By David Hopkins

They are our most legendary soldiers, the United States Marines. Proud and brave, these men and women of uncommon valor exude courage and honor and stand as a bulwark to our freedom. From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, the Marines are our protectors, worthy to be celebrated and honored for what they do for us as much as being feared by our enemies.

But they made a mistake. A HUGE one. They messed up big time. They have taken the principles of honor and duty and twisted it into something ugly and unholy.

The upcoming military Court-Martial of Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller is one of the sorriest examples of wayward prosecution and disrespect for a noble American soldier I have witnessed in years. Lt.-Colonel Scheller is a Marine Infantry Officer with an exemplary career of five deployments and multiple senior awards, including a Bronze Star, Army Commendation for Valor, 3 Meritorious Service Medals, 3 Navy Commendations, and years of illustrious combat duty. The man is a hero. In the wake of the recent debacle in Afghanistan which, thanks to Joe Biden’s reckless leadership blunders, cost numerous American lives, Colonel Scheller took to social media and recorded a video titled: “To The American Leadership” which encouraged high-ranking Pentagon Officers and a few other political pundits to take responsibility for their mistakes regarding Afghanistan. You’ve probably seen the video where Colonel Scheller speaks about the importance of being accountable for bad decisions taken in reference to the timing of the ill-fated Afghan pull out which subsequently led to deaths of several innocent Americans, among those children. . I listened to it it and I thought his comments were spot on. And so did millions of other Americans who already understood the gist of the Colonel’s message. Colonel Scheller didn’t unveil the contents of some secret High Security document or sensitive intel which necessitated concealment from the public. He was simply speaking from the heart out of obvious sadness and frustration over the Afghan mess. It was a sentiment felt by all Americans who experienced a feeling of sadness over the untimely demise of other Americans on foreign soil. But for this —–this supposed inalienable right under the Constitution for all to speak freely and express personal opinions—— the Marines decided to PROSECUTE the Colonel for a laundry list of offenses by way of a Court Martial, which, if successful, will certainly have profound deleterious repercussions on his job, his retirement, and the general quality of his life in the months and years ahead. Scheller is being charged, among other things, with disrespecting superior officers and conduct unbecoming an Officer. It is a sickening spectacle to behold for anyone who believes in the First Amendment, and, Brother, I’m one who does.

From my perspective, the Marine Corps made a dubious and unreasonable decision to seek formal charges for expressing personal views in a public forum, but, it’s actually much more than just that. The issue at stake here is far more insidious than just the prosecution of a fellow Marine who may have shamed and embarrassed higher-ranking officials with talk about who ordered The Code Red and then bypassing a chain of command to lend some friendly advice to those who did. No, it’s far worse than that. What is being perpetrated on Colonel Scheller by the Marine Corps amounts to nothing short of blatant retaliation for exercising a core Constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. That right, in my humble opinion, supersedes some questionable “Gag Order” conjured up by military brass intended to keep Scheller quiet from demanding accountability for an incident that was already well-known by the public and was receiving growing attention (and criticism) by Americans everywhere. This is simply a case of prior restraint imposed on a citizen who decided to speak his mind. It is a sorry spectacle to witness this kind of deplorable retaliatory treatment administered to a brave and honorable man like Lt-Colonel Scheller.

And today, scary as the thought may be, there’s a good chance this sort of thing can happen to anyone, whether military or civilian.

And, let’s not be coy here. The retaliation against Scheller didn’t come exclusively from his superiors at the Pentagon. No way. This was generated somewhere else, somewhere (I’m thinking) a few blocks away. With a fair dab of criticism directed also at the White House by Scheller, I’ll bet you my bottom dollar the decision to put the Colonel in the brig and then prosecute him had a lot to do with the fragile ego of the doddering Dictator that inhabits 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Military court martials are different than prosecutions in regular civilian courts. The standard of evidence is far less to gain a conviction. They play loosey-goosey on the hearsay rule for instance. Military courts are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which provides the foundation for military law in the USA. Civilian trials, of course, are governed by rights and laws established in the Constitution. In civilian criminal courts a unanimous jury verdict is required for conviction whereas in a military court only two-thirds of jury is required to convict. What that means—-to me anyway—–is that Scheller will eventually be convicted of the charges, especially the BAD ones, and he will be drummed out of the Corps on a Dishonorable Discharge thereby causing him to forfeit most of the rights and benefits he had accrued over nearly 20 years of service as a valiant and honorable soldier fighting bravely for MY freedom and for YOUR freedom, too.

Exactly as the Pentagon planned it.

Does this sound like something that is kosher under the laws of Military Justice, the American Constitution, or just plain old common sense? It doesn’t to me.

I was reading an online article just this week written by imminent attorney and Harvard Law School Professor, Alan Dershowitz, in which he was bemoaning the instances of American’s free speech and expression being suppressed more and more under the Biden Administration. (We all know this is happening in alarming heaping helpings). But, within the article I noticed that Dershowitz made the comment that, to paraphrase, he would go to tireless lengths to represent Americans whose free speech had been censored or suppressed. Maybe Professor Dershowitz should think about lending his amazing First Amendment skills of representation to Lt.-Colonel Scheller’s ridiculous court-martial because that is exactly what happened to him.

Call your Congressman and tell him or her to stop this nonsense!!!

Let’s pray for our noble Soldier

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David Hopkins

Retired journalist and health club Administrator. Sports and Entertainment blogger with an eye on American politics.

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