Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

March 19, 2010

SHEEHAN'S CRAZED DADT DEFENSE.... We've all heard some pretty awful arguments over the years from those trying to defend "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." But linking gay troops to Bosnian genocide is a new one.

A retired Marine general told senators on Thursday that the Dutch Army failed to protect the city of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war partly because of the presence of gay soldiers in its armed forces.

John J. Sheehan, a former NATO commander who retired in 1997, made his comments during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans gay people from openly serving in uniform.

The collapse of the Soviet Union led European militaries, including the Netherlands, to believe there was no longer a need for active combat capabilities, Sheehan said.

"As a result, they declared a peace dividend and made a conscious effort to socialize their military," he said, noting that the Dutch allowed troops to join unions and enlisted openly gay soldiers. Dutch forces were poorly led and unable to hold off Serb forces in 1995, leading to the execution of Bosnian Muslims and one of the largest European massacres since World War II, Sheehan said.

Putting aside the question of whether the overmatched Dutch forces were sufficiently trained and equipped for the massacre, the argument itself is hard to take seriously. To argue, in public and with a straight face, that the Dutch couldn't defend Srebrenica because of the presence of openly gay soldiers is just breathtakingly foolish. Would Sheehan seriously argue that events would have unfolded differently if the Dutch military forced gay soldiers to stay in the closet?

For that matter, is Sheehan also prepared to argue that international forces that fight alongside U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- some of which include gay servicemen and women -- shouldn't be there?

The office of the Dutch defense ministry responded, "It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense."

Sheehan's ridiculous remarks come the same week as the release of a poll of military personnel who served in the Afghanistan or Iraq. It found that most of the veterans say they served alongside gays and lesbians, most believe sexual orientation has "no bearing on a service member's ability to perform their duties," and about three out of four agreed that it is "personally acceptable to them if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military."

Steve Benen 10:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

So, who invited him to speak in front of the committee?


Posted by: eric on March 19, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

"As a result, they declared a peace dividend and made a conscious effort to socialize their military,"

WTF??

I'm sure the Dutch were big investors in the Cold War, but really, how much peace dividend and what is he mean to "socialize" the military? If he meant make it more socially acceptable (or PC as the rightwingers would say) he went out of his way to make it sound socialistic, which the military is anyway.

Is this guy planning to run as a third party VP candidate or something?

Posted by: martin on March 19, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

"It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense."
and (if you follow the link)

Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop said Friday the claim was "damaging" and not worthy of a soldier. "I don't want to waste any more words on it,"

Thus showing Democracts how to properly respond to idiotic Republican talking points.

Wish there was at least one high ranking elected Democrat who had the stones to go on TV and consistently say stuff like this rather than "debating" the point.

Posted by: Observer on March 19, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Even taken at face value, Sheehan's claim confuses a symptom with a cause.

Posted by: Grumpy on March 19, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Two things: (1) I am embarrassed that this Neanderthal has attained high military rank in this country and supposedly represents the projection of American military might around the world (2) This is in line with other emanations from wingnuttia, and I keep thinking that when everyday people see how crazy these wingers are, they will realize their arguments are just paranoia and fear--as with death panels, etc. Hopefully, the corner is turning on these "last throes" of lunacy. Hell, even Roger Ailes has to tell his own people to lay off dissing Glenn Beck...

Posted by: bruce k on March 19, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

First, I can't believe a guy this stupid was allowed to rise to the rank of general. Thank God he's retired; his former junior officers probably have some great/pathetic stories about his jackassery while he was active.

Second, I've always thought that potential recruits should be asked "Do you think you would find it difficult to work alongside fellow soldiers who were of a different racial background, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, you are probably something of a narrow-minded jerk and not cut out for service in a modern, state-of-the-art military. Thank you for your time."

Posted by: jonas on March 19, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Considering the fact that most of our allies who are fighting in Afghanistan & Iraq along side of us allow openly gay members to serve, it is a wonder they don't tell us to get lost if we do not like their troops and they can ship out. It is also a fact that we allow our gay troops to serve and protect us, but they cannot be truthful about who they are, what a crazy system we have.

Posted by: JS on March 19, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

If a gay guy can put a bullet through the head of a sniper 300 yards away and trying to kill me, I will suds him up in the shower myself.

Posted by: beejeez on March 19, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Eric at 10:33: So, who invited him to speak in front of the committee?

Absolutely! I assume McCain's staff picked him to testify for the GOP side, which makes me wonder: Was somebody actually stupid enough to pick this bozo to "make the case" for keeping DADT? Or was somebody smart enough to plant this bozo to make the case against his (and McCain's) own arguments?

