Before the Srebrenica Massacre of 1995, it was estimated by United Nation officials that a total of 34,000 soldiers would be needed to protect six Serbian towns that had been declared “safe zones”. As the Bosnian ethnic cleaning and mass murder of Muslims continued, NATO allocated too few men with only light equipment to protect the town of Srebrenica. Amidst pleas from them for supporting air strikes that fell on deaf ears, a force of only 450 Dutch Soldiers tried to hold back the Serbs, but were quickly overwhelmed, handcuffed to utility poles and rendered helpless to prevent between seven and eight thousand Muslim men and boys being marched off and slaughtered before their eyes.
There was swift and at times angry Dutch reaction after retired NATO commander and U.S. General of the Marines John Sheehan told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that former Dutch Chief of Defense General van den Breemen told him that homosexuals were partially to blame for the Netherlands’ impotent reaction during that infamous 1995 massacre. The Dutch government and people’s response to the bigoted American General’s attempt to rewrite history was immediate.
Dutch leaders and military officials were shaking their heads in outrage that anyone in their government would state such a thing, since gay soldiers have been allowed to serve openly with honor, gallantry, and distinction in their unionized military for over thirty-five years.
Retired General van den Breemen himself reacted to the use of his name by stating through official military channels that Sheehan’s statement was, “absolute nonsense.”
Dutch Defense Ministry spokesman Roger van de Wetering stated, "It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense, the Srebrenica massacre and the involvement of UN soldiers was extensively investigated by the Netherlands, international organisations and the United Nations. "Never was there in any way concluded that the sexual orientation of soldiers played a role."
Friday morning Radio Netherlands’ commentaries agreed with van de Wetering and asserted that with all of the studies in the aftermath of the massacre, the presence of homosexuals in their military was never even brought up as a factor, and to assert so was ridiculous. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and Defense Minister Elmert van Middelkoop both branded the bigoted attempt to blame gays in their military as “Extreemly strange” and reasserted that gays have served honorably in Britain, Canada, Australia and most notably Israel with no upset of morale or courage. On Dutch media Middelkoop later branded Sheehan’s remarks "scandalous, and unworthy of a soldier."
Sheehan’s additional assertion during the hearings that a squad leader trying to molest a fellow soldier under his command could have dire consequences in the heat of battle drew swift reaction as well from people with years of experience serving with openly gay soldiers. Dutch military union leader Jan Kleian appeared on television and said of Sheehan, “That man is just crazy,” then considering that statement added, “That sounds harsh, but what else can I say, because it is complete nonsense.”
Appalled, Renée Jones-Bos, the Dutch Ambassador to the United States, expressed her utter disagreement with General Sheehan’s assertion by posting the following on her website:
"The military mission of Dutch U.N. soldiers at Srebrenica has been exhaustively studied and evaluated, nationally and internationally. There is nothing in these reports that suggests any relationship between gays serving in the military and the mass murder of Bosnian Muslims."