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Anger over US general's gay Dutch army slur

Friday 19 March 2010

A US general's assertion that the massacre of Serb Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 was partly due to gay soldiers in the Dutch military has caused a storm of protest in the Netherlands.

Former US army general John Sheehan made the allegations during a senate hearing into plans to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the US armed forces.

The comments are 'scandalous', 'outrageous' and as 'low as you can go', prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende was quoted as saying after the weekly cabinet meeting.

Some 7,000 men and boys were killed in Srebrenica when it was over-run by Serb forces, despite being under the protection of Dutch soldiers.


'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. That was the largest massacre in Europe since World War II, Sheehan told the hearing.

One senator asked him: 'And did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?'

'It was a combination,' Sheehan answered. 'Did they tell you that? That’s my question,' the senator replied. 'Yes,' stated Sheehan.'They included that as part of the problem... the net effect of basically social engineering.'


The comments have been greated with disbelief by the Dutch defence ministry. 'It is complete nonsence and unbelievable that a man of his stature could say this,' a spokesman told Nos tv.

'No other military mission has been so widely analysed as the fall of Srebrenica and there has never been a link made with homosexuality.'

The Dutch ambassador to the US Renée Jones-Bos made a statement. 'I am proud of the fact that gay men and women have openly served in the Dutch armed forces for decades, as they are doing now in Afghanistan,' she said.

Military unions said the former general was speaking 'nonsense' and that his comments are 'outrageous'.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

US generals talking nonsense?

Just about every day since 9/11.

End the false-flag terror wars.

By Prince Burnhard | 19 March 2010 8:30 AM

John Sheehan sounds like a very good upright pillar-of-the-community church going Christian ... sorry, Christians, actually I mean just a good Catholic.

By Gerard | 19 March 2010 8:36 AM

I was just stunned when I heard this remark...I literally gasped. It is always those at the top trying to save their own heads with lame excuses by blaming those under them. The Srebrenica massacre was one of the saddest things I have ever seen unfold. These so called leaders should get a spine and take their responsibilty.

By AW | 19 March 2010 9:02 AM

Sure. And he has a PhD in sociology topped with one in anthropology, and drew those conclusions after extensive empirical studies. Its funny that he claims to “have been told that” by people who weren’t there to confirm it or deny it…

By ivo | 19 March 2010 9:44 AM

As a former (gay) USAF officer, now resident in Holland with a (gay)Dutch Navy partner (active-duty non-commissioned officer with 26+ years service), I find Sheehan's comments outrageous as well as idiotic. However, if your readers watch the other U-Tube clips they will note US Senators Lieberman and particularly the committee chairman Levin strongly disagreeing with Sheehan's comments.


By P. E. Smith | 19 March 2010 10:15 AM

Well I don't think that the fail of defending that people is related with gay soldiers. I honestly can't convince myself that any EU or US soldier will ever put his/her life in danger to rescue Serb Muslims (straight or gay)

By Oguz | 19 March 2010 11:10 AM

This makes me so angry.

Apart from the unacceptable homophobic comment by a person whom should have known better about responsibility, the facts are far from what he has said.

As a team member of the first Inquiry (Dutch) that travelled to Srebrenica after the event and witnessed not only the horrible tragedy but also the causes the truth is very much open and known.

The rules of engangement, the beaurocratic influences from both the UN, NATO, EU and then Dutch Government made doing anything vertually impossible with strict instructions of what the Commanding Officer could not do and little on what he could.

The comments from Sheehan are not only unacceptable, intolerant, tactless and saying more about him than anything else, but also disrespectful to very good, honest and hardworking Dutch military whom were there, had their hands tied and suffering to this day being the psychological reality that they were forced to do nothing.

Shame Sheehan, playing the far-right radical card for your own political ambition and attacking dedicated military that you should have been obliged to respect.

By Angry | 19 March 2010 11:52 AM

The USA hates fighting alone but will not help those who fight with them. Look how the USA is dumping on GB and the Falklands! This is smoke and mirrors for we are removing troops from the American war in Afghanistan over a failed pipeline!!

Thursday, December 4, 1997 Published at 19:27 GMT
World: West Asia Taleban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline

By Paul Martin | 19 March 2010 11:58 AM

Nothing to do with gay soldiers but all to do with the Dutch army just not being that good really.

By Gary | 19 March 2010 1:52 PM

aaauch! that's a hash thing to say, oguz! l guess you really mean this, but l hope there'll come a time you'll see this otherwise...
l'm a pacifistic woman from the netherlands and so not a fan of any army, but l cannot imagine that the terrible sebrenica massacre was also an anti-muslim-thing for the dutch soldiers...
but on the other hand, why would the dutch be better people than the serbs???
l'm afraid l'll have a lot of thinking to do, this weekend...

By katrien2010 | 19 March 2010 2:29 PM

What's so scary is that this idiot was actually the commander of NATO. If that's cream rising to the top, then America's got some seriously sour milk! The homophobia is just incredible. Sad.

By Ronen Ben-Hai | 19 March 2010 3:49 PM

We should be used to the USA generlas talking complete nonsense by now, but it still surprises and shocks me just how incredibly stupid Americans can be.
They are becoming dangerously stupid.

