“Gay troops contributed to massacre”

According to some retired US marine general by the name of John Sheehan, the fact that the Dutch troops that were assigned in Srebrenica included gays, contributed to the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in 1995.

Sheehan pointed to the Netherlands, which he said embarked on a process of social engineering in the Dutch military once the Cold War ended. “They declared a peace dividend and made a conscious effort to socialize their military.  It included open homosexuality.  That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war,” he said.

There seems to be some underlying assumption that homosexuality makes one incapable of dealing with war situations. No need to point out how preposterous that is.

It must be noted that Dutchbat wasn’t there to wage war, but to keep the peace, which might be a novel concept to this retired marine.

The Fall of Srebrenica and the role of Dutchbat in it is quite a sensitive issue to the Dutch and that has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuals in the military. That this person would even dare to suggest it is a travesty in many ways.

Update: Statemens of Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Renée Jones-Bos, the Dutch ambassador to the US on the matter, here.

Another update: the New York Times News blog sums it up neatly.

11 thoughts on ““Gay troops contributed to massacre”

  1. Sheehan was the head NATO commander at the time; he also has a very traditional Roman Catholic background, which means that the chances of his not encoutering anti-gay rants is extremely small.

    Apparently his comment was made during the hearings on removing “don’t ask don’t tell.”

    Someone should make the people asking the military their opinion about gays openly serving in the military aware that there’s a huge problem with giving their opinion any weight. Since gays have not been allowed to serve openly, none of these generals, however august, will have any experience of gays serving openly. Their beliefs are really the result of their own biases, untouched by experience.

  2. This has been on our news all night, obviously, and what is appalling too is that he plain lied about what the Dutch officials said about this being an issue. He apparently supplied a name of some person which turned out to be fake.
    Apart from the blatant idiocy of the notion that homosexuals in the army should have any effect on the effectiveness of a combat group, he thinks it is perfectly alright to lie about it, while he has a very influentual role.

  3. I am so outraged I can only manage 10 words on the subject.

    Peter Maass. Love Thy Neighbour. Believe HIM. He was there.

  4. Other issues to consider: If you have someone you have a romatic relationship(female or male)with whom you are serving with – you may not want to put yourself or your partner at risk if confronted with a risky situation?
    Also, if the group of people you are to protect such as Bosian Muslims who are probably of a religious group (like the Catholic General) who do not favor a homosexual relationship perhaps you may be less excited about protecting this particular group-who you as a group may not see as worthy of protection?
    Clearly, something went gravely amiss where so many were killed because of the inaction of the Dutch troops – whether the fact the toops gender orientation was a factor or not – all issues should be put on the table for discussion and evaulation, whether it be politically correct or not.

  5. Anonymous, neither of your issues are particularly related to homosexuality.
    The fall of Srebrenica has been researched extensively, and there has been no indication whatsoever that there being homosexuals in the ranks of Dutchbat were even remotely a factor.
    The fact that this person would utter the preposterous idea and lie about having heard it confirmed by Dutch officials says a lot more about him than about any reality regarding having homosexually oriented troups.

  6. Anonymous, do you think those soldiers who like using contraception are less likely to obey orders and protect a Catholic group, given that the Pope says you’re not allowed to use it? Perhaps that’s what happened during the Irish troubles. The British troops just didn’t try very hard because they knew some of the people involved in the conflict were Catholic, and they didn’t agree with their stance on contraception.

    Do you think that soldiers who are very good non-sexual friends with other soldiers will be less likely to put themselves and their buddies in risky situations? Do you care less about your best friends than you do about your romantic partner? Perhaps we should make sure that soldiers don’t make friends with any of the other soldiers in their combat unit.

  7. Monkey, nice comment! Do you know if there’s a name for that way of fallacious reasoning? E.g., one takes some possibility that could be raised anywhere and use it to pose questions about a targeted group. So to serve openly, not only do gays have to meet all the normal tests, but they also need to show they’d put no weight on issues they might have with the beliefs of others, etc, etc.

    The idea that the British troops wouldn’t do their job because Irish Catholics think using contraception is a sin might make a wonderful Monty Python skit.

  8. Brilliant, Monkey. My gran’s relatives are from Belfast. You know what you’re talking about.

    Anonymous, I suggest you do some research before you speculate about why Dutch troops were less effective than Sheehan thinks they should have been. I seem to recall something about Chetnik paramilitaries luring a handful of Dutch soldiers, slaughtering them before the big massacre, and using their uniforms to trick the Bosnian Muslims into believing they were being led to safety.

    Nobody, gay or straight, could hold off a force like that without a proper weapon. THAT is why so many atrocities happened in the Balkans. Could you imagine our troops in Afghanistan trying to do what they do with a couple of peashooters per soldier?

    I cited Peter Maass’ 1996 work Love Thy Neighbour because it was the most brutal and moving non-fiction work I’ve ever read, on any subject. He was winning awards for excellence in journalism when that still meant something. The book won 2 awards and was nominated for several more. (I think one nomination may have been for a Pulitzer, but don’t quote me on that.) I was not even the same person when I put the book down. I mean that sincerely. The book so changed my worldview that after I finished it, I needed some serious healing time with Jean Paul Sartre to feel “normal” again.

    Did you even look at Hippocampa’s wikipedia link? Did you see the PTSD statistics? Just over 400 of our (Canadian) “retired” peacekeepers are still missing IN CANADA. They’re presumed to be wandering the streets, out of their minds from the shock. That’s what happens when you send underarmed men to war and tell them, “Fight, no don’t fight or you’ll get court-martialled. No, I said shoot, no you’re not allowed. Shoot, don’t shoot…”

    Think on that, anonymous. Dutch troops failed at Srebrenica because they were not adequately armed. The incident was one of many–including the one that led to several court-martials on our side, and a hideous mobbing on theirs, in Somalia–that led the UN to put an end to this nonsense of “peacekeeping”. Now , troops either go to war or they don’t.

  9. JJ – I don’t know if there’s a name for that sort of fallacious reasoning. I kind of think there must be. Can anyone enlighten us?

    Terra – well said.

  10. Thanks, Monkey. I had to speak out. I even dropped my half-ironic blog name because of its possibly insulting connotations. I’m using my real first name at my own risk, out of respect for the slaughtered and the broken. HOW DARE Sheehan make such disgusting accusations!

    As far as that type of fallacious reasoning, I think I came across it once, in one of Cosmides and Tooby’s essays. There was something about erroneously applying some type of mathematical or computational formula within an inappropriate framework. If there’s a name for it, I bet Vishal Lama knows what it is.

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