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A Dutch officer has rebutted the testimony of a retired U.S. Marine general before the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he suggested that the officer partially blamed service by out gays in the Dutch military for one of the worst massacres on European soil since World War II.
During last week's hearing on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, former NATO commander Gen. John Sheehan told committee members that a former Dutch defense chief of staff, Gen. Henk van den Breemen, said the "liberalization" of the Dutch forces rendered them incapable of protecting the people of Srebrenica in 1995 during a battle in the Bosnian war when approximately 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed.
Van den Breemen rejected Sheehan's account in a statement on the Dutch Ministry of Defense's website, calling it "complete nonsense," according to a translation provided the gay veterans group Servicemembers United.
The statement reads, "Sheehan based his claims on statements from then-chief of staff Gen. Henk van den Breemen. Van den Breemen, for his part, considers Sheehan's accusations 'complete nonsense.' Van den Breemen does not share Sheehan's opinion on the role of homosexuals in the fall of Srebrenica, and has never said anything that would imply he did."
The Dutch minister of defense also responded forcefully to the accusation, saying that Sheehan's comments were "disgraceful and unbecoming."
"Minister of Defense Eimert van Middelkoop strongly rejects the statements of retired American General John Sheehan, who blamed the presence of homosexuals in the Dutch military forces for the fall of the Srebrenica enclave in 1995 and the ensuing massacre of nearly eight thousand Muslims," said the statement. "Quoting the minister: 'Disgraceful and unbecoming a military man. I do not intend to waste any more words on this.'"
Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson, who specialized in human intelligence gathering and was discharged under the gay ban, said he was shocked by Sheehan's testimony when he listened to it during the hearing.
"It defied common sense to claim that to begin with," said Nicholson. "We've long heard arguments like that from extreme groups who are fanatical in their opposition to repeal, but to see a military general, who is clearly well educated, who is a career man, adopt that that sort of rhetoric -- which we now know to be an complete fabrication -- just flabbergasted me."
Now that General Sheehan's source has disavowed the testimony, Nicholson added, "it's important to get the truth out there, especially when you disparage the military of a U.S. ally."
Nicholson pointed out that Secretary of State of Hillary Clinton recently praised the Dutch military's service alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan during a NATO press conference in Brussels.
"Much of what we have come up with is modeled on what the Dutch have done," Clinton told reporters at a NATO meeting in December.
"The Dutch forces in Afghanistan came up with the model of the three D's: defense, diplomacy and development," she said. "They were ahead of us. The results they got demonstrated the effectiveness of their approach. So, of course, we would like to see the Dutch continue."
The U.S. has twice asked the Dutch military to extend its stay in the Afghan province of Uruzgan because of the exemplary work it has done there.
Nicholson said we owe "a heartfelt 'thank-you'" to the Dutch for their contributions to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, for the political risks their government has taken to support us, and for the Dutch lives that have been lost in the process.
During his testimony, Sheehan said the Dutch "made a conscious effort to socialize their military -- that includes the unionization of their militaries, it included open homosexuality. ... That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war."
Shortly after Sheehan's remarks became public, the Dutch ambassador to the United States also contradicted his characterization of the facts.
"I take pride in the fact that lesbians and gays have served openly and with distinction in the Dutch military forces for decades, such as in Afghanistan at the moment," ambassador Renee Jones-Bos said in a statement. "The military mission of Dutch U.N. soldiers at Srebrenica has been exhaustively studied and evaluated, nationally and internationally. There is nothing in these reports that suggests any relationship between gays serving in the military and the mass murder of Bosnian Muslims."
The Dutch statement in full and its English translation can be found after the jump.
Dutch Ministry of Defense Statement:
Demissionair minister van Defensie Eimert van Middelkoop neemt krachtig afstand van de uitlatingen van de gepensioneerde Amerikaanse generaal John Sheehan, die heeft verklaard dat de aanwezigheid van homoseksuelen in de Nederlandse krijgsmacht mede de oorzaak was van de val van Srebrenica in 1995 en de daaropvolgende genocide op bijna achtduizend moslims: "Schandelijk en een militair onwaardig. Ik wil er verder geen woord meer aan vuil maken," aldus de minister.
Sheehan zei zich te baseren op uitspraken van de toenmalige Chef Defensie Staf, generaal Henk van den Breemen. Deze vindt de aantijgingen van Sheehan echter "volstrekte onzin." Van den Breemen deelt Sheehan's mening over de rol van homoseksuelen bij de val van Srebrenica niet, en heeft iets dergelijks ook nooit gezegd.
Minister of Defense Eimert van Middelkoop strongly rejects the statements of retired American general John Sheehan, who blamed the presence of homosexuals in the Dutch military forces for the fall of the Srebrenica enclave in 1995 and the ensuing massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslims. Quoting the minister: "Disgraceful and unbecoming a military man. I do not intend to waste any more words on this."
Sheehan based his claims on statements from then-chief of staff Gen. Henk van den Breemen. Van den Breemen, for his part, considers Sheehan's accusations "complete nonsense." Van den Breemen does not share Sheehan's opinion on the role of homosexuals in the fall of Srebrenica and has never said anything that would imply he did.