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Dutch upset by U.S. general's comments on gay soldiers

General's comments irk Dutch

The Dutch prime minister on Friday denounced as "irresponsible" a claim by a retired U.S. general that gay Dutch soldiers were partly to blame for allowing Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington on Thursday, retired Gen. John Sheehan claimed that Dutch military leaders had called the presence of gay soldiers in the army "part of the problem" that allowed Serb forces to overrun the Srebrenica enclave in Bosnia in July 1995 and kill about 8,000 Muslim men.

Sheehan, a former NATO commander who retired from the military in 1997, was speaking in opposition to a proposal to allow gays to serve openly in the U.S. military.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende called Sheehan's comments irresponsible and said at his weekly news conference that "these remarks should never have been made."

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

Gen. Henk van den Breemen, Dutch chief of staff at the time of the Srebrenica genocide, called Sheehan's comments "total nonsense" and denied ever having suggested gays in the army might have played a role in the Srebrenica massacre.

The Netherlands has a long history of accepting homosexuality, and gays have long been welcome in the country's armed forces — which also allow labor unions.

The leader of one such union, Jan Kleian, was incensed by Sheehan's comments.

"The man is crazy," he told Dutch radio. "It sounds hard, but I can't put it any other way."

Police target wrong house — 50 times

The police commissioner of New York personally apologized Friday for 50 or so mistaken, door-pounding visits that police have made to the home of a bewildered elderly Brooklyn couple in the past eight years. It seems a glitch in computer records had led them over and over to Walter and Rose Martin's modest home. The most recent intrusion came Tuesday, with officers pounding on both the front and back doors, yelling "Police, open up!" Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly showed up Friday at the Martins' house with a gift — New York cheesecake — and promised the problem had been taken care of.

Malcolm X's killer to be released

One of three men convicted of killing Malcolm X 45 years ago was granted release from weekends in prison in his 17th appearance before a state parole board. Thomas Hagan, 69, appeared before a parole panel March 3 and was granted release effective April 28, state Division of Parole spokeswoman Carole Weaver said Friday. Until then, he'll remain at the Lincoln Correctional Facility in New York City, where he has been locked up two days a week for 22 years. The other five days, he has been allowed to work and live with his family. Hagan was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison in April 1966 on a first-degree murder charge for shooting the civil rights activist with a .45-caliber pistol at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan in 1965.

Atom smasher reaches new speed

Operators of the world's largest atom smasher on Friday ramped up their massive machine to three times the energy ever previously achieved, in the runup to experiments investigating the secrets of the universe. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, said beams of protons circulated at 3.5 trillion electron volts in both directions around the 17-mile tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border at Geneva. The next major development is expected in a few days when CERN starts colliding the beams in a new round of research to examine the tiniest particles and forces within the atom in hopes of finding out more about how matter is made up.

Times wires

Dutch upset by U.S. general's comments on gay soldiers 03/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 19, 2010 10:04pm]

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