SHEEHAN’S CRAZED DADT DEFENSE…. We’ve all heard some pretty awful arguments over the years from those trying to defend “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But linking gay troops to Bosnian genocide is a new one.
A retired Marine general told senators on 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 that bans gay people from openly serving in uniform.
The collapse of the Soviet Union led European militaries, including the Netherlands, to believe 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, noting that the Dutch allowed troops to join unions and enlisted openly gay soldiers. Dutch forces were poorly led and unable to hold off Serb forces in 1995, leading to the execution of Bosnian Muslims and one of the largest European massacres since World War II, Sheehan said.
Putting aside the question of whether the overmatched Dutch forces were sufficiently trained and equipped for the massacre, the argument itself is hard to take seriously. To argue, in public and with a straight face, that the Dutch couldn’t defend Srebrenica because of the presence of openly gay soldiers is just breathtakingly foolish. Would Sheehan seriously argue that events would have unfolded differently if the Dutch military forced gay soldiers to stay in the closet?
For that matter, is Sheehan also prepared to argue that international forces that fight alongside U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan — some of which include gay servicemen and women — shouldn’t be there?
The office of the Dutch defense ministry responded, “It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense.”
Sheehan’s ridiculous remarks come the same week as the release of a poll of military personnel who served in the Afghanistan or Iraq. It found that most of the veterans say they served alongside gays and lesbians, most believe sexual orientation has “no bearing on a service member’s ability to perform their duties,” and about three out of four agreed that it is “personally acceptable to them if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military.”