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Monday 22 December  
A pink tank
John Tyler's picture
The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands

Gay soldiers not an issue in Holland

Published on : 19 March 2010 - 12:23pm | By John Tyler (Photo: FlickR/sambrook)
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Retired US Marine General John Sheehan got one thing right in his testimony to the US Congress: gays serve in the Dutch military. But it takes a foreigner to point that out. Here in The Netherlands, gays have served in the military for decades.

General Sheehan blamed the fall of the UN enclave in Srebrenica in 1995, which led to the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims, partly on the fact that homosexuals served in the Dutch military.

"That was the largest massacre in Europe since World War Two. The Dutch army allowed homosexuals and you know what happened there."

The retired general made these comments during a hearing considering whether to lift the US 'don't ask, don't tell' policy that allows homosexuals to serve in the military only if they keep quiet about it.

The reaction here in The Netherlands has been a universal, 'huh?' From the current Foreign Minister to the Defence Minister at the time of the Srebrenica massacre; from leaders of unions representing soldiers to the former army commander; all have said that General Sheehan's remarks do not have the slightest basis in reality.

The Dutch caretaker Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said via Twitter that he was amazed at the ex general's comments - saying they reflected more about the discussion around homosexuals in the US army than anything else.

Minister of Defense Eimert van Middelkoop twittered: "scandalous and unbefitting a soldier". And the Dutch ambassador to the US, Renee Jones-Bos, added in a statement on the embassy's website that she "couldn't disagree more'' with Sheehan's claims.

"I take pride in the fact that lesbians and gays have served openly and with distinction in the Dutch military forces for decades, such as in Afghanistan at the moment',' she said.

Sensitive issue
The fall of the enclave is a sensitive issue here. It has been thoroughly studied, by the military as well as by civilian commissions. One such study brought about the fall of then Prime Minister Wim Kok's government.

The fact that such a massacre could take place in an area under the responsibility of Dutch soldiers has had lasting effects on Dutch military and civilian policy, and will always remain a open wound in the Dutch national psyche.

Yet among all the introspection and adjustments made in the wake of Srebrenica, the issue of homosexuality never came up.

Only today, after General Sheehan's statement, there was some speculation that he might have exaggerated an off-the-cuff remark by a Dutch commander, perhaps using the term 'gay' as a derogatory reference to the military's failure to protect Muslims in Srebrenica.

General Sheehan referred to this commander, possibly General Henk van den Breemen, as his source that gays in the Dutch military partly caused the fall of Srebrenica. In a written statement, retired General Van den Breemen says that is nonsense.

Gay army
Gays have been allowed to serve in the Dutch army since 1974. Before that, there were gays in the military under a version of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy.

Today, about seven to ten percent of the soldiers serving in the Dutch military are homosexual (no specific data available).


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Anonymous 2 September 2011 - 4:30am / USA

Well, since that recent court decision says you can't blame NATO what do you subscribe for the base cowardice displayed by the majority of Dutch troops when they let those 8000 people they were supposed to be protecting get killed and how do you explain your troops returning without their weapons?

I'm not sure I believe that he misheard your General. Looking at the remarks here it would seem saying anything about a relaxed moral fiber or gays would be healthy in your country...

Looking for what you think caused 8000 dead civilians and your troops not only still breathing but missing their weapons.... The world is reading this, maybe you should.

SteveMD2 19 September 2010 - 1:44am / USA

We have all these religioius people bitching about gay this and gay that. etc

If there was a god, their churches of hatred would long ago have been swallowed up into the fires of hell.

God is just another word for ignorance, superstion, tribalism, and yes hatred of all kinds of minority groups. Take the RATZI pope for example. Everytime he opens his sick mouth, all kinds of lies come out, because he subscribes to the old nazi story that if you tell a lie often enough and outrageous enough it will be seen as the truth.

In america we have what is known as the racketeering and corruption act - RICO. If it was enforced properly, the leaders of lots of conservative churches would be rotting where they belong in jail. For selling an insurance policy of life after death, based on stories from that age of superstition, ignornace etc.

Religion - though there are good religions that really want to help people, is really the scam of history and the curse3 of civilization.

Oh to look forward to when the churches are nothing but museums to teach future generations about hatred ignorance and superstition. And how these things led to more deaths and suffering then all the other wars put together.

Anonymous 25 July 2010 - 2:16pm / US

The Netherlands has allowed openly gay people in the military since 1974...and when was the last time they were actually a threat to the bad guys instead of a social experiment?

Jason 9 November 2010 - 9:00pm / USA

"Experiment" or not, it is a success, and disproves the nonsense myth perpetuated by the right wing nuts in the military and the church. I suspect that there are many Dutch soldiers who would take exception to your foolish comments. And you offer no proof, just your worthless opinion.

Macken 11 June 2010 - 4:14pm

I think that homosexuality is not an impediment being a good soldier. They are equally responsible and capable. To make this an issue is unfair, coercive and ungrateful act for a soldier who lays his life for the country. Let us stop highlighting such trivial issues rather do some constructive to them.

Anonymous 26 March 2010 - 6:52am / indonesia

lately in indonesia thousands of demonstrators walks in the street to protest international gay and lesbian congress which will be held in surabaya.fotrunatelly the supreme commander of police forces doesn'g give permission so with most of local people to make make the congress in my country.IF YOU ARE GAY OR PRO GAY THAT'S UP TO YOU I DON'T CARE AND NEVER CARE BUT NEVER CARRY THIS TO MY COUNTRY FOR WE EAST PEOPLE HATES AND CURSES THIS,WILL YOU!!!!! and for we respect and believe in religion values and social values

Anonymous 24 March 2010 - 11:36pm / canada


24 March 2010 - 5:49am
To Anonymous in Canada: You should get a life too.....

I have a life that you can only hope to have! The best part of my **life** is sticking my finger into
the eyes of right-ards and BUSH wannabees!


and find your own words ,not the quotes of others.

