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General Apologizes For False Testimony

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Even as retired U.S. Marine Gen. John Sheehan sent a personal letter of apology to a Dutch officer whom he misquoted in his Congressional testimony earlier this month, a retired U.S. officer refuted Sheehan's account of the causation of the Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 people in 1995 during the Bosnian war.

Sheehan sent a letter to retired Dutch Gen. Henk van den Breemen, whom he claimed during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee had, in part, blamed openly gay service within the Dutch ranks for the inability of the Dutch military to protect the people of Srebrenica.

"I am sorry that my public recollection of those discussions of 15 years ago inaccurately reflected your thinking on some specific social issues on the military," Sheehan wrote in a letter to van den Breemen. "To be clear, the failure on the ground in Srebrenica was no way the fault of individual soldiers."

Sheehan's testimony is further discounted by the account of former retired Army Colonel Paul Trahan, who served alongside the Dutch troops between 1993 and 1996.

"I was in the NATO headquarters in Naples Italy in July 1995 when the Srebrenica incident was unfolding," Col. Trahan wrote to The Advocate. "The Dutch Commander in Srebrenica attempted to intercede even though he was outmanned, outgunned, and surrounded by a hostile force. The U.N. HQ prevented the Dutch Commander from using force to stop the abductions of those entrapped in Srebrenica. The NATO airstrikes, which the Dutch Commander requested never materialized."

Trahan concludes, "I had numerous discussions with Dutch officers and soldiers of the 'Dutch Bat' over the course of my three years in NATO. There was never any derogatory mention of the sexuality of any soldier."

Col. Trahan's full letter is available on the next page:

The text of Col. Trahan's full letter:

Thirty years in uniform and I have never known of any military operation, of any nation, affected by the sexuality of its troops. That is why the Congressional testimony of U.S. Marine Corps General Sheehan about the Dutch forces in Srebrenica mystifies me.

It's not that I haven't heard the timeless troop barracks trash talk questioning the manliness of other fighting units. As long as there are warriors who wear bell bottoms, kilts, berets, and stand out haircuts, there will be disparaging remarks, and brawls to rectify the misconceptions. This mindless stereotype folklore is the stuff of the recruits, not of Generals. It is therefore puzzling that a U.S. General would testify that in effect, a NATO Allies army is too gay to shoot straight.

From 1993 to 1996 I spent a considerable amount of time working with Dutch Troops both in NATO and U.N. operations. At the time I was responsible for establishing and commanding NATO Headquarters Bases in the Former Yugoslavia. The Dutch had been on the ground in the Balkans wearing blue U.N. peacekeepers helmets for nearly two years before I arrived. The Dutch Blue Helmets took orders from the multinational U.N. HQ in Zagreb, Croatia, not the Dutch Army HQ.

I was in the NATO headquarters in Naples Italy in July 1995 when the Srebrenica incident was unfolding. The Dutch Commander in Srebrenica attempted to intercede even though he was outmanned, outgunned, and surrounded by a hostile force. The U.N. HQ prevented the Dutch Commander from using force to stop the abductions of those entrapped in Srebrenica. The NATO air strikes, which the Dutch Commander requested never materialized. The inhumanity of what happened next is in no way attributable to the Dutch. The face of that inhumanity it is on trial today in The Hague in the person of Radovan Karadzic and in-absentia, General Ratko Mladic.

It is my judgment that the Dutch were the most respected U.N. peacekeepers in the Former Yugoslavia. They were not seen as aligned with any of the warring factions. They conducted themselves professionally and treated all sides with human dignity.

I was there in Sarajevo in Dec 1995 when the Dutch soldiers grounded their U.N. Blue Helmets and proudly donned their national combat headgear as part of the NATO Implementation Force. They continued to serve with distinction enforcing the Dayton Accords.

I had numerous discussions with Dutch officers and soldiers of the "Dutch Bat" over the course of my three years in NATO. There was never any derogatory mention of the sexuality of any soldier. In the NATO HQ there was never any issue about sexuality playing any role in the Srebrenica incident. It was a non-issue. As it should be with the U.S. military.

Colonel Paul Trahan, U.S. Army (Retired)

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