Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Unfortunate Repercussions of Recent News Stories

The prom story and, especially, the testimony of General Sheehan and his claims that gay soldiers were in part responsible for the massacre of 8,000 civilians, have become international scandals.  Dutch soldiers are now planning to sue General Sheehan for slander.  The New York Times has reported that the Dutch defense minister, Eimert van Middelkoop, labeled the comments, "scandalous and unbefitting a soldier." Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch foreign minister called the explanation of what happened at Srebrenica "extremely strange." Jan Kleian, the head of the Dutch military union ACOM, told Dutch television, "That man is just crazy. That sounds harsh, but what else can I say, because it is complete nonsense."

For some countries (and there are many) that have welcomed LGBT soldiers for some time now, the entire debate over DADT has reinforced a negative view of the United States.  Here's a comment from a Canadian blog that is fairly typical of what I've been reading:

The comments made by the general reflect, I am afraid, the generally homophobic attitudes of Americans in general. It's sickening that a country that has had slavery and racism in its history is still racist, and nowadays adds homophobia to its toxic brew of conservative politics and intolerance. We have our problems in Canada with homophobia and racism, yes, but it's nothing of the magnitude one sees from Americans.

Whether or not you agree with the statement isn't the point.  The point is that in many eyes we are not the "home of the free."  We are not that "sweet land of liberty" conservatives would want others to believe.  How can we claim to be the leader of the free world when many of our citizens would find greater freedom in other countries? We are, in fact, woefully behind many countries when it comes to basic equality of our citizens.  And that, I think, is very sad.


  1. Don't forget that Sheehan mentioned the Netherlands as a country in which unionization and open homosexuality were the results of the end of the Cold War,
    "Open homosexuality" allowed in the Dutch military:1974 (!), Unionization was before that, the oldest military unions are even older than the Soviet Union.

    Is a former NATO general claiming that the Cold War ended before 1974, before 1966 (when the Dutch conscripted grunts got unionized), or even before 1883 (when the navy officers got unionized) not sufficient evidence that "open homosexuality" is about the least of the problems the US-military has?

  2. Thanks for reminding me of those dates. I'm wondering if the general he cited as making that homophobic remark denies the claim, could Sheehan be charged with lying under oath?

  3. That's hard to say, "Hankman Berman", the name Sheehan mentioned and repeated without adding something like "or something like that", does not seem to exist, not in the Dutch military at least. There was a general Henk van den Breemen in charge of the Dutch military back then, the only Dutch marine four star general in military history, so his name could be familiar to Sheehan, (and if the two, as NATO marine generals with a Roman Catholic background, would have been drinking together I could imagine him as describing the people he held responsible for Sebrenica, as a bunch of faggots, considering that he does not seem to belong to the small Dutch minority with English as mother tongue, but I cannot imagine the highest ranking Dutch marine ever (so far)to have been referring to sexual preferences or to any member of the Dutch forces with such words in this context) BUT Van den Breemen was not fired over Srebenica, that was the first identifying trait Sheehan used, "fired by parliament", as a matter of fact nobody was, but a very high army general Ad(rianus Paulus Petrus Maria) van Baal, who had also erred more or less seriously with Srebenica, did resign but he was later rehabilitated.
    So Sheehan's imaginary buddy seems to combine the history of an army general with the name of a marine general, both with some errors in it. Both retired generals denied to have ever said something like that.

    Now, I don't know about US legislation, but a general telling ingstories about an imaginary fellow general, getting the chronology of military history of his imaginary buddy's real country mixed up, in a hearing like that, is mighty queer behaviour for a guy argueing that there is no place for people who are openly gay in the military.