Passport

U.S. General: Gay Dutch soldiers responsible for Bosnian massacre

During his campaign President Obama pledged to repeal the U.S. military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. While the issue wasn’t an immediate starter for the administration, Obama revisited it in his 2010 State of Union address, where he again called for a repeal of the policy. In response, Congress has begun to hold prominent hearings ...

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

During his campaign President Obama pledged to repeal the U.S. military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. While the issue wasn’t an immediate starter for the administration, Obama revisited it in his 2010 State of Union address, where he again called for a repeal of the policy.

In response, Congress has begun to hold prominent hearings on the possible repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." While the hearings certainly have a marquee aspect to them — both Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and General David Petraeus have appeared to testify — much of the testimony has been cautious and, well, pretty tepid.

Enter retired General John Sheehan, who served as a Supreme Allied Commander in NATO from 1994-1997. These three years marked the height of fighting in the former Yugoslavia, and also saw what is arguably the single greatest atrocity committed during the entire Yugoslav Wars: the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre, during which the Bosnian Serb army murdered more than 5,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

How did this happen? Why were the Dutch peacekeepers stationed in Srebrenica for the express purpose of protecting its civilians incapable of doing so? While historians and Dutch officials agree there were multiple problems with the peacekeeping operation, today General Sheehan introduced a completely novel one.

During testimony before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," Sheehan explained that the presence of gay servicemen in the Dutch peacekeeping battalion was "part of the problem" with Srebrenica. In disbelief, Committee Chairman Carl Levin asked Sheehan to clarify: "Did the Dutch leaders tell you it [the fall of Srebrenica] was because there were gay soldiers there?" Sheehan affirmed that they had.

Reeling from Sheehan’s comments, Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende said that "these remarks should never have been made," while retired General "Henk" van den Breemen, one of the Dutch leaders Sheehan implicated as having claimed that gay servicemen were to blame for Srebrenica, denied Sheehan’s allegation and described his remarks as "total nonsense."

Being able to speak your mind freely is one of the perks of retirement, I suppose. Whether it’s one that should always be exercised, however, is an entirely different matter.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola