Retired Marine Gen. John Sheehan (pictured) blames the Netherlands' inclusion of gays in the military for thousands of Bosnian deaths in 1995.
Sheehan was the top NATO commander in the 1990s during the height of the genocide in the former Yugoslavia. During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on gays in the military on Thursday, he said that the situation in Yugoslavia was a clear example of how other nations allowing gays in the military led to undermining unit cohesion, according to TheWashington Post .
The Dutch military was the first to allow gays to serve openly in the ranks when it lifted its ban in 1974. Two decades later, 400 Dutch peace keepers were stationed in Srebrenica when Serbian forces attacked the Bosnian Muslims, killing 8,000 men and boys by Serbian forces.
Sheehan said that allowing gays in the Dutch military left peace keepers "ill-equipped to go to war."
When Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked him to verify whether Dutch leaders said the mission failed because it included gay soldiers, Sheehan said yes.
"They did?" Levin asked.
"They included that as part of the problem," Sheehan replied. He added that the former chief of staff of the Dutch army said allowing gay service members detracted from its war-fighting abilities.
Levin countered, "But I think that any effort to connect that failure on the part of the Dutch to the fact that they have homosexuals, or did allow homosexuals, I think is totally off-target."
Roger van de Wetering, a spokesman for the Netherlands Ministry of Defense, told Voice of America news that Sheehan's statements were "total nonsense" and that he "cannot believe that a man of that rank is stating such a thing."