Marine veteran Stuart Scheller, who was famously fired and jailed after demanding accountability for the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, criticized the leadership of the United States military for lacking moral courage and carrying out withdrawal plans they disagreed with that ended with 13 service members killed.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News in advance of the release of his book Crisis of Command: How We Lost Trust and Confidence in America’s Generals and Politicians, Scheller said, “President Biden ordered a drawdown of military forces in Afghanistan, and he picked a PR date of September 11. So he ordered a drop from 2500 to 650 military troops and we did this before evacuating American citizens. Our general officers didn’t push back. I was really upset about that. They later said they disagreed with it, but they followed the orders that were given.”
Indeed, then-U.S. Central Command Commander Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie recently admitted in a Fox News interview that he believed that Kabul would fall to the Taliban before the September 11 withdrawal date and had advised against withdrawal, but still carried it out.
Asked if he or other military leaders should have resigned in protest, McKenzie dodged the question, only saying:
I’m confident that my assessments went up the chain of command — I’m sure the President saw them. The president of the United States has to make decisions based on a variety of factors. My input was certainly one of those factors and I appreciate the opportunity to have had that input. But the president’s going to have to make decisions based on a much broader range of considerations.
Scheller in his book described how he tried to proffer charges against McKenzie, but was blocked by his chain of command.
He spoke to Breitbart News about the hypocrisy of no one holding McKenzie accountable but his chain of command firing him, silencing him with a gag order, and then putting him in jail when he broke the gag order by continuing to post on social media.
“We have all this training in the military about moral courage — like formal classes semi-annually, and I was just pointing out, like, ‘Hey you guys are not fulfilling your end of the bargain. I’m sick of the talk, I want action. I want you to fulfill the values that you espouse,’ and I just didn’t see it from my leaders,” he said.
Scheller said he filmed that video because despite the many mistakes during the withdrawal, he knew the military would call it an overwhelming success and no one would take accountability.
“I knew that we were going to deflect and try and call it a success. And I just felt like service members deserved accurate, timely assessment of failure. And it needed to come from someone with a position of authority and knew what they were talking about. And so for all those reasons I decided to make a video demanding accountability of my senior leaders,” he said.
Scheller, who served for 17 years in the Marine Corps, asserted that the military’s promotion system produces leaders who exhibit conformity over competence.
He said in the corporate world, failing leaders are replaced. But in government bureaucracies, individuals who get promoted are those who please their bosses rather than those whose performance merits advancement.
“What happens in all these government institutions is that you realize you have to impress your boss and if that boss has a focus that’s anything other than the foundational principles of the institution, then you learn through your career that you just have to please your boss. And what it does over time is it conditions people to not focus on the core values of the institution,” he said.
“And so my theory, in the military at least, if I’m an infantry officer, I should go against another infantry officer, and it should be a performance game. If I’m an F-15 pilot, same thing. Let’s go through an F-15 course and the best pilot is the one that gets preferential treatment for promotion, not the pilot who got the highest subjective evaluation from their boss,” he said.
Scheller also discussed with Breitbart News how the focus of the current military leadership, from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, was not on the military’s core values.
“Obviously our leaders have the wrong focus. I mean, Lloyd Austin came into office while the Russians were staging on the border of Ukraine. We were trying to withdraw from one of the longest wars in American history. And after 100 days in office, he said he did problem-framing and decided COVID was the biggest threat to the DoD followed by extremism. Like obviously his priorities are skewed,” Scheller said.
Fighting should be the focus at all times. And obviously you need a Secretary of Defense to manage that. And Mark Milley is the same thing, [he’s talking] not only ‘white rage,’ he’s talking about climate control. ‘Hey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, like your job is to advise on military policy winning wars like climate control is not in your wheelhouse,’ but the reason they do that is because they’re people-pleasing, for all the reasons I just described.
They get conditioned that they have to give their boss what they want. And they’re looking at their politicians and they’re seeing that, you know, equal opportunity or climate control or white rage are important topics, so they need to talk about it. And what they should be doing is protecting the values of the institution in which they lead.
Scheller said still no one has been held accountable for the botched withdrawal, even a year later.
“There’s been no senior military leaders that have assumed any type of accountability, or our politicians. I mean, the whole — the whole system failed,” he said. “Not one leader was able to stand up and say, ‘Hey, we messed this up.’ And it’s just, I think, an indictment on the entire system and our politicians, our current sitting politicians.”
Scheller said he hopes Americans will read his book in order to better understand the military and demand accountability.
“American people feel like they have to show appreciation to the military, which military members appreciate. But at the same time, their lack of understanding … has allowed the military to drift because no one’s holding them accountable,” he said.
“And they work for the American people, not for the President. They work for the American people. And so the American people need to understand the problem so that they can start contacting their representatives. And I give a couple of ways that the American people can get active and hold the military accountable. And so I hope the American people read it, understand it and become informed so that they can start being influences of change,” he said.
Scheller’s book releases on Tuesday, September 6.