By CHRISTIAN vd LAAN | 19 March 2010 3:49 PM

There are times when I think my country, the U.S.A., has gone completely mad.

By Ron Slade | 19 March 2010 4:06 PM

As an American, I can only offer an apology for idiotic statements made by Sheehan. Was he implying that men and women who are of a different sexual orientation than he is are cowards? How ridiculous! I hope the Dutch people realize that he speaks for himself alone, and not for the citizens of the US. I wonder what his explanation for the killing fields of Cambodia would be?

By Linda Bishop | 19 March 2010 4:30 PM

I cant agree that the gender or preferrences of troops has anything to do with the abilities. What I find more pertinent in the masacre is that the officer corps failed in their duties. Rules of engagement or not they had a moral obligation as officers. Thats where his comments should focus not their orientation !

By JD | 19 March 2010 5:33 PM

As an American (living in the Netherlands) I'm appalled ANY person would make such a non-factual-based statement, plus one directed at an ally, but it really upsets me an US Army General would direct this because of a lifestyle that has NOTHING to do with service capability. I've been disappointed with the increasingly conservative right dictating what is right and wrong and judging how people live their lives. This is yet another example of the crap that has poisoned the US.

By Casey Magnuson | 19 March 2010 5:49 PM

The man is an ass,nothing but politics are at the bottom of everything.Including religion Islam or any other one .
To play the gay angle is like a suicide bomber doing it for the 70 promised virgins. A silly promise as is his accusation, . His theory falls in line with "The Weapons ofMmass Destruction.
Eisenhower said do not give the military any political power at all. They are to close to the weapons cabinet.
I worked a lot in the USA I feel sorry for the majority of USA citzen being painted once more as the Ugly Americans.

How do you live such bullshit down.

PS prefer not to have my kids die Gay or other wise. So he can sent his kids instead .Unless they are in the closet and he does not know it..


By Nicholas I Vanderstoop | 19 March 2010 5:56 PM

Well, perhaps your military can defeat the enemy through superior prancing, dancing, and coordination of fabulous outfits!

By Tom Hunter | 19 March 2010 8:36 PM

How many times do we have to put up with this kind of BS. Every time we’ve been asked to send soldiers in harms way and every time we get blamed for the failures of others, mainly the bigger nations.
Well, **** them and keep our soldiers home, see who they can blame then.
I’m fed up with the BS that British, US and Canadian are the best, so they say themselves, let them prove it instead of making others the scapegoat again and again. Oh and before I forget, the French and the UN….BAH

By Kees2 | 19 March 2010 8:43 PM

With 2 sons serving in the Dutch Army, I used to be a fervent supporter of assisting our Allies in any mission.
I say “used to be” because I’m getting physically sick by the continuous loathing and skape-coating from our so-called Allies. Bring our soldiers home and NEVER, EVER send them to whatever mission again with our so-called Anglo and French Allies. And that goes for the UN as well.

By Kees2 | 19 March 2010 10:06 PM

Where did the opposition to Gays in the military dig up that cretin, Sheehan. He is in the minority military opinion and just making up lies. Does he think we are all idiots and believe him just because he strung words into sentences. Signed Gay Man USA

By Neil Hess | 19 March 2010 10:16 PM

Right or wrong, his is the best explanation so far, for the pathetic failure of Dutch troops to do the right thing. 15 years later, still cannot believe that this was ALLOWED to happen.

By edward guthrie | 19 March 2010 10:27 PM

it was not exclusively about anti-muslim and I really didn't say so to be aggresive. I just don't believe that a soldier who is not even sure why he is there and for what aim,can't be motived to protect others (whom he has no common grounds at all) life at the cost of his own.
UN really didn't care what happened there.. and when it decided to seem cared, it was already too late..

By Oguz | 19 March 2010 11:55 PM

wait and see that what would be there remarks on dutch troops in afghanistan. I am thinking the US will put all the debris on our troops. Watch out netherlands before joining hands with US.

By jerry | 20 March 2010 8:51 AM

Absolutely outrageous!

You might as well blame the Jewish Holocaust on American soldiers being straight. Did you notice the leading question from the politician though? This statement is not only insulting to the Dutch.....but also to the current gays and lesbians serving in any military around the world including the United States.

By R Richard | 20 March 2010 12:24 PM

We should be careful in how we react to this news. The idea that gay members of a military contingent can lead to the poor performance of the contingent is certainly offensive, but let us be careful understand what the general has said. We appear to be attacking the messenger and not the real target.

In essence, he says that Dutch commanders told him that their troops perform poorly because of government-directed social engineering policies (including, but not limited too, gay troops) that affect the military's effectiveness.

We need to ask several questions:

Who told him this, or is he lying?

If some Dutch officers did tell him this, then did he misunderstand them?

If he understood the Dutch commanders correctly, then why do the Dutch commanders feel this way? Are the Dutch commanders correct? I doubt it since I have not seen any reliable study that can support such a claim, but if this is the experience of Dutch military commanders in the field, then we need to know why they claim this.

