The Dutch prime minister is lashing out at retired American general John
Sheehan for blaming the Netherlands' inclusion of gays in the military
deaths during the war in Bosnia.
"The remarks were outrageous, wrong, and beneath contempt," Jan Peter Balkenende told reporters at a press conference, according to Reuters.
Other Dutch leaders decried Sheehan's assertions as well. The Dutch Defense Ministry said Sheehan's claims were "absolute nonsense" and that gay Dutch soldiers often work alongside the U.S. military in its NATO mission in Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said Sheehan's statement was "the bizarre private opinion of someone without an official function." Renee Jones-Bos, the Dutch ambassador to the United States, said there was no evidence that his claims were correct.
Sheehan's claim arose from a 1995 battle that became known as the Srebrenica massacre, in which 400 Dutch soldiers serving as United Nations peace-keepers were outnumbered by heavily armed Bosnian Serb forces, resulting in the murder of 7,000 Muslim men and boys by the Serbs. During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on gays in the military, Sheehan said the move to include gays in the Netherlands' military was done to "socialize" the nation's armed forces after the Cold War. He cited that as the reason the force was unable to handle the Bosnian Serbs.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the committee, asked Sheehan whether Dutch leaders told him that gay soldiers weakened the military.
"Yes, they did," Sheehan said. "They included that as part of the problem."
The Netherlands integrated gay soldiers into its military in 1974.