Can I quote you??

Bush quotes are just so much fun to
reproduce, because they wind up all the Bush fans
and right wingers.

And YES! You can quote me!


Anonymous 24 March 2010 - 10:12pm / Canada

Wayne Sievers

How did this fruitcake get to be a senior officer in the US military?

You answered the question!
US military!
Like a third world dictator: Noriega: Pinochet, Batista, etc.
Wayne Sievers
I suppose gays were responsible for the sack of Rome, the bubonic plague and climate change too? History will judge him not by anything useful he may have done as a soldier but now by the vulgar prejudices of an embittered old man. I'm not sure whether I should laugh at him or pity him.

Do both!
He needs to be pitied, and there is no reason NOT to laugh at him!

saskia 24 March 2010 - 5:49am

To Anonymous in Canada: You should get a life too.....and find your own words ,not the quotes of others.

Anonymous 22 March 2010 - 12:11pm / Lalaland

As Winston Churchill stated:"Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It is nothing but rum,sodomy, and the lash". The same can be said about the military in general.

XXYYY 21 March 2010 - 7:16pm

If this is freedom of expression for a general, that has to be tolerated, the Netherlands has no more any obligation to help the Us Afghanistan or elsewhere. Until this general has been put to the sword or referred for a long stay in a psychiatric institute.

David Berridge 21 March 2010 - 4:54am / Canada

I can't believe this!! I thought that Sandra and Hiram were on the same page on all topics in this forum!! Geert's camp really is becoming divided!! A technical note: if all Dutch tanks were painted as those in the accompanying photo, then gays would definately not be a factor in the Dutch military, as those tanks and everyone inside them would be blasted into peices, ending the issue!! How ironic it is that an issue such as gays in the Dutch military, can cause a "relationship problem" in this forum for Hiram and Sandra. I do hope along with many other correspondents that this can be resolved quickly between them.

YijiangWang 20 March 2010 - 2:35pm / China/Canada

I am keen on root causes of all problems. How straightforward it is that the imbalance between girls and boys is terrible! It's either men's world or women's; marriage is the generator of production in China and India I believe. If tax return almost equals anti-socialism in Canada, gender policy makers in China surely make Chinaman extremely poor in sex, these two countries all don't care about their daughters and sons.

Hiram1 20 March 2010 - 10:57am / USA

"It´s people like that idiot senior officer that makes USA look stupid and old fashioned."......It isn't the people like "that idiot senior officer" that makes the USA look "stupid and old fashioned". It is the sodomites and those so called modern folks from the global world who are fooling themselves in believing homosexuality is normal when it isn't. Just look at the problem the Catholic church is now having with sodomite people, Nuns and priests and how they have mistreated children sexually. It is so normal in today's world that homosexuals believe that they should be treated as normal especially when it is not. It is a sexual dysfuntion just like the many other perverted and dysfunctional, sexual acts.

Jason 10 November 2010 - 1:42am / USA

You may put your stupid theology where the sun does not shine. Gay IS NORMAL, you are the abberation.

officer & a (gay) gentelman 20 March 2010 - 8:50am / israel

gays serve in the IDF (israei defence forces) since the foundation of Israel in 1948.
it is statin the obvious that gay people are wellcomed in ALL the units of the army - intel., airforce, and commando, as well as other units.

to tell an Israeli that He/She can't serve in the army or in a certain unit because of their sexual affiliation is not heard of. in Israel they don't "let" gay people serve as a favour. serving fot gays is "mandatory" as well as for anyone else.

i am an officer in a combat unit. there are many people i know that are gay that serves as officers and soldiers in various positions, combat and rear, some of them make an honorable example to other non-gay.

why is it an issue? i don't know. if in Israel, the most politicized country in the world, they managed to keep this issue out of the dirt of politics, so should other countries, espacially the united states, that lead (arguably i know) the western world.

saskia 19 March 2010 - 10:24pm / Amerika

People like Sandra & Wayne , who do not live here in the states, haven't a clue . Ive lived in Nederland so I know how it goes there. Both of you make ridiculous & childish insults about a man you do not know (but who has obviously served with distinction to become a general ).
Tell me how that fits into your "Tolerance Mentality" ? Phobic means > a fear , and because some people do believe homosexuality is a perversion , does not mean they fear it.
With people who behave such as these two have is highly unlikely there will be any "European takeovers"... and she needs reminding that Europe never had control over this vast country in the first place,unless she speaks of England's settlements...and Wayne , I pity both you & Sandra and find you both to be hypocritical.
Oh, and how do you account for the mess-up in Srebrenica in 1995 ? Hmmmmm? ...any well-put together thoughts on the matter ? you both only know how to spew forth silly insults?

sandraV 19 March 2010 - 2:04pm / Nederland

It´s people like that idiot senior officer that makes USA look stupid and old fashioned. What a homophobic big dope! He should be stripped of any medals he may have gotten in the past! USA needs regime change, let Europe take over the USA again!

Wayne Sievers 19 March 2010 - 1:30pm / Australia

How did this fruitcake get to be a senior officer in the US military? I suppose gays were responsible for the sack of Rome, the bubonic plague and climate change too? History will judge him not by anything useful he may have done as a soldier but now by the vulgar prejudices of an embittered old man. I'm not sure whether I should laugh at him or pitty him.

Anonymous 25 July 2010 - 2:24pm / US

No, the breakdown of the moral fiber that held together the Roman Empire resulted in the sack of Rome. Notice any similarities to what is happening now in Western countries? Probably not I'm guessing because you are in a serious state of denile on your highway to Hedonism.

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