Dutch lash out at gay link in Srebrenica massacre

AMSTERDAM Fri Mar 19, 2010 3:03pm EDT

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander John Sheehan in a 1996 photo. REUTERS/File

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander John Sheehan in a 1996 photo.

Credit: Reuters/File

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende attacked on Friday claims by a retired U.S. general that Dutch forces were overrun in Srebrenica in 1995 because of the presence of gay soldiers.

At a U.S. congressional hearing on Thursday on allowing gay soldiers to serve openly in the military, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander John Sheehan said there was a causal link between having homosexuals in the Dutch forces and the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian war.

"The remarks were outrageous, wrong and beneath contempt," Balkenende told a news conference.

Bosnian Serb forces overran lightly-armed Dutch soldiers in the United Nations-designated enclave in July 1995 and subsequently massacred more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys, the worst mass killing in Europe since World War Two.

In his remarks which also provoked angry reactions from unions and gay military groups, Sheehan blamed a post-Cold War effort by European nations to "socialize" their armed forces by, among other things, allowing openly gay soldiers to serve.


"That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war. The case in point that I'm referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs," Sheehan said.

"The battalion was under-strength, poorly led, and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone poles, marched the Muslims off, and executed them."

Carl Levin, chairman of the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee, asked: "Did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?"

"Yes, they did. They included that as part of the problem," Sheehan said, according to a webcast on the website of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"That there were gay soldiers?" Levin then asked.

"That the combination was the liberalization of the military, a net effect was basically social engineering."

The Dutch Defense Ministry called Sheehan's claims "absolute nonsense" and added that gay Dutch soldiers routinely cooperate with the U.S. military in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen called the claim "the bizarre private opinion of someone without an official function".

Renee Jones-Bos, the Dutch ambassador to the United States, said in a statement, "I couldn't disagree more" with Sheehan, adding there was no evidence of his claims in the extensive record of research on Srebrenica.

Military unions were equally angry. Dutch news agency ANP quoted the head of the military union AFMP as saying Sheehan's comments were "out of the realm of fiction", while the head of the gay soldiers' group SHK called his comments "the ridiculous convulsion of a loner".

The events in Srebrenica remain a sensitive subject in the Netherlands, where a six-year investigation into the massacre led to the government's fall in 2002.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; editing by Jackie Cowhig)

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Comments (13)
atunionbob wrote:
My God has this man gone nuts? There is NO evidence to the effect of Gays in the Dutch Military leading to the cause of the Massacre in Srebrenica. This OLD man needs to be put in the rest home where others who are senile reside, because obviously he is Senile. People like him give the military a bad name. Gays have since the beginning of time served along side of others in the military openly, and knowingly, with NO problems. This old general should have his head examined.

Mar 19, 2010 8:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
lambdin1 wrote:
Yes he is NUTS! Old men are the most vocal about keeping gays out of the military. They have been conditioned to believe that gays are bad and not deserving of equal right. There are many that would like to kill all the gays. All this is because of their conditioning as children. You can teach hate!!!!

Mar 19, 2010 9:01am EDT  --  Report as abuse
riluve wrote:
seems the world has forgotten the Spartans – for generations they were the world fiercest warriors and an entire civilization of homosexuals. OK, maybe not “gay” in the modern sense, but male-male sexual relationships were encouraged and had their wives dress as men the night they consummated their marriage. All of this before anyone invented the bible.

Mar 19, 2010 10:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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