Back during the Obama years, I was thoroughly disgusted in 2014, when the Obama administration tried to con Americans into believing Bowe Bergdahl was a war hero, when in reality he deserted his post in Afghanistan. Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor, went so far as to say Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction.” That statement was a total lie.
So here we are in 2021 and I am disgusted by the right-wing efforts to turn Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, a Marine battalion commander who spoke out demanding accountability from top military leaders for the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle, into a right-wing POLITICAL hero. Assuredly, Scheller’s military record is filled with awards and decorations that speak to heroism on the battlefield. He earned a bronze star, among numerous other awards.
I understand why many people cheered Scheller risking his military career to speak out demanding accountability by top military leaders, especially, when so many top military leaders spew weaselly words and duck for cover rather than speaking the truth or taking any responsibility for anything. Among political leaders of either party, there is zero accountability for anything too. However, here I come to the “BUTs.”
Task and Purpose has a military bio of Scheller and a clear break down of the sequence of events, status of the military investigation, and social media video posts. There are lots of useful links in their reporting.
Now to the “but,” rules matter, especially in the military and for good order and discipline to be maintained, requires trust within the chain of command. Top Pentagon leadership’s failure to take any responsibility and willingness to sell the Biden administration political talking points with the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle and to sell the Biden Woke agenda, has eroded trust in the chain of command.
Scheller’s first video spoke to lack of accountability and his viewpoint resonated with many active duty military and vets around the country. BUT, Scheller’s actions and his call to action attacks the other pillar required for our military to function – good order and discipline. The US military can not function when subordinates publicly attack superior officers and encourage Americans “to bring the whole f-ing system down.”
Schellar swore an oath to support and defend, not to bring the f-ing system down”:
And now to the biggest BUT, that’s getting buried, while right-wing punditry and some FOX News primetime power players keep spinning that Scheller is being punished for demanding accountability. One of the first things I learned in the Army is that if I had a problem, I was supposed to solve it at the lowest level possible and go through my chain of command. He skipped his chain of command and decided to use his social media to become a political activist. The military doesn’t need political activists in the ranks, especially not battalion commanders entrusted to lead troops into battle. He bypassed his chain of command and he deliberately disobeyed a lawful direct order. Scheller posted videos to his social media, some in uniform, attacking superiors.
Scheller decided to risk his career, which many people are cheering, except even in his video, where he’s in shorts ( that’s a 10 minute video, so watch the whole thing) and ranting about taking down the system, in one breath he was saying he doesn’t want a cent and in the next he was listing ways to donate money to his wife. This morning I think the fundraising efforts on his behalf are over 2 million dollars and his cause seems to be energizing more people to donate to him than efforts to raise money for the 13 servicemembers killed and dozens injured in the suicide bomber attack at the Kabul airport.
Many Americans have bought into the right-wing spin effort selling Scheller as being punished for speaking out. Scheller broke long-time military rules. He ended up in the brig, not for speaking out demanding accountability, BUT because he deliberately violated a lawful direct order to stop posting on his social media or through third parties, while his case is being investigated. Gag orders, even in the civilian legal system, are perfectly legal and common. Pretrial confinement also seems perfectly reasonable, in light of Scheller posting another video on his social media, in violation of that lawful order.
Scheller did way more than speak out demanding accountability. He was ranting about leading an effort to take down the system. This issue of military members speaking out isn’t new and neither are the repercussions. Here’s a link from 1993, when a general spoke out about President Clinton and was ousted. I also remember the Pentagon issuing warnings to the whole military to refrain from making derogatory remarks about President Clinton publicly. I remember this, because my husband loathed President Clinton and turned the channel whenever Clinton was on TV. The Clintons corruption fascinated me and I liked to watch President Clinton speaking to analyze his deceptive use of language, but my husband didn’t even want to see President Clinton on TV, let alone pay attention to anything he said.
The lack of accountability at the highest levels of our government and military bode poorly for America. Disgusted Americans rushing to get behind Scheller and elevating him to being a new right-wing political hero, based on his social media videos and a whole lot of powerful right-wing media oxygen (especially Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity selling him) speaks to how easily right-wing Americans are duped and conned by the powerful right-wing media. And yes, left-wing Americans have powerful liberal media duping and conning them and selling them false heroes too (see Avenatti, for instance).
While I don’t think Scheller is a sleaze like Avenatti, my impression, after watching his videos is Scheller seems emotionally volatile, possesses a massive ego, going on and on about how brilliant he is and how he’s the person to lead this effort to “bring down the whole f-ing system.” I didn’t see an emotionally stable person or a calm leader watching his videos. I suspected some PTSD issues and a lot of narcissism.
Due to how many Americans are rushing to champion him and send money, I expect Scheller to be gracing the stage of Trump rallies or joining the Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene political circus in the near future. Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me if Scheller parlays his new fame into a political career, BUT his actions won’t do a thing to deliver accountability or bolster the US military as an institution. So, for all his professed demand for accountability, Scheller wants it both ways – he demands accountability of top military leaders, but he’s decided to defy a lawful direct order and his parents and right-wing media are trying to pressure the Marine Corps for there to be zero accountability for Scheller’s pretty blatant act of insubordination and disobeying a direct order. You can’t demand accountability and claim you revere the military institution, then turn around and in uniform willfully break basic rules that underpin and bolster that very institution. Not a single thing he’s done will help strengthen the US military. He’s just adding to the erosion of military standards.