Did Gays in the Dutch Military Lead to the Fall of Srebrenica? Of Course Not!

by Erik Voeten on March 19, 2010 · 9 comments

in International Relations

There is rightly much to do about comments made by retired General John J. Sheehan to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the presence of openly gay soldiers contributed to the Dutch military’s failure to protect the Srebrenica safe area and thus the murder of over 9,000 muslim men. There are many reasons why this claim is unsubstantiated such as that the Dutch had no mandate, equipment, command structure or air support to mount a serious fight and that the integrated Dutch military has done extremely well in Afghanistan. Sheehan claimed that Dutch leaders had told him about the “gay issue” and mentioned a name: Henk van den Breemen (a retired former general). This morning Van den Breemen told NRC that this was “complete nonsense.” The same article also records the response by the Dutch defense minister Van Middelkoop, who represents a small conservative Christian party that can hardly be viewed as enthusiastic about gay rights issues:

“It’s a disgrace and unworthy of a military officer. I don’t want to say another word about it.”

I feel the same way.


Renee March 19, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Hearing the questioning on the radio it sounded like he had been discussing with the Dutch their ideas about making the military less traditionalist, and was probably party to a bitch session in the Officer’s Mess rather than an actual formal policy discussion; it sounded to me like Sheehan assumed that “social liberalization” meant whatever his prejudices wanted it to mean – in the questioning he was asked if van den Breemen had said “gays” specifically and he equivocated and mumbled a bit and only when pressed said “yes,” but it was clear that he was rewriting the incident in his head right there on the stand. Sad.

seth edenbaum March 20, 2010 at 1:37 am

“So the idea of a gay fascist seems ridiculous. Yet when the British National Party – our own home-grown Holocaust-denying bigots – announced it was fielding an openly gay candidate in the European elections this June, dedicated followers of fascism didn’t blink. The twisted truth is that gay men have been at the heart of every major fascist movement that ever was – including the gay-gassing, homo-cidal Third Reich. With the exception of Jean-Marie Le Pen, all the most high-profile fascists in Europe in the past thirty years have been gay.”

Don’t get me started on this shit.

hidflect March 20, 2010 at 7:28 am

I wrote this elsewhere but:

Tricky to offer my opinion without creating misunderstanding… here goes.

I lived in The Netherlands (NL) for 5 years and I’ve had occasion to see Dutch soldiers now and then and to put it kindly; NL doesn’t have a “rah-rah” militaristic tradition at all and it shows. Specifically, outside their barracks, they dress slovenly, even look physically unfit and don’t have any sort of military “bearing” (or manner unlike US soldiers I’ve seen). Culturally the Dutch are (admirably) very strongly “make love not war” type, easy-going pacifists.

Sorry to put down their army but it’s nothing to do with gays and much more to do with a national cultural attitude that applies across the whole spectrum of their troops. I can see how a warmonger-type from the US would feel the Dutch look like “pansies” but he’s mistaken. The NL pretty much has an army because they have to and I suspect tough military discipline and “esprit de corps” is not hammered home. Most Dutch people I know would think there’s something wrong with you if you are in any way a military nut. They often equate militarism with Nazism due to WWII.

As such, the backlash for Sheehan’s comments will be very, very dire. He looks to Dutch people like a war-lover type attacking NL like a foaming dog. They’ll remember this for years and years. If you upset a dutchman, prepare to be snubbed (politely) for eternity.

skidmarx March 20, 2010 at 11:41 am

Though the Germans can be a bit slow on the uptake.

Mark @ Israel March 21, 2010 at 1:25 am

From the way I see it, the Dutch Military may not really have gay soldiers but they just probably allow their feminine side to manifest. And that is not really being gay. Every man has a feminine aspect and every woman has a masculine aspect whether we like it or not. The fall, I guess might be caused by something else that the Dutch military has to investigate rather than just guess it’s because of the gays.

eric March 21, 2010 at 6:49 pm

some of the comments here are incredibly strange.

Erik March 21, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Agreed with point above. I didn’t really monitor comments this weekend (usually don’t have to here) but some of these comments are really bizarre.

s.e. March 22, 2010 at 1:47 am

My comment was simple enough: there’s no line dividing the homosocial and the homosexual. Catholic Priests and Military lifers have a lot in common.

Anon March 22, 2010 at 11:51 pm


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