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August 30, 2021

On Military Dereliction: A Marine Officer Steps Up and Steps Out

Mom of deceased Marine: “That feckless, dementia-ridden piece of crap just sent my son to die.”

Last week, before the murder of our military Patriots in Kabul, our national security analyst Gen. B.B. Bell (USA, Ret.) strongly condemned Joe Biden’s disgraceful exit debacle from Afghanistan. Bell noted Biden’s “shameful presidential dereliction of duty” and declared emphatically that not only should Biden’s military leaders resign, but that “he should be impeached and removed from office immediately, and criminal charges should be considered.”

It is unlikely that SecDef Lloyd Austin or CJCS Mark Milley will demonstrate the honor and integrity to resign, and Biden’s spokesperson Jen Psaki has confirmed Biden will fire nobody. But in the wake of the attack killing 13 military personnel (the first deaths in 18 moths) and more than 155 Afghan civilian men, women, and children, a distinguished active-duty combat-hardened Marine officer called out his failed leadership, understanding that in doing so, it would end his career.

In a public video on social media he titled “Your Move,” Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, commander of the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, said:

People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying “we messed this up.” If an O-5 battalion commander has the simplest live fire incident, EO complaint. Boom. Fired. But we have a secretary of defense that testified to Congress in May that the Afghan National Security Forces could withstand the Taliban advance. We have Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs — [our] commandant is a member — who’s supposed to advise on military policy. We have a Marine combatant commander. All of these people are supposed to advise. I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying: Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say, “Hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone”? Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say “we completely messed this up”?

Scheller continued:

I’ve got battalion commander friends … who are wondering if all the lives were lost and it was in vain [over] the last 20 years. Potentially all those people did die in vain if we don’t have senior leaders that own up and raise their hand and say, “We did not do this well in the end.” And I will say that as a person who’s not at 20 years, I feel like I have a lot to lose. … I thought through, “If I post this video, what might happen to me?” … But I think what you believe in can only be defined by what you’re willing to risk. So if I’m willing to risk my current battalion commander seat, my retirement, my family’s stability to say some of the things I want to say, I think it gives me some moral high ground to demand the same honesty, integrity, [and] accountability from my senior leaders. I have been fighting for 17 years, and I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders, “I demand accountability.”

Recall that Milley said two months ago that Bagram “wasn’t tactically or operationally necessary” for the U.S. military’s exit from AFG.

After posting his remarks, Lt. Col. Scheller said: “I immediately had multiple Marines call and ask me to take down the post. ‘We all agree with you, Stu, but nothing will change, and it will come at a huge personal cost to you.’” But he understood that — including that he was sacrificing his career on behalf of all Marines.

It is important to note here that while Scheller represents the views of a great many of his fellow Marine officers and has stepped up and out to speak for them, don’t confuse the fact that there is no wave of Marine resignations to follow with a lack of their honor or commitment. The fact is, the best Marine officers should not resign precisely because of their honor and commitment — they are, first and foremost, devoted to leading Marines, ensuring those Marines do their best to defend our nation and come home. Scheller represents them.

Regarding his decision to go public, Scheller said, “I demand accountability at all levels. If we don’t get it, I’m bringing it.” Predictably, Scheller was immediately relieved of command for “loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command.” Which is to say, at 17 years in, he could have remained and retired at 20. But he is now resigning his commission, which means this married father of three boys will lose his pension and retirement support.

The last line of his resignation letter is outstanding: “My reason for submitting a letter of resignation: A lack of trust and confidence in your ability to lead.”

Of his resignation, Scheller said:

I am forfeiting retirements, all entitlements, I don’t want a single dollar. I don’t want any money from the VA. I don’t want any VA benefits. … I want to be clear that I love the Marine Corps. … All I asked for was accountability of my senior leaders when there are clear, obvious mistakes that were made. I’m not saying we can take back what has been done. All I asked for was accountability, for people to comment on what I said and to say, ‘Yes, mistakes were made.’ I think them accepting accountability would do more for service members with PTSD and struggling with purpose than any other transparent piece of paper or message. And I haven’t received that.“

Scheller’s father said his son was "the real deal, a Marine’s Marine,” adding: “People will follow him to the ends of the earth. He has put his life on the line for fellow Marines so putting his career on the line like this does not surprise us.”

Indeed, he is a Marine’s Marine, and as fellow veteran and former SEAL Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said: “This guy is all class. He knew what the consequences would be. His concerns are not wrong. Many people feeling the same lack of accountability.” Gen. Bell likewise praised Scheller.

Notably, as of this date Scheller is the only person to be fired – and for speaking up about the debacle in Afghanistan, not for organizing it.

Beyond Scheller’s resignation, I note in regard to Biden’s failed leadership that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but some opinions matter more than others.

Kathy McCollum, the mother of 20-year-old U.S. Marine Rylee McCollum, who was killed in Kabul, said through her anguish yesterday:

I woke up at four o'clock this morning with two Marines at my door telling me my son was dead. Twenty years and six months old, getting ready to … be home with his wife to watch the birth of his son, and that feckless, dementia-ridden piece of crap just sent my son to die. I never thought in a million years [my son] would die for nothing, for nothing, because of that … piece of crap decided he wanted a photo-op on September 11th. … I just want all you Democrats … who voted for him [to know] you just killed my son.“

If you disagree, take it up with her. Further, tens of thousands of Afghan men, women, and children are now being targeted for slaughter, and their blood is also on the hands of Biden’s nescient supporters.

Finally, regarding the two over-horizon drone strikes in response to the murder of our military Patriots in Kabul, I am aware of the complexities of these operations and the potential for collateral civilian deaths. However, given our concern that these targets were not high-value ISK terrorists, particularly since DoD has refused to release the identity of those targeted, it is likely that these strikes were political fireworks to distract from Biden’s retreat and surrender disaster. If the Kabul target was not high value, the civilian casualties are inexcusable.

My only other observation would be that, if our intel was sufficient to identify an "imminent threat” on the ground in Kabul, it is unfortunate that these strikes were reactive rather than proactive.

(Updated) (LtCol Scheller has now been arrested for his actions, publicly calling out his chain of command while in uniform and before resigning his commission.)

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

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