SIR, I SALUTE YOU!
Written by Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, January 7, 2022
You can read the story in the link below about Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller and/or watch the videos he has posted; they both speak for themselves. In the event you choose not to review the link below, LTCOL Scheller posted a couple of videos that was critical of President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. For these posts, he was given a General Discharge under Honorable Conditions and basically forfeited his benefits and pension because of it.
I retired from the U. S. Coast Guard in 1985 as a Lieutenant. I came up through the ranks from joining as a Seaman Recruit in 1965 through Chief Petty Officer, Chief Warrant Officer and then selected as a direct appointment to Lieutenant. During my 20 years of active duty, I have come in contact and was required to know the procedures for handling classified material. I was also trained in following the chain of command and following “legal” orders as was the case for every enlisted member and every officer member of all of the branches of the U. S. Military Services. All that is a given!
When I first saw the videos posted by LTCOL Scheller my immediate thought was that he had to know what was going to happen to him for being critical of a U. S. President. In all honesty, I think every member of every branch of the military, active, retired, and reserve, had similar feelings about what President Biden did and did not do in Afghanistan; I certainly know that I felt exactly the same as LTCOL Scheller. The difference between Scheller and most other members of the military is that they would have simply carried out the orders of the Department of Defense and by inference, President Biden. More importantly, they would have done so and kept their collective mouths shut. It is drilled into everyone’s head that they must follow orders. Most people forget that the law that requires military members to follow orders has a word that precedes the word “order” and that word is “lawful” order.
The question to me becomes whether President Biden’s orders to leave Americans and hundreds if not thousands of Afghan people who had worked with the U. S. Military and/or actually had U. S. Green Cards authorizing them to return to the United States, behind while the military left. That order violates every principle of my being that has long been held in all branches of the military in that you don’t leave anyone behind. I am NOT a military analysist but on occasion I do demonstrate some common sense. In this case, the person or persons issuing the orders that resulted in abandoning Afghanistan, lacked the smallest grain of common sense. Was it a “lawful order” in the truest definition of the term? Probably so. If I were on active duty, would I have carried it out?
That question really gets down to the “nitty-gritty.” I would not have been in a position to answer directly to the President of the United States. There would have been a multitude of officers between me and President Biden or Defense Secretary Austin. As always, I would have had tremendous respect for the people within the service that I worked for and whose orders I would have obeyed. To answer the question, what would I have done, I would have followed the orders as given to me by my Commanding Officer.
I could be wrong in my assumption that most people were sickened by what President Biden and Secretary Austin did, it was just wrong on so many fronts. The first person who should have said NO Mr. President, this is just wrong was Secretary Austin. If President Biden insisted on carrying out this ridiculous order and if I were Secretary Austin, I would have submitted my immediate resignation rather than putting my stamp of approval on this insane order. The next person in the Chain of Command to the President would have been General Mark Milley. A lot of military people have questioned how he was promoted up the ranks ahead of much more qualified members of the military and his actions regarding Afghanistan puts an exclamation mark on their concerns; he was unqualified then; he remains unqualified now. His incompetence shone brightly through all of the chaos when he seemed more interested in imposing critical race theory training on the military instead of winning wars! Again, if I were the Joint Chief of Staff, I would have explained to Secretary Austin and President Biden that the order as given was just wrong and that a lot of people would be killed and for those left behind, tortured and/or murdered. Then there was the issue of closing an active Air Base and leaving the millions upon millions of dollars of top-of-the-line military equipment behind for the Taliban to just take and eventually use or sell to our enemies to research. How could anyone in their right mind consider that a valid military operation/order. Obviously, Austin and Milley did because they carried it out. Both of them should have stood their ground and resigned if President Biden insisted on carrying out the surrender to the Taliban as it occurred.
Therefore, as you can tell, a side of me totally supports LTCOL Scheller’s actions and I only wish I would have had the nerve to do what he did by calling out the stupidity of President Biden as well as Secretary Austin and General Milley. They all deserved the criticism and disdain they have been given. Should he have done it? Only if he knew what could and probably would happen to him for doing it and then decided to do it anyway. He gave up a lot by coming forth as he did. Primarily he gave up his heretofore well-earned military retirement and subsequent benefits. In exchange for what he did, the Marine Corps issued him a General Discharge under Honorable Conditions. If anyone should have been issued a less than Honorable Discharge it was General Milley. In my opinion he is a disgrace to his uniform either for carrying out the insane order or for not resigning when it was evident that President Biden didn’t care about the ramifications of his actions. That’s what I would have done; no doubt in my mind. But you have to have principles for that to happened and it is obvious to me that neither Biden, Austin nor Milley had principles on display when they surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban leaving all those people behind to fend for themselves not to mention leaving all the military equipment for the enemy.
The debacle of Afghanistan will be taught at the military academies for decades to come. It will be of very little value to LTCOL Scheller, but...
Sir, I Salute You!