A Marine Corps battalion commander said he was relieved of his duties Friday after he posted a video demanding “accountability” from senior leaders for failures in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller went viral Thursday after he posted a four-minute, 45-second video to Facebook in which he appeared in uniform and ripped into military leadership following the devastating suicide bombing at Kabul airport, which killed 13 US service members and at least 169 Afghans.
“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,’” he said.
“I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever,” Scheller added, “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?’”
The video, a rare public expression of discontent from an enlisted officer, took off in military circles on social media. It had been shared on Facebook more than 35,000 times as of Friday night.
On Friday, Scheller wrote on Facebook that he had been “relieved for cause based on a lack of trust and confidence as of 14:30 today.”
“My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do … if I were in their shoes,” said Scheller, who added that he would not be speaking to media outlets until he had formally exited the Corps.
“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,’” he said. “Without that, we just keep repeating the same mistakes.”
“I have been fighting for 17 years,” Scheller concluded. “I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: I demand accountability.”
The Marine Corps on Friday announced that Scheller was relieved “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command,” according to Task & Purpose.
“This is obviously an emotional time for a lot of Marines, and we encourage anyone struggling right now to seek counseling or talk to a fellow Marine,” said Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Jim Stenger. “There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media.”
In announcing his dismissal, Scheller said that, “America has so many issues … but it’s my home.”
“When my Marine Corps career comes to an end, I look forward to a new beginning,” Scheller wrote. “My life’s purpose is to make America the most lethal and effective foreign diplomacy instrument. While my days of hand-to-hand violence may be ending … I see a new light on the horizon.”
After Scheller’s announcement, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) — a former Navy SEAL who lost his right eye while on his third deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 — praised the officer as “all class.”
“He knew what the consequences would be,” Crenshaw tweeted. “His concerns are not wrong. Many people feeling the same lack of accountability. When the dust settles that accountability must happen.”
In a second Facebook post Friday night, Scheller said that when he posted the video Thursday, “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.’”
“[W]e can’t ALL be wrong,” Scheller added. “If you all agree … then step up. They only have the power because we allow it. What if we all demanded accountability?”