government was never going to seriously put the brakes on the Israeli operation.
You are Jewish. You describe in your resignation letter how you were raised in an environment that emphasized the importance of “never again” and the inadequacy of just following orders. Can you tell me more about how your upbringing influenced your decision to resign back in November?
Yeah, I’m Ashkenazi Jewish, European descent Jew. Most of my family originated in Eastern Europe at some point. You know, the Jewish experience, as they understood it, was that Jews were this victimized people in Europe, this unwanted population that was really tormented by whoever had the power to do so. I mean, I think everybody with my kind of background in the United States grows up with that understanding, which is accurate. You know, that was not my experience growing up in the United States. I felt very confident and safe being Jewish. You know, years later, I find myself in this job and there is another unwanted, marginalized people who is also suffering greatly and the people who are imposing that suffering or contributing to it was me and my colleagues and the people I work with helping make this happen. And that was a very difficult realization to come to and to admit to myself. And it’s very hard to live with now, but that revelation is what drove a lot of my decision-making. And it’s, in part, what’s driving me to keep speaking out about this now.
In your letter describing the reasons behind your resignation, you talk about shame and guilt. What were you doing in your job that you felt shameful or guilty about?
I did not have a very important or glamorous job, but I was part of the machine that was directly involved in supporting the Israeli military. It’s not hard for me to tie some of my actions a couple of steps down the chain reaction to stuff that happened in Gaza.
Former Army Maj. Harrison Mann resigned from the US military over the war in Gaza.Courtesy of Harrison Mann

Reactions to resignation

What happened to you after you resigned and described why you were leaving?
I was very afraid about what the reaction was going to be, which is why it took me so long to be honest about it with the people that I worked with. But the response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive from the people that I worked with. The day after I sent my letter to about 100 people who I worked with at the agency, about 15 reached back out. The general energy was gratitude, and they were happy that somebody had finally said something and that they felt similarly and didn’t feel comfortable talking about it and thought that they were alone, too, until I messaged.
Did you also get pushback from within the military or even in your private life?
Very little. A very limited number of people, I think, responded with anything that was not in agreement. And someone told me, “I really don’t agree with the position that you took, but I respect that you put yourself out there and spoke out about this.” There were a lot of people waiting to hear somebody talk about this, and I’m sure there are many folks who disagree with me or disagree with the way that I went about expressing my concerns, but they did not generally feel strong enough to bring that up with me.

Contentious topics

I wonder how much debate there is among US policymakers on the inside about American policy with regard to Israel and the war in Gaza. Is there a lot of contentious discussion about the role that the US is playing?
I worked below the National Security Council policymaker level, but I will just say in the institutions that I’m a part of, which was the intelligence community, Department of Defense and the uniformed military, we consider ourselves professionals who do not discuss contentious topics, do not discuss politics, or, in this case, do not discuss highly politicized topics. So, I think despite clearly a large number of people feeling the same way that I did, I don’t think in any of these spaces, there’s really widespread open discussion or debate about the merits of our support for this war the same way that you see maybe in the State Department, where they have a lot more open discussion and dissent cables and means like that.
Right. You’re referencing that the State Department has an internal dissent channel for people to share their honest opinions. Is there anything like that in the Pentagon?
Not that I’m aware of.
What do you hope to accomplish by resigning in this very public way?
I ultimately want at least [a] plurality or large number of people inside the national security and military workforce who are contributing to the mass killing in Gaza and know that it’s wrong, to understand that they are not alone, and to try and make them feel empowered to try and do more than nothing about it. I felt alone, I felt powerless. I discovered a lot of other people feel that way, but I want folks out there who are in my position, first of all, to understand the hard truth that if you feel like what you’re doing is wrong, I don’t think anybody else is going to pop out and tell you it’s time to stop. Because I waited for that moment for a very long time and it did not happen. I hope I’m proven wrong, but I don’t expect it. But, with that, I want everyone to understand that it is not too late to behave in a way that you can look back on and be proud of.

A widening conflict

Major Mann, Israeli leaders say that they are going after Hamas to make Israel more secure. The stated mission of Hamas is to eradicate the state of Israel. And, of course, there were the horrific attacks on Oct. 7 that kicked off this violence. What would you have Israel do differently to be waging this war in a way that you would feel more comfortable with?
If you look at this conflict purely from the perspective of what is best for the Israeli people — which is not the government that I worked for, to be clear — you would see that they have made themselves incredibly less safe with their conduct of the war, which is now spread to, I think, 5 or 6 countries, many of them shooting projectiles or trying to shoot projectiles into Israel. I think if the Israeli military had visibly actually been targeting Hamas leadership, and if they had stated a realistic and achievable goal for their operation, it would be much easier to support, and it would be much better for Israel in terms of not drawing all of the international condemnation and isolation that they’ve achieved from this operation. If your goal is to defeat an organization whose ideology is hating Israel, bombing everyone’s grandma is probably not the best way to do it.
Major Mann, I can hear that you’re speaking very carefully, choosing your words very carefully, and maybe that’s just the way you always speak, but I’m wondering if you are nervous about speaking out about this, or are very carefully choosing how you talk about this?
I think I would really like to reach a broad group of people, especially people who consider themselves national security professionals. There’s a lot of conversation over whether or not this is a genocide, and that goes into legalistic arguments that I’m not really qualified to evaluate. I feel I am qualified to make an assessment that it is wrong to help kill and starve tens of thousands of children, which is something that I can say that I did and something that my friends and former colleagues are still being asked to do.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Click the blue player above to listen to the entire discussion.

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