If the Dutch commanders are correct (I doubt it), then should it lead to a change in policy? even if the performance of troops suffers?

We should not gang up to attack this man until we understand what is going on (even if he is probably an idiot).

By Matt | 20 March 2010 1:38 PM

And again the a non-Anglo speaking country is made scapegoat for failures of it’s allies. Time the Dutch send all their troops home and NEVER EVER again send them on a mission that includes their so-called allies or the UN.
With 2 sons serving in the Dutch Army, I was always a fervent supporter of standing by our so-called allies. I say “was” because now all we seem to be good for is to take the blame for everything that goes wrong. To our “allies” within NATO and the UN, I say, **** you and find another scapegoat.

By Kees2 | 20 March 2010 2:15 PM

I did not realize Bill O'Reilly's military twin was a US Marine general!
For those who are unaware Bill O': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVxDNJ6RZQw
I have seen no collaboration of his statements, which is a Bill O' tactic.
Well, beyond his accusation regarding a supposed conversation with a suspected Netherlands general.
And, WTF would 'social engineering' have to do with any of this?

This guy was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and performing a classic CYA.

The problem is that this will never make 'the News' in the US (well maybe a headline on FOX) and we may never hear of a follow-up investigation into whether anything he said had any truth to it.

I await someone to search out the nonexistent Dutch general, Hankman Berman, to affirm or deny the conversation.
Then I will know if I should strongly disagree with 2 military leaders or only 1.

By wilber | 20 March 2010 4:10 PM

Yeah, because this guy really cares about the deaths of Muslims. And there are already homosexuals in the US military, they're just not allowed to be open about it.

@katrien2010: I agree. There is a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment here but standing by while the people you're trying to protect are killed is a very different issue.

By Chi | 20 March 2010 5:43 PM

And how exactly does DutchNews.nl justify headlining this as a "slur"? The general was asked for his opinion and he gave it, based on information he was given.

DutchNews: your bias is showing.

By YoMamma | 20 March 2010 8:39 PM

In any case nothing to compare -in terms of number of victims- with the main two terrorist attacks in History of Mankind: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

By zenplus | 20 March 2010 10:59 PM

As a former member of the US Military, I want to personally apologize for the remarks made. The US is much better than this, but their lack of understanding of what makes a soldier a soldier is unbelievable. Maybe they will learn from this mistake, but I doubt it. I think sometimes they are really afraid of their own masculinity. In the US we are not all like this, but it will take future generations to make a change. Not this one !!!

By Bob | 21 March 2010 9:41 AM

One extension of the General's remarks is that if more officers were gay, perhaps there'd be less warfare.

By Steve | 21 March 2010 9:45 AM

This thing about gay soldiers or not is a lame excuse.Truth is the dutch soldiers failed in their mission (gay or not). that should become a lesson and either reconstruct how the dutch army works, or not going on such a missions if they are incompetent.
@ozgur..turkey (a nato member) did not want to send soldiers to protect its "fellow" muslims..so stop accusing "christian" countries because not even islamic ones cared...

By kos | 21 March 2010 10:14 AM

We in Europe should quit Nato and start our own European defense force with Russia. The hell with USA! As a matter of fact, we should take New york back and make it a part of netherlands again, and Russia should take Alaska back since USA are too broke to take care of their own people anyway.

By sandraV | 21 March 2010 2:21 PM

if you read carefully what I've wrote, I clearly mention that it's not a comment of religions.. UN has both muslim and christian members. A country has no right, without any international legitimacy, to send its army to a country.. (Sure US is an exception of this :)) So a country can not just say hey let's go there and protect people..UN is the international desicion taker in such case..

By Oguz | 22 March 2010 9:15 AM

As a retired American military officer, please allow me to add my apologies for the stupid remarks made by this general officer. I was in Washington, DC, the day after these remarks were made. I was there as part of a lobbying effort to get the US Congress to repeal the disgusting discriminatory and idiotic law which requires people to lie about themselves (our Don't Ask, Don't Tell law). After hearing of the stupid comments made the day before, I paid a visit to the Dutch embassy and spoke with a Dutch naval officer, where I extended my apologies that such stupid remarks were made. The graciousness of the Dutch naval officer was astounding, both in listening to my elementary level Dutch and in assuring me he understood these remarks were not representative of how the majority of American military officers.

Just one more point, to extend the general's "logic", one would have to conclude the lack of openly gay soldiers in the US Army during the Vietnam war MUST have been a main cause of the My Lai massacre - Absolutely absurd, isn't it?

Het spijt me zo voor wat deze officier gezegd.

By Rick B. | 23 March 2010 1:47 PM

Speaking as an American, this General Sheehan guy is WAY out of line! I've been to the Verzetsmuseum and it's pretty obvious that the Dutch, in general, are cowards. They allowed Germany to take over with little opposition at the begnning of WWII, the royal family fled to England until the Germans started bombing there and then they fled to Canada. This I can't see any corelation between sexuality and the massacre in Srebrenica, but I can see a corelation between the massacre and who was tasked with protecting the Serbian Muslims.

By AmericanTourist | 8 April 2010 2:33 AM

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