October 2, 2021

Subject: LtCol Stuart Scheller and Afghanistan: Demanding Absolute, Objective Truth from His Superiors

Proverbs 12:17 “He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit.”

Ed Croteau

Who is LtCol Scheller? First, he is a father of 3 sons who is only 3 years away from a full military pension. He is intelligent and articulate (he holds a BS in Accounting and Masters in Military Science). As a Marine, he has an exemplary service record (5 deployments, multiple awards including an Army Commendation with “V” for Valor, Bronze Star, 3 Meritorious Service Medals, 3 Navy Commendations). His career is a testament to his commitment to the highest levels of accountability – and expecting the same from others.

But in today’s military, LtCol Scheller has discovered there is great personal cost in expecting your superior officers to hold themselves accountable to the truth. First though, let’s define what we mean by “truth”.

Truth means “what conforms to reality – the facts”. First, there is something called “absolute truth”, which means truth does not depend on my circumstances. The opposing position is “relative truth”, where I define truth depending on my circumstances. There is also “objective truth”, which means truth is never based on my opinion. The opposing position is called “subjective truth”, where I define truth depending on my opinion. How does this play out practically in real life?

Anyone who has driven an automobile battles these 2 opposing truths every day. When a speed limit sign says 55 mph, it is an absolute, objective truth. I am supposed to drive at a maximum of 55 mph on that road regardless of my circumstances or my opinion. But how many people really live by this truth?

We go at least 60 mph because we think there is a “fudge factor” – some amount over the limit that is ok, where no trooper will pull us over because “everyone goes over by a little”. Our truth is defined by our circumstances (“I’m in a hurry”) and my opinion (“no one really cares”), even though we know we are breaking an absolute, objective law. But truth is not relative nor subjective when we are driving an automobile. It is absolute and objective. Truth comes home to roost when we get that speeding ticket.

LtCol Scheller wants the absolute, objective truth behind the ISIS killing of 13 American soldiers at Kabul airport as we evacuated Afghanistan. A 17-year Marine veteran and Commanding Officer of the advanced infantry training battalion, his August 26 video demanded the truth from his senior military leadership.

Here are sections from his August 26 video, which has gone viral and led to the end of his military career: “I’m making this video because I have a growing discontent and contempt for my perceived ineptitude at the foreign policy level and I want to specifically ask some questions to some of my senior leaders.

The reason people are so upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down. 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’.

If an O-5 battalion commander has the simplest live fire incident, EO complaint. Boom. Fired. But we have a secretary of defense that testified to Congress in May that the Afghan National Security Forces could withstand the Taliban advance. We have Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs who’s supposed to advise on military policy. We have a Marine combatant commander. All these people are supposed to advise.

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’?

As a person who’s not at 20 years, I have a lot to lose. I thought through ‘if I post this video, what might happen to me?’ But I think what you believe in can only be defined by what you’re willing to risk.

If I’m willing to risk my current battalion commander seat, my retirement, my family’s stability to say some of the things I want to say. I think it gives me some moral high ground to demand the same honesty, integrity, accountability from my senior leaders. I want to say this very strongly: I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders ‘I demand accountability.’”

Our verse this week comes from Proverbs, the wisdom book of our Bible. It simply says that when you tell the absolute, objective truth you are declared righteous in God’s eyes. But when you lie, God holds you accountable as a liar – a false witness. LtCol Scheller’s video is a case study of Proverbs 12:17.

Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.