Did Lt. Col. Scheller deserve the treatment he received?
Since August this year, U.S. Marine lieutenant colonel Stuart Scheller had earned both fame and notoriety when he posted a series of videos questioning the military's leadership following the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the devastating suicide bombing at the Kabul airport, which killed 182 people, including 13 U.S. service members, and injured more than a hundred.
I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: I demand accountability. People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability and saying, "We messed this up."
He unsparingly criticized defense secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs chairman General Mark Milley for their incorrect predictions that the Afghan National Security Forces would be able to withstand Taliban attacks and for the closure in July of Bagram Airfield.
He continued to post videos stating that the military needed a "revolution," evoking former President Jefferson's famous quote: "Every generation needs a revolution."
He also demanded "fundamental change" to America's government and pledging to "bring the whole f------ system down."
Scheller urged his viewers to abandon divisiveness and fear. He also said President Donald Trump "divided the country," while Barack Obama was "weak in any intestinal fortitude," and finally Bill and Hillary Clinton were "morally bankrupt."
He then announced his resignation from his commission after 17 years of service, which meant giving up his pension.
A case could be made that it was sort of an act of whistleblowing, hence Scheller should be afforded all the protections that a whistleblower gets.
But the armed forces obviously didn't see it that way.
Scheller was first ordered to undergo a mental health screening, following which he was sent to the brig in solitary confinement. He has been unable to contact anyone, save for a short phone call to a relative to help him retain counsel.
The Marine Corps issued a statement confirming that Scheller has been sent to the brig.
"Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller Jr. is currently in pre-trial confinement in the Regional Brig for Marine Corps Installations East aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune pending an Article 32 preliminary hearing,"
The Marine Corps acknowledged that the "time, date, and location" of the "Article 32 preliminary hearing" has not been determined.
The punishment was seen as an attempt by Washington to shut down one of its most vociferous critics.
Is there any validity to this point?
We go back to the basics about the armed forces. To accomplish their mission, the armed forces must operate in total and complete unison. This is not the place for rebellion or mutiny and emphatically no place to make a public spectacle on social media. If an individual is allowed to rebel today, two more will rebel tomorrow, and several more will rebel later, and that soon the armed forces will be chaos.
He may have been alerting the public to a matter vitally important. But demanding a "revolution" and talking about "bringing down the whole f------ system" could easily be seen as a call for mutiny or rebellion.
While citizens have the freedom to express opinions, there is a code of conduct within the armed forces. The officer must always follow orders from his superiors. The armed forces must be loyal to their superiors. He always has the option to voice his opinions through his official chain of command.
The armed forces may have been falling short on several occasions across decades, for which they deserve to be criticized. But in this particular case, they were in the right, perhaps like a broken clock that reports the right time twice in a day.
There absolutely must not be a trend where armed personnel who disagree with policies or his orders resort to posting videos on social media and attacking their superiors.
The punishment was clearly excessive, but there is no denying that Scheller violated one of the most sacrosanct codes of the armed forces.
What Scheller could have done is resign from his post, free himself from all his obligations in the armed forces, and then issue his statements as a private citizen about the abominations he witnessed during the course of his duty. He had the choice of joining politics, where he could bring about real change and question his former superiors during hearings.
As Orwell said, in times of universal deceit, telling the truth may be a revolutionary act, but that applies strictly to citizens.
The outrage of the magnitude of punishment is most certainly valid but he did deserve some form of censure that would serve as a caution for other potential rebels.
The armed forces must be apolitical and must apply uniformly across the board. Both Lt. Col. Scheller and General Milley were overtly political on a public platform, but Gen. Milley still holds his job, and Biden has full faith in him, while Scheller languishes in solitary confinement.
It is this absolute lack of uniformity in meting out punishments that merits all the outrage in the world while we hope that relief finds its way to Lt. Col. Scheller.
Image: Screen shot from Fox News video via YouTube.
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