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.