Ex-general apologizes for Dutch gay soldier remark
A former Marine general has apologized to Dutch military leaders for recent comments suggesting gay Dutch soldiers were to blame for the 1995 execution of Bosnian Muslims.
Testifying at a Senate hearing this month on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Ret. Gen. John J. Sheehan said that the liberalization of the Dutch military and subsequent enlistment of openly gay soldiers combined with poor military leadership contributed to its failure to hold off Serb forces in Srebrenica.
Asked by senators if Dutch leaders had blamed the presence of gay troops, Sheehan replied: "They included that as part of the problem."
Sheehan's comments earned a strong rebuke from senators and the Dutch government.
But in a letter sent Monday to a Dutch military general, Sheehan apologized for inaccurately reflecting their conversations.
"I am sorry that my recent public recollection of those discussions 15 years ago inaccurately reflected your thinking on some specific social issues in the military," Sheehan wrote.
"To be clear, the the failure on the ground in Srebrenica was in no way the fault of the individual soldiers," Sheehan said later. "The corporals and generals executed their orders based on the priorities of the political authorities. Unfortunately, the rules of engagement were developed by a political system with conflicting priorities and an ambivalent understanding of how to use the military."
The Dutch military is "happy" with the apology, according to the Dutch Embassy in Washington.
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| March 31, 2010; 2:38 PM ET
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