In any case, he didn't just incredibly insult the Dutch army and the armies of so many of our allies in Iraw and Afghanistan, he almost certainly helped fully integrate gay and lesbians into our own services.

So whoever you are, anonymous Republican staffer: THANK YOU!

Posted by: K in VA on March 19, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

It isn't just the stuff he says that's ignorant. Watching the clip, I was shocked at how easily confused the man was by simple questions. You could see the little wheel spinning slowly and awkwardly behind his close-set piggy eyes.

He is bone-stupid, thick as a plank, dumber than a box of rocks...and they call him General.

Posted by: shortstop on March 19, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

I assume McCain's staff picked him to testify for the GOP side, which makes me wonder: Was somebody actually stupid enough to pick this bozo to "make the case" for keeping DADT? Or was somebody smart enough to plant this bozo to make the case against his (and McCain's) own arguments?

I suspect McCain looks at/listens to this guy and thinks he's an awesome spokesman for the cause. Which just confirms everything we already knew about how out of touch McCain is.

Posted by: shortstop on March 19, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

If I recall correctly, the Spartan armies of ancient Greece attributed some of their military success to the strong bonds between their soldiers that was created by the encouragement of homosexual relationships amongst them.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on March 19, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

This whole topic (DADT, serving in the military, gay marriage, gay rights, etc.) is in thrall of an entrenched population of old men who just can't get past their ingrained prejudices. They just can't handle modern society and societal growth.

One hopes that these closed-minded misanthropes with petrified-worldviews retire or otherwise leave their positions of power soon and are replaced by people who recognize how the world works today, and not yesterday.

Posted by: terraformer on March 19, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder what the percentage of comments of this nature have in relation to the utterer being a closeted , repressed soul .
The mind stopping crudity of the attitude serves as a foil twice . It has been shown to me that gay men are generally very bright . Creating an image with the personality of a rock could serve to camouflage a socialisation that might be best to disguise in a mostly boys club military .
Then there is the problem with the generational right wing politisation of the military . This sort of largely reviled hogwash in any healthy meritocratic organisation , and which is met with appropriately acerbic language , may serve as the blunt code so highly valued by racists . What better invitation exists in society to bring homophobic racist gay people their fair socialisation . That is before the physical violence , the symbolic violence .

Posted by: FRP on March 19, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

The office of the Dutch defense ministry responded, "It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense."

That pretty well sums it up.

Though I will add, out of pure frustration: I am really fucking sick and tired of Congress and the MSM always giving a bunch of retired Generals, etc. a platform to blather on about their stereotypical "beliefs" about gay men (i.e., instead of having honorably joined the military to actually fight, gay soldiers are going to break out the Barbara Streisand, Cosmos and start leering at and groping hetero soldiers in the shower.) They can't find any officers serving in the current military to see what the active duty soldiers on the ground think?

Posted by: electrolite on March 19, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

We can call Sheehan a supporter of DADT, but he is nothing of the sort.

Taking his arguments to their logical conclusion, he supports REPEALING DADT to go back to an out-and-out BAN on service by LGBT folks.

Posted by: Bose on March 19, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Aren't all militaries socialized or do countries have militaries financed by individuals or corporations ?

What the Dutch defense ministry said of Sheehan could be said of just about every republican that holds an official office, especially Congressional seats, "It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense."

Posted by: ScottW714 on March 19, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

For a minute, I thought you were referring to Cindy Sheehan and then I realized it was John. : ) Never mind then... carry on.

Posted by: ctrenta on March 19, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Though I will add, out of pure frustration: I am really fucking sick and tired of Congress and the MSM always giving a bunch of retired Generals, etc. a platform to blather on about their stereotypical "beliefs" about gay men

Well, who would know more about what's best for today's military than the people who haven't been near it for years? Unfortunately, there's only a limited number of recently dead, longtime advanced Alzheimer's cases whose wives are willing to sign anti-repeal letters on their behalf (behalves? Must look that up...), or we'd have even more unimpeachable testimony for keeping teh gays out.

Posted by: shortstop on March 19, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

My brother, a former naval officer just emailed the WaPo link to me. I am a former Marine Iraq 2 (Dubya's Oepidal Folly) vet and currently reservist naval aircrewman and we both agree that Sheehan's opinion is bullshit.

First, though I am not implacably anti-union, allowing soldiers to become union members appears to be the real problem. (That and poor training.) Union membership is simply not conducive to the requirements of combat. That said, union membership is perfectly acceptable for emergency services (e.g., EMS, fire, police) positions, but certainly not combat deployments--for obvious reason. Recall, no one had to beg the unionized Port Authority Police, NYPD, NYFD, Pentagon Police and local Wash, DC fire and police members to act heroically and work long hours during 9/11 and on previous occasion.)

