He pled guilty

Just now listened to the news, and Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller pled guilty, ending his court martial (except for sentencing).

Listening to the charges, and knowing somewhat of the specifications of those charges, I believe that he felt he had little choice, except possibly the charge of “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen.” After all, he really did do all those things.

Here are, as I understand, the charges:

  • showing contempt toward officials,
  • showing disrespect toward superior commissioned officers,
  • willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer,
  • dereliction in the performance of duties,
  • failure to obey an order or regulation, and
  • conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

Yes, he disobeyed a direct order of a superior officer, and thereby was “derelict” in the performance of his duties. Because he didn’t shut up when he was told to. Clear, open and shut.

And he spoke with contempt of a superior officer (thereby showing disrespect). Given the circumstances (as I understand them) in what happened in Afghanistan and what he said, I believe that he lived up to his oath, however. And that he believed that he was doing so. What the generals, both in the Pentagon and in the field did was despicable. Their behavior, both in the fiasco and in their treatment of him (and others) was indeed contemptable. He just made the ‘mistake’ of saying so, where they could hear/see it. But again, clear, open and shut.

But BECAUSE of what he was responding to, his conduct (I can argue) was very much “becoming” of an officer of the armed forces of the united States. He demonstrated his honor, which is (together with faith and being faithful) the foundation of the officer’s obligations and powers.

He disobeyed an order which should not have been given and which, in his opinion, was immoral and broke the commitment between comrades and between the service and its members, as well as obligation that any warrior has to defend and protect others. He stood up for his Marines, their families, other Americans, and Afghan allies.

The worst mistake he made was to make his response a public one: Posting things on Youtube and Facebook is generally a mistake in general, and given this situation, even a bit foolish. But at the same time, he seems to have counted the cost before doing it the way he did: he knew the price he was likely to pay and chose freely to proceed. As have many before: “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” He clearly feels that he had a moral obligation to do this – and that the price he would pay for NOT doing it was worse than what he is having to pay for doing it.

I suppose that a lawyer could even argue that the orders to abandon the people, equipment and bases – needlessly or not – were in effect unconstitutional orders because they violated the sacred obligations the United States took on in the treaty with Afghanistan. (However stupid it was to have done so.) And by implication, with the people of Afghanistan who allied themselves – personally for the most part – to the American invaders and occupiers. (And believed the promises – now revealed as lies.)

Yes, apparently the commands came from the President, the Commander-in-Chief. Who has no legitimate power to issue orders which are immoral, illegal, unconstitutional. Or for that matter, stupid.

Of course, it should not have fallen to a mere O-5 to have to point that out to the national command authorities. That duty should have been shouldered by the civilian superiors (given their prior high-rank military experience, especially) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Odd that what the Chairman of the JCoS did in the last regime (if we can believe the book) was in essence the same thing: disrespect, contempt, and even disobedience. Yet Milley is praised, while Sheller is condemned. (Of course, it is an O-10 versus an O-6, and Trump rather than Uncle Joe.)

The day when O-8s, O-9s, and O-10s stood up for “truth, justice, and the American way” is as ancient as a Superman doing the same thing.

Still, it is a good sign that even one active lieutenant colonel is willing to lose his career and his freedom to stand up for what he believes is right. Even if he may have gone about it in the wrong way.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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7 Responses to He pled guilty

  1. G Spring says:

    So if you call what Scheller did “nonsense” then what do you call what the administration did along with the top brass? Pulling out troops before civilians, equipment…surrendering a vital foothold to Middle East stability and allowing an unknown amount of US citizens trapped and likely dead behind enemy lines! This was the most shameful act ever conducted by persons who swore the oath to protect the United States! People who dismiss this are just as culpable as the administration who did it! The divide in this country has never been this clear. There’s only one way to save this nation, only one way to stop a tyrannical dictator from total control using the weakness of societies minds to annihilate democracy. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of Patriots and tyrants.”

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    • TPOL Nathan says:

      I didn’t make my point clear: Scheller did the right thing but in the wrong way. He did so in a way that made the senior brass become resolved to get him. Tom had the right of it, his chief (the command sergeant major) should have had the Lt. Col.’s back and helped him do it the RIGHT way. Scheller calling out his superiors on the wrong, even evil, AND oath-breaking things that they did was right: using media (Facebook and Twitter) was not the right way, and you can still disagree with a senior officer withOUT being disrespectful and contemptuous: and self-discipline is necessary to do that.
      As for what Uncle Joe, that ex-flag officer he has as SecDef, and the administration did? I agree with you: it was shameful, a betrayal of promises and basic duty, and is just one more reason (of the many we’ve pointed out at TPOL) that this cannot go on.

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    • Thomas L. Knapp says:

      Afghanistan is neither in the Middle East, nor is it a “vital foothold” for “stability” of any kind. It was an optional war, and what the withdrawal looked like is what withdrawal after losing a war — which was always how it was going to end — looks like.

      Civilians were warned by the US State Department more than two months in advance to get the hell out of there. My sympathy for those who decided to dawdle and then whine for “rescue” is not non-existent, but it’s very limited.

      Scheller violated multiple articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and he knew damn well that he was doing so. He did it because he didn’t like US foreign policy, which is fine. But he was fine with getting a paycheck, three hots and a cot, etc. when he did like that policy, and part of his agreement for getting those bennies included articles of the UCMJ that limited his freedom to make an ass of himself in public while wearing the uniform and collecting the paycheck.

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      • TPOL Nathan says:

        Some very good points, Tom. He definitely knew what he was doing – and although he had previously (apparently) supported what was being done (or stomached it and chose not to speak out), he changed his mind. Which is fine, but which comes with penalties. Which he is apparently now starting to receive. I probably do have more sympathy than you for those Americans who stayed put – and for those Afghans perhaps foolish enough to trust in the honor of DC. (I know- what honor?)

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  2. Darkwing says:

    When you are in the military you bow down and do as you are told. PLUS you take all the crap from all the people and do not complain.

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    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Yes, and no. I was taught as a cadet that you do what you are told AS LONG AS WHAT YOU DO IS honorable and right and lawful, and in accordance with your PRIMARY duty to defend and protect the Constitution and secondary duties to defend the American people, land, and your own comrades in arms – whatever uniform they wear. And accept the garbage people shovel at you when what they want you to do is wrong. But yes, you CAN complain – you just have to do it in a way that is (a) honorable and respectful (to the office and the person – even if you don’t have much respect) and (b) effective – you take a risk but you want to have some possibility of success. Otherwise you are just wasting vital resources (including yourself!) and are just another vainglorious idiot.

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  3. Thomas L. Knapp says:

    When I was younger, I remember old Marines saying “in my day …” so I guess it’s an eternal phenomenon.

    In my day, if it had gotten out that my battalion commander was even thinking about pulling the kind of nonsense that Scheller pulled, the battalion sergeant major would have stormed into his office, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, dragged him down to the head for a swirlie, and told him to straighten the hell up before he embarrassed the unit.

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