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Anti-gay general’s comments infuriate the Dutch

Timothy Kincaid

March 19th, 2010

sheehanWhen Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee invited retired General Jack Sheehan to speak in opposition to allowing openly gay soldiers to serve in the US Military, they certainly didn’t think he would start an international incident with his comments. But as it has turned out, Sheehan’s comments have now become a point of anger, ire, and ridicule around the world.

Sheehan sought to counter one of the most compelling arguments for lifting the ban on gay servicemen: that many of our allies have done so without problem. He wanted to persuade committee members that, indeed, modern militaries that have “liberalized” their forces and allowed gay soldiers to serve have suffered dramatic consequences.

So Sheehan blamed one of Europe’s military blunders, the inept protection of a town in Bosnia by Dutch peace-keeping forces, on these liberalizing perspectives, and in particular the policy of including gay soldiers. And he claimed that he had this on the authority of Henk van der Breemen, the Netherlands Chief of Defense Staff.

The massacre of 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica is an important event in the modern history and culture of the Dutch people. The Netherlands government commissioned a study and delved deeply into the causes which contributed to the inadequate defense, and the event led to the ouster of van der Breemen and eventually the resignation of Prime Minister Wim Kok. And while the Dutch take responsibility for their part in the tragedy, they rightly note that other nations share blame as well for not committing adequate resources and for not sending air response when requested.

To speak of this event – and to claim Dutch sources – from an outsider’s perspective was a most incautious action. And is was also unwise not to recognize that the Dutch pride themselves in their acceptance of gay people into the fabric of their culture and life and that they see statements that appear to be homophobic as boorish and personally offensive.

Though not exactly a parallel, testifying that the Dutch military leaders blamed the massacre at Srebrenica on gay Dutch soldiers is a bit like some foreign official claiming that Dwight Eisenhower had told him that the incarceration of Japanese-Americans was the fault of Jews. It is irrational, touches on matters of national shame, is deeply insulting and causes an immediate anger, disgust, and revulsion.

And, indeed, the Dutch have been deeply insulted. And have responded vehemently to deny any connection between the events in Bosnia and the Dutch policy of allowing gay soldiers.

The statement has been denounced by van der Breemen, who called it “absolute nonsense” and stated that he does not and never has shared Sheehan’s views on gay soldiers.

The Dutch Ambassador to the United States, Renée Jones-Bos, released a statement saying that she couldn’t disagree more.

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.

The military mission of Dutch UN 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.

As we noted yesterday, the Dutch military was quick to respond. But the statements caught the attention of the Dutch people and the government of the Netherlands and seemed to slur the identity of the Dutch as a people. A reader informs us that the story was on the news all day and the claims elicited response from several officials. (New York Times)

The Dutch defense minister, Eimert van Middelkoop, added that the comments were, “scandalous and unbefitting a soldier.” Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch foreign minister, chimed in on Twitter, calling the explanation of what happened at Srebrenica “extremely strange.” Jan Kleian, the head of the Dutch military union ACOM, told Dutch television, “That man is just crazy.” He added, “That sounds harsh, but what else can I say, because it is complete nonsense.”

The anger and response went to the highest level of government (WaPo)

The Dutch prime minister Friday denounced as “irresponsible” a claim by a retired U.S. general that gay Dutch soldiers were partly to blame for allowing Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.

Dutch officials, from the Cabinet to the military, were outraged by retired Gen. John Sheehan’s remarks at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

But this story is not limited to US and Dutch media. Media from around the world, including many nations that are allies and whom allow openly gay soldiers, have picked up the retired general’s comments. And, as reported, they appear to show contempt for foreign militaries and for the soldiers who are fighting by our side in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So now we have an international incident. Now our perception around the world has been tarnished. And now our State Department has had its job made more difficult.

Comments

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Ben in Oakland
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Thank you, General Sheehan, for your contribution to the cause of repealing DADT.

Thank you for swearing before God and Republic that you are an ignorant, not very bright asshatted bigot, and proving that even being in the military — and a general, no less-
gives you no particular authority if you are perceived as such.

I love the comment i found– and i don’t even know what it means– from the dutch soldier’s union– “the ridiculous convulsion of a loner”.

Grant
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

I hope the Republican legislators who invited this stunted and backward-thinking general to testify share in the embarrassment. They probably thought they had a winner on their hands with this one.

Epic Fail

Soren456
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

@Grant:

I doubt that the Republicans even understand what the hubbub is about.

“Huh? What?”

And they probably wondered what that old coot Levin was trying to get at in his cross-exam.

“Huh? What?”

Sheehan slapped a “Kick Me” sign on his cohorts’ backs, and they don’t know it yet.

jeff
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

You’re all blaming Republicans, but shouldn’t you be more worried that a person with that kind of thought process was a general?

Burr
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

All I can say is.. MASSIVE FAIL. :D

David
March 19th, 2010 | LINK


jeff
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

You’re all blaming Republicans, but shouldn’t you be more worried that a person with that kind of thought process was a general?”

