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’.