Former US general links Srebrenica to Dutch army gays
WASHINGTON (AFP) – A retired US general on Thursday said Dutch UN troops defending Srebrenica in the Bosnian war failed to prevent the 1995 genocide partly because their ranks included openly gay soldiers.
John Sheehan, a former NATO commander and senior Marine officer, made the remarks at a Senate hearing where he argued against plans by President Barack Obama to end a ban on allowing gays to serve openly in the US military.
Sheehan said that after the end of the Cold War, European militaries changed and concluded “there was no longer a need for an active combat capability.”
He said this “socialization” process “included open homosexuality” and led to “a focus on peacekeeping operations because they did not believe the Germans were going to attack again or the Soviets were coming back.”
“The case in point that I’m referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs,” he said, referring to the UN peacekeeping force deployed to protect Bosnian Muslim civilians.
“The battalion was understrength, poorly led, and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone polls, marched the Muslims off and executed them.”
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, pressed him to clarify his comments.
“Did the Dutch leaders tell you it (the fall of Srebrenica) was because there were gay soldiers there?” asked an incredulous Levin.
“Yes,” Sheehan said and added: “They included that as part of the problem.”
Sheehan, who retired from the military in 1997, said he had been told that by the former chief of staff of the Dutch army.
Levin vehemently rejected Sheehan’s allegation, saying that drawing a connection between the massacre at Srebrenica and gays in the Dutch military was “totally off-target.”
The failure of the Dutch UN troops to fend off an attack by Bosnian Serb forces had “nothing to do with sexual orientation” but was related to “their training and the rules of engagement,” Levin said.
The general’s remarks drew a sharp response from the Dutch ambassador to Washington, Renee Jones-Bos.
The military mission of the Dutch UN forces in Srebrenica “has been exhaustively studied and evaluated,” she said in a statement.
“There is nothing in these reports that suggests any relationship between gays serving in the military and the mass murder of Bosnian Muslims,” she said.
The ambassador added: “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.”
Nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Serb forces captured the eastern town on July 11, 1995, in the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.
Thursday’s hearing included testimony from both sides of the debate over the law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which requires gay service members to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face expulsion from the military.
Two former US officers who were discharged under the 1993 law appealed to lawmakers to repeal the ban, saying it was preventing qualified Americans from serving the country.
Former Air Force officer Michael Almy said he had kept his homosexuality secret for years but was forced out after a commander ordered a search of his e-mails written to friends and family.
“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ failed me, despite the fact that I upheld my end of this law by never disclosing my private life,” Almy said.
He said he believed a younger generation in the military was ready to accept openly gay members in the armed forces.
After his dismissal, when he asked former troops to write letters of reference for him, “it was a complete non-issue for my troops,” Almy said.
“The young men and women that are coming into the military today, fresh out of high school or college, have grown up with gay and lesbian characters on TV, … know gays and lesbians in their schools, in their communities, on their sports teams and most assuredly in their military,” he said.
Source: Agence France-Presse (via: Yahoo! News)
Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah
Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.
The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.