Ex-Marine general blames part of Dutch army's failure in Bosnia on gay soldiers

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 19, 2010

A retired Marine general told senators Thursday that the Dutch army failed to protect the city of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war partly because of the presence of gay soldiers in its armed forces.

John J. Sheehan, a former NATO commander who retired in 1997, made his comments during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans gay people from openly serving in uniform.

The collapse of the Soviet Union led European militaries, including that of the Netherlands, to think there was no longer a need for active combat capabilities, Sheehan said. "As a result, they declared a peace dividend and made a conscious effort to socialize their military," he said. Sheehan said Dutch forces were poorly led and unable to hold off Serb forces in 1995.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee chairman, called the general's assertions "off target." The Dutch ambassador to the United States, Renée Jones-Bos, rejected Sheehan's statements.

Said Jones-Bos, "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."


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