Retired U.S. general links massacre to presence of gay soldiers

Posted Mar 19, 2010 by Chris Dade
A retired Marine Corps general and former NATO commander told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the presence of openly gay soldiers in the Dutch military contributed to a 1995 massacre of over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys.
Gen. John J. Sheehan
Gen. John J. Sheehan
U.S. federal government,
Gen. John “Jack” Sheehan, who retired in 1997, was appearing before the committee to explain his opposition to the ending of the “ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law which prevents those who are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from serving in the U.S. military.
The repeal of the law has looked increasingly likely in recent times as figures such as Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have indicated that they believe repeal to be desirable or at least inevitable.
But Gen. Sheehan does not agree with the repeal of the law and he has used the massacre of over 8,000 Bosnian-Muslim (Bosniak) men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995 to support his argument.
The massacre was committed by Serb forces in the town in the east of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the time that the former nation of Yugoslavia was disintegrating.
Serb forces had been able to carry out the largest mass killing in Europe since World War Two after "overwhelming" what the Voice of America (VOA) says were four hundred Dutch soldiers operating as peacekeepers for the U.N.
And it is the fact that the Netherlands - in common with countries such as Britain, Canada, Australia and Israel - allows openly gay people to serve in its military that Gen. Sheehan claims contributed to its soldiers being unable to resist the Serbs.
Noting that the collapse of the Soviet Union had led many European nations to concentrate the efforts of their armed forces on peacekeeping - although VOA reports that the Netherlands had openly gay members of its military years before that event - Gen. Sheehan is quoted by The Seattle Times/Associated Press as saying:They declared a peace dividend and made a conscious effort to socialize their military - that includes the unionization of their militaries, it includes open homosexuality
After describing how the Dutch battalion in Srebrenica was "understrength" and "poorly led" and as a result found its members handcuffed to telephone poles as the Serbs marched the Bosniaks off to be executed Gen. Sheehan was asked by committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin (Democrat-Michigan) if Dutch leaders had indicated that the presence of gay soldiers had undermined the effectiveness of their troops.
Responding to Sen. Levin, who believes that the assessment of the situation by the former NATO commander is "totally off-target", Gen. Sheehan said:Yes. They included that as part of the problem. ... A combination of the liberalization of the military — a net effect, basically, of social engineering
Sen. Levin reportedly argued:The Dutch military, as you point out, were peacekeepers and not peace-enforcers. I agree with that. But what the heck that has to do with the issue before us is what mystifies me
I think we all remember Srebrenica. Any effort to connect that failure on the part of the Dutch to the fact that they had homosexuals ... is totally off target. I see no suggestion of that. It’s no more on point than the fact that they may have allowed African or Dutch-African or women to serve
According to the Navy Times, to further justify his opposition to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", Gen. Sheenan cited a sexual assault committed by one man on another man within his unit fighting in Vietnam and the impact of the assault on morale and discipline.
He mentioned too statistics produced by the Pentagon indicating that seven percent of sexual assaults within the military in 2009 were male-on-male, although the Navy Times confirms that the correct figure is five percent of 3,230 recorded incidents.
Both the Dutch ambassador to the U.S., Renee Jones-Bos, and a spokesman for the Dutch Defense Ministry, Roger Van de Wetering, have criticized the views expressed by Gen. Sheehan.
Ambassador Jones-Bos stated that she "couldn't disagree more" with Gen. Sheehan, adding:I take pride in the fact that lesbians and gays have served openly and with distinction in the Dutch military forces for decades, including in leading operational positions, such as in Afghanistan at the moment
Meanwhile Roger Van de Wetering spoke of it being "unbelievable that a man of this rank is stating this nonsense".
He continued:The whole operation in Srebrenica and the drama that took place over there was thoroughly investigated by Dutch and international authorities and none of these investigations has ever concluded or suggested a link between homosexual military personnel and the things that happened over there. I do not know on what facts this is based, but for us it is total nonsense.
For us it is very simple. Every man or woman that meets the criteria physically and mentally is welcome to serve in our armed forces regardless of (religious) belief, sexual preference or whatever