Marine officer who questioned military leadership's handing of Afghanistan surrender reportedly imprisoned
So far, there is not even a hint of any accountability for the military leadership that handed over vital weapons and facilities, making the Taliban the best-armed terrorists in history. But for a brave Marine who criticized them, imprisonment has come quickly, reportedly. Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, USMC was just sent to the brig according to multiple news reports. Fox News:
First a psych eval and now brig confinement. It appears the powers that be are out to make an example of him — which he astutely predicted. On the psych eval, it was tragic that the Marine leadership went "full Soviet" on him.
In other words, in one week, Scheller is the trusted commanding officer of a very, very prestigious command; the next week, after speaking out, demanding accountability, he is given a "Psych Eval." Trust me when I say that a psych eval is not a friendly move.
It is obvious that Lt. Col. Scheller anticipated his commanding general's nasty move to have him confined to the brig.
Photos via Facebook.
Using the military justice system to silence him for his simple transgression of speaking truth to power and wanting to resign over the lack of Afghanistan war accountability by very senior officers is playing out exactly as he expected. And "good on him," as we say in the Marines, for his courageously walking point on demanding honesty and accountability.
He is following in a rare but cherished breed of truly morally courageous military heroes who saw bad things occurring in combat and did something about it. In the military, physical courage is assumed and justly revered. But the moment when it takes profound intellectual, ethical, and moral courage to stand up and do what is right should be equally cherished.
There are three brilliant examples of moral courage.
First, a true hero in the darkness of the My Lai Massacre was finally acknowledged, thanks to a 60 Minutes reporter, the late Mike Wallace, and his insightful producer, Tom Anderson. Via CBS News:
Hugh Thompson was a helicopter pilot in 1968, on a day American soldiers gunned down more than 500 unarmed civilians in a village called My Lai.
The dead were women, old men and children. And even more of them would have died if Thompson had not confronted his fellow soldiers, stopped their murderous rampage and airlifted a number of civilians to safety. Correspondent Mike Wallace reports.
For years, the U.S. military tried to cover up the My Lai massacre. And Hugh Thompson was treated not as a hero, but as a traitor. But this past March, all that changed for Thompson, at a special ceremony in Nashville, Tenn.
It was a night Thompson never dreamed would happen. For years, he'd been treated as an outcast, a turncoat, because he had dared to question his fellow American GIs who said they were just following orders….
But that began to change shortly after our story aired on 60 Minutes. To begin with, the military service academies started inviting him to visit and give lectures on military ethics to young soldiers…
He says he continues to lecture at West Point and the Naval Academy, trying to tell today's troops "to be a soldier and act like a soldier."
A second example of the military leadership system covering up the truth — this time in Afghanistan — is what happened to Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland. Via the San Diego Union-Tribune:
During the last Afghan civil war, rival strongmen fought military battles over boys they desired, wrecking neighborhoods and lives with their violent lust.
Some of those warlords later became U.S. allies in the fight against the Taliban, making the custom of bacha bazi — "boy play" — their dirty secret of the international counterinsurgency campaign.
Now, an American Green Beret who refused to look the other way is fighting to save his Army career. Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, a decorated special-operations soldier, beat an Afghan militiaman who kidnapped a 12-year-old boy and chained him to his bed as a sex slave.
Martland, an 11-year veteran and a Bronze Star recipient for valor in combat, was formally reprimanded for assaulting the Afghan Local Police commander in 2011 in Kunduz province. Gen. Christopher Haas, then-commander of Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command Afghanistan, called Martland's behavior unprofessional and inexcusable.
After an inquiry, the Army ruled that Martland would be involuntarily discharged from the Army no later than Nov. 1.
A third example of individual moral courage — again from Afghanistan — is the case of then-Capt. Jason Brezler, a fellow Marine who was also invited to lecture at Annapolis. He also went up against military leaders who were turning a blind eye to the Afghan tribal customs of child rape. Via the Daily Beast:
Marine Reserve Maj. Jason Brezler — now also a firefighter with the elite Rescue 2 of the FDNY — faces a forced exit from the Marine Corps as a result of an inconsequential security infraction he committed in his hurry to respond to an urgent email from Afghanistan that he received two years after he returned home.
The July 25, 2012, email that popped up on Brezler's Yahoo account was sent to him from Helmand Province by a fellow Marine officer, and its subject line made its urgency unmistakable:
"IMPORTANT: SARWAR JAN IS BACK!!!"
Exclamation points by themselves in a message from Helmand meant it could very well be a matter of life and death. The name Sarwar Jan made it all the more so.
Jan had been district police chief when Brezler served in the same town, Naw Zad, in 2010. Brezler had come to the conclusion that Jan was involved in narcotics and arms trafficking as well as facilitating attacks by the Taliban, even selling Afghan police uniforms to the enemy. Jan also was alleged to be what Brezler's lawyer would call "a systematic child rapist" who allegedly ran a child kidnapping ring and acquired "tea boys" with the help of U.S. taxpayer job development money.
Marine Maj. Brian Donlon, noted that in his haste Brezler had sent what was technically a classified document via an insecure mode of communication. Brezler acknowledged the error and duly reported himself, in keeping with a code of honor befitting a graduate of the Naval Academy.
"The Marines continued to provide Jan and his sex-abuse victims armed, unescorted access to their base," Brezler's attorney, Kevin Carroll, would later say[.] ...
On August 10, 2012, just over two weeks after the warning that should have resulted in the police chief being banned from the base, one of Jan's teenage "tea boys" went into the FOB Delhi gym with what was apparently the police chief's AK-47. The tea boy, Aynoddin, proceeded to kill three unarmed Marines, Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson, Cpl. Richard Rivera, and Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr. A fourth, Staff Sgt. Cody Rhode, survived despite being shot five times.
By the very nature of the rebellious founding of our country, we are an inquisitive lot of free people who often finally recognize that the truth is the truth. But it sometimes takes time for our American inner core of looking skeptically at any official version of the truth to challenge the elites at the top of our hierarchies. If and when the disinfectant effects of media sunlight and transparency are focused on what really occurred, individuals are more prone to act on what was said at Annapolis when I was a midshipman: "take the hard right over the easy wrong."
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, USMC has taken the "hard right," and I fully believe that history will be kind to him in recognizing his most important quest for senior officer accountability in a time of war in which he stood tall and unyielding.
Ed Timperlake is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, served as captain, U.S. Marine Corps (1969–75), graduated from the senior officer "Top Gun" course, and was a carrier-qualified Marine fighter pilot before serving in several positions in the Legislative and Executive Branches of the federal government, including assistant secretary of veterans affairs.
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