The former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel whose career imploded after a string of harsh online criticisms of his superiors’ handling of the war in Afghanistan says he isn’t planning on a run for political office as many predicted, but revealed in a new interview he has no intention of riding off into the sunset.
Stuart Scheller was court-martialed and discharged in December after appearing in viral videos where he assailed military leaders over their handling of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, at times taunting senior officials who ordered him to cease his criticisms. He became something of a cause celebre in the wake of the chaotic and costly U.S. military pullout from the country, with former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s Pipehitter Foundation raising about $2.5 million for his legal defense.
While a political career apparently isn’t in his immediate future, Mr. Scheller told the Marine Corps Times in an interview that he wants to support others who back his causes and are considering a run for office.
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“I think there needs to be leaders in Congress. Right now, we have a bunch of politicians and I just don’t think that’s enough,” he told the military publication. “They’ve demonstrated that a lot of them don’t have the courage that’s required to be up there.”
Mr. Scheller was controversially held in custody as a flight risk before his military trial began. He pleaded guilty to five charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including disrespect toward superior commissioned officers and willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer.
He was handed a $5,000 fine and a letter of reprimand, a much lighter punishment than military prosecutors had originally sought.
Mr. Scheller launched a website “Authentic Americans” to promote his philosophy and wrote a book “Crisis of Command: How We Lost Trust and Confidence in America’s Generals and Politicians,” which is expected to be released in August. He has said leadership ability and supporting veterans are more important to him than political ideology in deciding which candidates to support.
“I would support any candidate that I think is a leader — that’s not an extremist on either side,” Mr. Scheller recently told the Washington Examiner.
He was a veteran infantry officer who led Marines in combat in Afghanistan and was a battalion commander in Camp Lejeune, N.C. as the U.S. mission was winding down. His first video was released shortly after 13 U.S. troops — including 11 Marines — were killed in an Aug. 26 suicide attack outside the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul trying to assist in the hasty evacuation of U.S. and allied personnel at the Taliban insurgency was taking over the country.
He said the nation’s top military leaders needed to acknowledge their roles in the collapse of the 20 year-long effort in Afghanistan.
“I truly believe the Marine Corps has the best talent of all the military services. But I also truly believe fundamental change needs to occur in the military,” he said in his final court statement. “I observed that the general officers were unable or unwilling to hold themselves accountable.”
After his videos landed him in hot water, Mr. Scheller said no one in his chain of command at Camp Lejeune ever called to ask how he was, even after they ordered him to submit to a psychiatric evaluation. That prompted him to continue releasing videos that eventually resulted in his court-martial.
“I just realized the Marine Corps didn’t care about me and no one was addressing the contents of my statements,” he told Marine Corps Times. “That’s when I made the second video. I was like, ‘If you you don’t care about me, I don’t care about you.’”
Mr. Scheller told the Marine Corps Times his “Disabled Veterans PAC” so far is backing an unnamed group of 25 congressional candidates, including five Senate candidates. While contending his political activism is not partisan, Mr. Scheller told the publication that to date he has only contributed to Republicans.
“Differing opinions are not only welcome but needed on this platform,” the website says. “However, excessive blaming, finger-pointing or divisiveness directed at an individual, faction or political party will not be tolerated. … One of America’s problems right now is that reason is drowned out in the noise of emotion. Please check your emotion, political upbringing and ego at the door.”
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