Hue and Cry over Dissident Marine Obscures Issues of Responsibility for Failure of U.S.-Led Afghanistan War
Oct. 2, 2021 (EIRNS)—Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, the Marine officer who famously posted a viral video on Facebook on Aug. 26—the same day that 13 U.S. troops were killed by a suicide bomb attack at Kabul airport during the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan—demanding accountability from senior military officers for what he viewed as a debacle, has become a cause célèbre among the MAGA crowd, though he reportedly has only contempt for Donald Trump and his supporters. Scheller has been getting support from a range of political right wingers, including QAnon, Trump Republicans in the Congress and Fox News.
The hue and cry—and the scoring of political points—over his confinement in the brig at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, however, is obscuring the real question of responsibility for the disastrous 20-year failure that was the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Andrew Milburn, a retired Marine colonel, argued in an op-ed published in the Marine Corps Times on Sept. 2 that the method by which Scheller chose to deliver his message had become a distraction from the message itself. “The question of senior officer accountability over the Afghanistan debacle is not one that can simply be dismissed alongside Scheller with the usual tired trope about ‘loss of trust and confidence’ and dissembling comments about this being an emotional time for all Marines,” Milburn wrote.
“Why indeed, despite two decades of grinding deployments, the loss and maiming of thousands of our comrades and the untold misery the war has inflicted on the Afghan people, did we find ourselves running for the exits, leaving those who fought with us to the mercy of our erstwhile enemy?” Milburn asked.
The exalted position of four-star general officers “shouldn’t permit them to execute without question an interminable and costly war to no end. Or, worse, to offer continuous assurance that the war was going well when it wasn’t. Or to acquiesce to a hasty withdrawal that blatantly failed the reasonable man test at every level—tactically, operationally and strategically,” Milburn continued.
Milburn observes that senior officers have limited choices when they deal with civilian leadership—they can execute the orders they are given or they can resign if they find the orders unacceptable to them. “What they can’t choose to do is absolve themselves of responsibility when that plan goes awry.”
“Despite two wars that have seen their shares of disasters, not a single general officer has been relieved of his duties for incompetence and only one has resigned on a question of principle,” Milburn wrote near the end. “Scheller, on the other hand, is just one of many regimental and battalion commanders relieved of their duties over the course of the past two decades, and soon the ripples that he caused will subside.”
Initial reports indicated that last weekend Scheller was being held without charge. This is no longer the case. A Marine Corps spokesman confirmed to “Task & Purpose” on Sept. 28 that he has been charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for: Article 88: Contempt toward officials; Article 90: Willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer; Article 92: Failure to obey an order; and Article 133: Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. From a purely legal standpoint, the charges of disobeying an order appears valid, as Scheller himself has acknowledged, posted on social media after being ordered not, to but a qualified observer explained to this news service there is no reason to hold him in pre-trial confinement.