Dutch fury at US general’s gay theory over Srebrenica
Gen Sheehan claims presence of soldiers in Dutch Army ‘partly to blame’ for massacre
A retired American general has infuriated the Dutch by saying that their forces failed to prevent the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslims at Sebrenica in 1995 partly because homosexuality was rife among the Netherlands' troops.
Gen John Sheehan, a former US Marine and Nato commander, was giving evidence before a US Senate hearing into the suggested repeal of the law which prevents the hiring of openly gay recruits. At present, the US operates a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
To illustrate his argument against allowing gay people to serve openly in the US military, Sheehan said the Dutch Army failed to protect the supposedly safe enclave of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war "partly because of the presence of gay soldiers in its armed forces".
Gen Sheehan, who retired in 1997, claimed the former chief of staff of the Dutch army had admitted this to him. Sheehan suggested that without the need for an active combat capability since the end of the Cold War - "they did not believe the Germans were going to attack again or the Soviets were coming back" - the Dutch had made an effort to "socialise" their army. As well as enlisting openly gay soldiers, the army now allowed its troops to join unions.
The Dutch have reacted furiously to Sheehan's remarks. Renée Jones-Bos, the Dutch ambassador in Washington, said, "I take pride in the fact that lesbians and gays have served openly and with distinction in the Dutch military forces for decades, such as in Afghanistan at the moment."
She went on: "The military mission of Dutch UN soldiers at Srebrenica has been exhaustively studied and evaluated, nationally and internationally. There is nothing in these reports that suggests any relationship between gays serving in the military and the mass murder of Bosnian Muslims."
Dutch defence ministry spokesman Roger van de Wetering said of Sheehan: "It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense."
The massacre at Sebrenica remains a very sore point for the Dutch Army, whose UN garrison was caught off-guard as Bosnian Serb forces swept through the enclave, slaughtering Muslim men and boys.
As Robert Fox reported for The First Post last month, when it was announced that the Netherlands would be withdrawing its 2,000 troops from Afghanistan this August following the collapse of the coalition government, the Dutch have worked hard to make amends ever since. They are credited with having done more for schooling and health care than any other Nato team in the whole of Afghanistan. ·
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