Wouldn’t it be interesting to know who promoted him?

A quick peek (someone who cares more than I do can do more peeking) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_J._Sheehan

“He served in various command positions ranging from company commander to brigade commander in both the Atlantic and Pacific theater of operations. General Sheehan’s combat tours include duty in Vietnam (Eisenhower (R), Kennedy (D), Johnson (D), Nixon (R) and Desert Shield/Desert Storm (H.W. Bush (R)).[1]

His staff positions included duties as regimental, division, and service headquarters staff officer as well as joint duty with the United States Army, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the U.S. Atlantic Command.[1]

Prior to assuming his final duties as Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic and Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command on October 31, 1994 (W.Bush, (R)), General Sheehan served as Director for Operations, J-3, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C. General Sheehan retired from the Marine Corps on September 24, 1997 .”

His highest promotion came at the hands of a Republican, so of course the whole point is – this is the kind of person those kinds of people promote.

Rob in San diego
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Are we all in agreement that this retired General is a real homophobe? I wonder if he had anything to do with selling arms to Iran during the Iran Contra scandal. Now that was true American patriotism.

paul j stein
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

We just need to retire all of the top brass or wait till they die. Eventually they will be replaced or get frustrated and retire. Even the “boss” can’t get anywhere if his “employees” will not fully cooperate.

Edwin
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Paul you are right. All the top brass with 25 years should all be retired and put someone in there that see’s the service as it is today. Many of the present service men and women have no trouble serving with gays and lesbians.
the only problem with waiting for them to die off they will keep using their brass to hurt more with their homophobic ideas and beliefs.

s.b
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

I’m a Dutch citizen and I think that Sheehan basically is right. The gay lifestyle has become epidemic in The Netherlands and is threatening the existence of our society. The muslims are taking over because they still have some sound values. We will disappear because of powerlessness and corruption if nothing happens, just like the Romans did.

Aitze
March 20th, 2010 | LINK

@ s.b

…What?

I’m also a Dutch citizen and I think that Sheehan sounds like a silly roofpan.
There is no “gay lifestyle” and if there were it wouldn’t really be threatening the existence of society – gay people aren;t out there with flamethrowers trying to burn everything down.
Muslims seem to be taking over because there’s a lot of them here and they’re not afraid enough of the rest to feel like they have to tone themselves down, which is a good thing. I don’t agree with all their ideas, but that doesn’t matter. They’re not taking over, as they aren’t trying to assassinate our leaders and put puppets in place.
If nothing happens, and a certain politician with fake blond hair doesn’t get elected, oh the horror, nothing will happen except our society getting more diverse.

Burr
March 20th, 2010 | LINK

Sounds like those Muslims took over your brain, s.b.

Ben in Oakland
March 20th, 2010 | LINK

s.b. honey– please detail how the existence of gay people threaten dutch society. Should be interesting to read.

Timothy Kincaid
March 20th, 2010 | LINK

C’mon, Ben, that’s easy.

Gay folk threaten the Dutch because they upset the Muslims who have sound values.

Which is also why the Dutch should ban cartoonists, Christians, and western clothing for women.

Ben in Oakland
March 20th, 2010 | LINK

It’s all so easy if you rememeber the basic premise: it’s all the gay’s fault, whatever it is.

Soren456
March 20th, 2010 | LINK

@s.b.:

There’s no such thing as a “gay lifestyle” and especially, there’s no such thing as a gay “epidemic.”

Don’t embarrass yourself.

Tim
March 20th, 2010 | LINK

“I’m a Dutch citizen and I think that Sheehan basically is right. The gay lifestyle has become epidemic in The Netherlands and is threatening the existence of our society.”

- Except Sheehan, as crazy as he is, didn’t say any of the things that you think are right. His false comments were limited to the Dutch military.

You seem to be happy that the “moral Muslims” are taking over your country. Would these be the same moral exemplars who tried to blow up a plane flying out of Amsterdam, or the righteous folks who drove your legislator, Ms. Hirsi into exile or the kind-hearted folks who stabbed an infidel filmmaker to death in the center of Amsterdam?

RCM
March 21st, 2010 | LINK

Personally I like my freedom enough to be very grateful if a gay person is willing to risk their life defending it for me. I’d have joined up myself, but I’m so rubbish at taking orders, I’d have been useless to an army. Thank you very much all military personnel who are in it for my freedom, and by the way I really don’t care who you prefer to sleep with.

Donnchadh
March 21st, 2010 | LINK

Interesting comment about the Romans from s.b..
The Romans had ritualised homosexuality for most of their history, Republic as well as Empire. It is little mentioned because it was so pervasive.
But there is some correlation between the fall of the Empire and their conversion to Christianity. Just saying.

RCM
March 22nd, 2010 | LINK

“But there is some correlation between the fall of the Empire and their conversion to Christianity. Just saying.”

I’m proud to be a follower of a faith that doesn’t offer any promises of power over others myself.

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