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Pentagon intelligence officer resigned over US support for war in Gaza

US Army Maj. Harrison Mann is the first Defense Department official to have publicly linked his resignation to US support for Israel's war in Gaza war.
The Pentagon is seen from a flight taking off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on November 29, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia.

WASHINGTON — A US Army officer with the Pentagon's main intelligence agency revealed on Monday that he had submitted his resignation in protest of what he described as the unjust nature of US support for Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip, saying he felt he played a role in “advancing a policy that enables the mass starvation of children.”

US Army Maj. Harrison Mann of the Defense Intelligence Agency published a letter on LinkedIn describing the rationale behind his resignation, which he said he submitted to his superiors some three weeks after the Oct. 7 war began.

In the letter, Mann, a 13-year Army veteran, criticized the Biden administration’s policy as having “enabled and empowered the killing and starvation of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians.”

“As we were recently reminded, this unconditional support also encourages reckless escalation that risks wider war,” he wrote, ostensibly in reference to Iran’s April 13 missile and drone barrage fired towards Israel, part of a wider regional escalation that Pentagon officials have sought to contain while still sending arms to Israel for use in Gaza.

Why it matters: Mann’s letter marks the first time a Defense Department official has publicly linked their resignation to the Gaza war. 

In October, Josh Paul, a State Department official with the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, resigned in protest over President Joe Biden’s policy of unconditional arms transfers to Israel. Paul argued the policy violated both the Biden administration’s internal guidance and US laws about foreign arms transfers. 

Several other State Department officials have resigned over the policy since. A number of internal dissent cables were filed at that department within the first two months of the war.

Mann said in his post on LinkedIn that he submitted his resignation on Nov. 1, 2023, and that he circulated an earlier version of the letter internally among colleagues on April 16 before releasing it publicly on Monday. US military officers’ resignations can often take many months to approve, if approved at all. It remains unclear whether Mann’s resignation, which he said was triggered by “this moral injury” of his role in supporting the Gaza war, has been accepted.

“I told myself my individual contribution was minimal, and that if I didn’t do my job, someone else would, so why cause a stir for nothing,” Mann wrote.

“At some point, whatever the justification, you’re either advancing a policy that enables the mass starvation of children, or you’re not,” his letter stated.

“I know that I did, in my small way, wittingly advance that policy. And I want to clarify that as the descendent of European Jews, I was raised in a particularly unforgiving moral environment when it came to the topic of bearing responsibility for ethnic cleansing,” he wrote. Mann did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Middle East veteran: The LinkedIn page bearing Mann’s resignation letter lists him as a graduate of William & Mary college and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. More recently, he joined the DIA in 2021 as an executive officer with the agency's Middle East and Africa regional intelligence center.

Previously, Mann's resume listed him as a Foreign Area Officer starting in 2019, a role that typically describes officers stationed at embassies in military liaison roles, in some cases as formal defense attaches, which relay requests from foreign governments for arms purchases to the State Department and provide advice on such decisions. It was not immediately clear if Mann had served as a defense attache abroad.

The DIA told Al-Monitor in an emailed statement that Mann "was previously assigned" to the agency. 

"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 motivations," the statement read.

Know more: More than seven months into the war, Washington's no.-2 top diplomat Kurt Campbell publicly aired on Monday what he described as doubts within the Biden administration that Israel can actually achieve "total victory" against Hamas in Gaza.

The administration is taking heat from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress for withholding a single shipment of air-to-ground bombs to Israel while skirting any conclusive finding in its internal inquiry as to whether Israel has used US weapons in violation of international law in Gaza, despite evidence presented by rights groups.

The State Department's report on US National Security Memorandum 20, released Friday, concluded that Israel had likely deployed US-origin weapons in Gaza in a manner that is inconsistent with international law, but it said that Israel had only provided “limited information” in response to US government inquiries into the matter.

The inconclusive report comes as the Biden administration tries to persuade Israeli leaders not to launch a full-blown, ground-clearing operation in Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinian civilians have sheltered from the war. At least 360,000 of them have since fled as the Israeli military expanded its operations there and in Gaza’s north over the weekend, UNRWA said Monday.

“The Biden administration is taking at face value many of the representations made by the Netanyahu government,” US Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told reporters on Friday, criticizing the NSM-20 report as a missed opportunity.