March 21st, 2010

forums, me, non blog

[FORUM] What's the most bizarre prejudiced claim you've heard of?

For me, it was the recent claim by former NATO commander John Sheehan (yes, from the US, why do you ask?) that gay soldiers in the Dutch military were responsible for the Srebrenica massacre.

A senior US officer and former Nato commander sparked outrage in the Netherlands today by declaring that gay soldiers in the Dutch military were one of the reasons for the Srebrenica massacre, the worst act of mass murder in Europe committed since the second world war.

The Dutch government and military responded with anger and contempt after General John Sheehan, a retired marine corps officer who was Nato's supreme commander at the time of the 1995 atrocity, told a US Senate hearing that gay soldiers in the military could result in events like Srebrenica.

In July 1995 Bosnian Serb forces overran the Bosnian Muslim enclave under the protection of Dutch UN peacekeepers and killed 8,000 Muslim males, making the event a traumatic national disgrace for the Dutch.

Following recent remarks from Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, that Europeans had gone soft, Sheehan argued that changes after the end of the cold war had reduced Europe's appetite for combat.

"They declared a peace dividend and made a conscious effort to socialise their military – that includes the unionisation of their militaries, it includes open homosexuality. That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war," he said.

"The case in point that I'm referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs. The battalion was under-strength, poorly led, and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone poles, marched the Muslims off, and executed them. That was the largest massacre in Europe since world war two."

He added that the Dutch chief of staff had told him that having gay soldiers at Srebrenica had sapped morale and contributed to the disaster.

"Total nonsense," said General Henk van den Breemen, the Dutch chief of staff at the time. The Dutch embassy in Washington dismissed the US officer's argument as worthless, Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch foreign minister said that it was not worth commenting on, and the Dutch defence ministry voiced incredulity.

What can be said here, apart from noting that the Netherlands abandoned anti-gay discrimination in 1974 in the full flush of the Cold War and that the leadership questions involved had everything to do with, well, the quality of leadership in the Dutch military? Was Sheehan suggesting something alone the lines like the Dutch troops being surprised when it turned out that the rough trade wasn't about to engage in S&M, and where were all the local men going, anyway? Silliness.

Any examples of this kind of thing from your part of the world?