When Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, an active-duty Marine, spoke out against the Biden Administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, media condemnation was swift — a stark difference from the laurels given to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, whose criticisms led to Donald Trump’s impeachment.
Mr. Vindman wove harrowing tales of a quid-pro-quo to the leader of Ukraine for “dirt” on Hunter Biden. Never mind that the Joe Biden’s son resembles nothing so much as a man-shaped sack of topsoil taught to wear dock siders, or that his business dealings would smell to Pepe Le Pew.
Hunter had no experience or even spoke Ukrainian, yet he landed a no-show job for which he was paid (you can’t say “earned”) $83,000 a month. He got the gig because of his daddy — a tradition in Washington that stinks nonetheless.
Then-Vice President Biden’s threats that Ukraine cease investigating Hunter’s company were certainly as fair a topic as, say, George W. Bush’s brother Neil working for Enron in 2002 or Bill Carter having to register as a foreign agent of Libya in 1980. As Finley Peter Dunne said, “Politics ain’t beanbag.”
Mr. Trump refuted Mr. Vindman‘s claims by releasing the transcript of the “perfect” phone call, yet the doughy Mr. Vindman was praised as a titan in the press, landed a book deal, and his career suffered only a transfer from a White House he held in contempt anyway.
Mr. Scheller, by comparison, got fired simply for expressing anger over the senseless slaughter of his thirteen brothers and sisters in arms and didn’t even mention the commander-in-chief. He simply demanded “accountability at all levels.”
And far from being enriched like Mr. Vindman, Mr. Scheller will be poorer. “I am forfeiting retirements, all entitlements,” he said. “I don’t want a single dollar. I don’t want any money from the VA. I don’t want any VA benefits.”
A 17-year veteran of the Corps, Mr. Scheller knew what he risked in a world where people lose jobs for tweeting the insufficiently woke. Yet he shrugged Dirty Harry style at the Pentagon and media. “Go ahead. Make my day.”
The U.S. Military runs on discipline, but we are often reminded of Nazi soldiers who insisted they were “just following orders” and ignored the code of civilized society, swearing oaths only to Hitler personally as a leader.
One thing that makes America an exception to authoritarian regimes is our men and women in uniform answer to a higher law, swearing to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” For this reason, Germans fled to the American lines as the Third Reich collapsed, and Afghan mothers entrusted their infants to GIs.
It’s also why Washington wrongly and tragically thought dressing up Afghan tribesmen in Uncle Sam’s camos would magically transform them into professional soldiers.
A famous example of criticism from the ranks occurred in 1898. After the U.S. beat Spain, the 5th Army Corps found itself decimated by malaria and yellow fever in the mosquito-infested swamps of Cuba. Over 4,200 men were ill and dying and feared they’d wither away if they didn’t get out.
President William McKinley, who’d prosecuted a war he didn’t want, yet had no interest in losing, preferred to keep the soldiers in place. Spain was balking at peace terms, and like a Gilded Age Don Corleone, Mac warned them: Either your brains or your signature will be on that peace treaty.
The American public, fearing our boys would bring home a pandemic, opposed their return as well. So — feverish and abandoned — several officers met with Major General William R. Shafter and asked to return stateside. When their request fell on deaf ears, they decided to draft a round-robin letter, laying out the problem for Army HQ.
It fell to Col. Theodore Roosevelt, commander of the 1st Volunteer U.S. Cavalry Rough Riders, to draft the letter. Because he wasn’t a career officer, he had no career to protect. He wrote the round-robin and took the heat when it leaked to the press.
But far from suffering ex-communication for the embarrassment he caused, the 5th Army was removed to quarantine in sunny Montauk, and Mr. McKinley welcomed TR as his vice-presidential running mate in 1900.
Mr. Scheller, like Mr. Roosevelt, swore a military oath, not the mafia’s oath of omerta. If the media made Mr. Vindman a hero for speaking out when it served their political aims, they should at least spare a word of praise for Mr. Scheller, who simply asks the chain of command to show some accountability for this disaster.
Because whatever your political bent, the way we ended the Afghan war stinks.
• Dean Karayanis is producer for the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show, longtime Rush Limbaugh staffer, and host of History Author Show on iHeartRadio.