Second, homosexuality has little to do with physical courage. I know homosexuals who serve in the military and have served and who engage in combat or rear (such as they are) areas. Where was Wolfowitz, Feith, CHENEY, Limbaugh, Bolton and a host of conservative/GOP chickenhawks during the Korea, the 'Nam, etc? Not wearing the uniform, that's for sure. The poltroons, caitiffs and manginas were here hiding behind their mommies skirts.

And let's face it, cowardly homosexuals are less likey to join the military than fraidy-cat heterosexuals.

Anyway, in the U.S. military, brave homos are certainly filling the ranks that the bellicose yet cowardly heterosexuals won't fill. Most College Republican (CNRC)males loved Bush-shrub and supported Iraq 2. And according to the CNRC, it's membership is 250K. How many signed up?

Well, not many. The U.S. Army's recruitment problems and subsequent lowering of standards provides all the proof one needs on that score. For years, the army ran short of its recruitment goals, to the tune of roughly 40K recruits. That's less than 10 percent of College Republicans and surely less than 1/100 percent of the eligible males in Red (read: GOP) precincts, yet a recruitment problem exists(ed).

I guess when Dubya (himself a slacker and "light" driller) backed by serial (5 -time) draft-dodger Cheney perversely circumscribes (and describes) war sacrifice to more shopping rather than military service, higher or dedicated taxes to pay for the war purchasing a $1-2.99 ""I support the (suckers) Troops" magnetic decal is all one feels is necessary.

Posted by: tec619 on March 19, 2010 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

This general was partially courageous in what he said!

What really needs to be said is that we need to bring back the draft and use it to select the meanest, nastiest persons to be our combat soldiers! We need demonstrated cruelty! We need verifiable mean streaks!

Everyone knows that the sweet personality of a male homosexual is inadequate to the task of being a real dedicated killer. Hell, everyone knows that the general nature of most males is only marginally up to the task of being a real dedicated killer.

Therefore, we should draft the persons who have displayed the meanest, rottenest personality streaks and make them our front line killers. And from my personal experiences that means women!

Posted by: NoFagsInTheFoxholes(issnark) on March 19, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

On the bright side, at least the slaughter of Muslims at Srebrenica is still considered a bad thing...

Posted by: KenS on March 19, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing like another dumb ass gooper creating yet another international incident. Priceless.

Posted by: MsJoanne on March 19, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Beware the SOCIALIZATION of the military! Don't let that durn gub'ment take over defending this proud nation!

Seriously, that's quite simply the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life. The one area where nearly all political systems agree is that the government ought to have, if not a monopoly, then certainly the preponderance of military force within a nation. Otherwise, it can't really be called the government.

Or did he mean socialize in the sense of "made their soldiers more reflective of their society?" In which case, then of course that should also be the case. Is he really suggesting that soldiers should be treated differently than everyone else? Certainly they deserve respect (of course, so does everyone else). Obviously, those soldiers and vets who act honorably, sacrificing of themselves to help others deserve honor and veneration (of course, so do police, teachers, EMT's, and really, anyone who sacrifices their time or safety to help others).

Or is it the idea of a unionized military that bothers him? One of the greatest anti-unionists of all time was Karl Marx. He argued that unions were a tool of the bourgeoisie to dominate the proletariat. By allowing workers to band together to try and improve their situation, unions put off the great revolution, and therefore, were clearly a tool of the capitalist to ensure the perpetuation of the system.

Posted by: Sisyphus on March 19, 2010 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

The general sounds like one of those conservatives in denial about their own sexual orientation - protesting too much and all that.

Posted by: CDW on March 19, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, the Dutch did not want to leave and asked for reinforcements until ordered to move on by their French superiors. And, given their mandate, they did not have much of a choice. They could have defied orders, all died in the battle, and then have their families lose the pensions because of the contrary orders. Few soldiers are brave enough to contravene orders, fewer still are stupid enough to do it when it makes little sense. But there is, apparently, only one soldier dumb enough to make up a story about "gay soldiers".

Posted by: buck on March 19, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

You can always tell a Marine. You just can't tell him very much.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 19, 2010 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

He is bone-stupid, thick as a plank, dumber than a box of rocks...and they call him General.

You've obviously never been in the military, since the three things you call negatives are generally seen as positives in the military, particularly in the Marines.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 19, 2010 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly