Retired US General John J. Sheehan has
apologized for saying that openly gay troops were to blame for the
massacre at Srebrenica, the AFP reported.
According to the Dutch Defense
Ministry, Sheehan, the former Supreme Allied Commander for NATO,
apologized for remarks he made before a key Senate panel looking into
repeal of “don't ask, don't tell,” the 1993 policy that bans open
Sheehan said he was “sorry” for
telling senators that the integration of gay soldiers by various
European countries – Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands included
– was to blame for a loss of combat readiness.
“They declared a peace dividend and
made a conscious effort to socialize their military – that includes
the unionization of their militaries, it includes open homosexuality.
That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war,” he said
at the time.
Sheehan went on to explain that the
Dutch peacekeeping force assigned to protect the Bosnian “safe
haven” of Srebrenica was “under-strength” and “poorly led”
because gay troop were allowed to serve openly.
“The Serbs came into town, handcuffed
the soldiers to the telephone poles, marched the Muslims off, and
executed them,” he said, then added, “That was the largest
massacre in Europe since World War II.”
In his testimony, Sheehan said retired
Dutch Army General Henk van den Breemen had told him that the gay
troops were to blame for the massacre. Van den Breemen has called
the statement “complete nonsense.”
Sheehan's letter of apology was
addressed to Van den Breemen.
“To be clear, the failure on the
ground in Srebrenica was in no way the fault of the individual
“I am sorry that my recent public
recollection of those discussions of 15 years ago inaccurately
reflected your thinking on some specific social issues in the
military,” he said.
“It is also regrettable that I
allowed you to be pulled into a public debate,” he added.
The Dutch Defense Ministry has called
Sheehan's comments “nonsense.”
No investigation “has ever concluded
or suggested a link between homosexual military personnel and the
things that happened over there [in Srebrenica],” Roger van de
Wetering, spokesman for the Dutch Defense Ministry, told the UK daily
“Every man or woman that meets the
criteria physically and mentally is welcome to serve in our armed
forces regardless of [religious] belief, sexual preference or
whatever,” he added.
Michigan Senator Carl Levin, chairman
of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also took offense to
Sheehan's testimony. During the hearing, Levin grilled Sheehan for
saying that “no special accommodations should be made for any
member of the military.”
“Are members who are straight, who
are heterosexual, allowed in our military to say that they are
straight and heterosexual? Are the allowed to say that without being
discharged?” Levin asked.
“There's no prohibition, to my
knowledge,” Sheehan answered after a bit of prodding from Levin,
then added, “I wouldn't consider it a special accommodation.”
“Why would it be a special
accommodation, then, to someone who's gay, to say, 'Hey, I'm gay'?
Why do you call that 'special'? You don't call it 'special' for
someone heterosexual or straight. Why do you believe that's a
special accommodation to somebody who is gay?” Levin asked.
“It is, because it identifies a group
as a special group of people who, by law, make them ineligible for
further service,” Sheehan answered.
The Dutch gay rights group Pink Army
had threatened to sue the ex-general in California court unless he
retracted his remarks.