01 August 2010

Every Day Heroes - Netherlands troops

Dutch troops leave Afghanistan

From correspondents in Kabul

More here.

Back in October 2007, as part of an ongoing series on the coalition troops in this
Global War on Terror, I profiled the Netherlands on Tanker Bros. I began that series as a tangible way of acknowledging that, despite screeching to the contrary ("Buuuuush's war"...etc etc..) there was - there are - many other countries who stepped up and committed their resources and treasure to fight the insidious threat of terrorism around the world.

On this continent, we may not have heard much about most of our coalition partners, but today, as the Netherlands officially leaves the theatre, I think it is a good time to revisit my original column on the Netherlands:

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Coalition Country - Netherlands


Three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and blue; similar to the flag of Luxembourg, which uses a lighter blue and is longer; the colors were those of WILLIAM I, Prince of Orange, who led the Dutch Revolt against Spanish sovereignty in the latter half of the 16th century; originally the upper band was orange, but because it tended to fade to red over time, the red shade was eventually made the permanent color; the banner is perhaps the oldest tricolor in continuous use ..

Map of Netherlands


On March 27, 2003 Netherlands was included in the answer to the question: " Who are the current coalition members?" (here for the complete list!) That was from a press release put out by The White House.

“Peace is vulnerable. That is shown when a regime chooses for years the path of threat and terror. The international community must then patiently abide by international agreements and thus try to dispel the threat. That patience can be very great but not endless. Because then the basis of law and peace is itself jeopardized. Saddam Hussein is a great danger to law and peace. Virtually all the countries in the world are in agreement on that... he takes no notice of the agreements which the international community has made time after time with him... Hence the Netherlands gives political support to the action against Saddam Hussein which has been started... The action is now getting under way. But, hopefully, a time will very quickly come when the weapons will fall silent. Then we will have to do everything in our power to help the people in Iraq with their country's reconstruction.”
-- Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, March 20, 2003..(White House here )

Located in western Europe, between Belgium and Germany, the Netherlands knows all too well about living under tyranny. This seafaring nation, - with the North Sea at it's border, and with the BBC saying that Rotterdam is the world's busiest port - although neutral in WWI, was invaded and occupied by Germany during WW2. Considered a modern, industrial nation, Netherlands was a founding member of NATO and the original European Economic Community (EEC), now known as the European Union(EU).

The Dutch are primarily of Germanic stock with some Gallo-Celtic mixture. Their small homeland frequently has been threatened with destruction by the North Sea and has often been invaded by the great European powers.

Julius Caesar found the region which is now the Netherlands inhabited by Germanic tribes in the first century B.C. The western portion was inhabited by the Batavians and became part of a Roman province; the eastern portion was inhabited by the Frisians. Between the fourth and eighth centuries A.D., most of both portions were conquered by the Franks. The area later passed into the hands of the House of Burgundy and the Austrian Habsburgs... (BBC here)

This nation of approximately 16.5 million, in a country slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey, is situated at the mouth of three rivers in Europe. (Rhine, Maas or Meuse, and Schelde). (here)

For [another] fascinating look at the Netherland's history, both ancient and modern:


It may sound like a cliché, but the Dutch are passionately liberal and believe that people should be free to do whatever they want so long as it doesn't inconvenience others; a social attitude exemplified by the ready availability of so-called 'soft' drugs. They are also liberal with meat, rich desserts and frothy alcohol when it comes to mealtimes - the word 'diet' is not in common usage. Painting has always been high on the local arts agenda, with famous daubers like Vincent van Gogh and Hieronymus Bosch starting out here...(I had to include this section since rich desserts and frothy alcohol work for me..lol)...

Pre 20th Century History

The Netherland's early history is linked with Belgium and Luxembourg; the three were known as the 'Low Countries' until the 16th century, when the present-day Netherlands' boundaries were roughly drawn....

In the late 16th century the region's northern provinces, inhabited by recent converts to Protestantism, united to fight the Catholic Spanish rulers. Philip II of Spain sent the cruel Inquisition to enforce Catholicism, and war broke out in 1568. The revolt of the Netherlands was led by Prince William of Orange, nicknamed William the Silent for his refusal to enter into religious arguments...

Modern History

The Netherlands' modern history saw the country lapsing from global prominence into comfortable obscurity; it began to put into place innovative social programs, many of which survive today. The Netherlands was able to stay neutral through WWI but couldn't exercise the same privilege in WWII. The Germans invaded in May 1940, obliterating much of the centre of Rotterdam in a bombing blitz four days later. Although a Dutch resistance movement formed, only a small minority of the country's substantial Jewish population survived the war....(this really IS an interesting write-up here)

Netherlands, comprised of 12 provinces, is predominantly Roman Catholic. ( Roman Catholic 31%, Dutch Reformed 13%, Calvinist 7%, Muslim 5.5%, other 2.5%, none 41% (2002)(here)

It seems that there are one million muslims in Netherlands, and I found more than a few interesting articles (and sites) on the muslim presence there. For instance:

...the CBS said more than 95 percent of Muslims in the Netherlands are non-western, which means they originate from Turkey, Africa, Latin America and Asia, with the exception of Japan and Indonesia.

The CBS also said 54 percent of non-western immigrants in the Netherlands are Islamic.

The increase in the number of Muslims is due to both Immigration and natural population growth and the CBS said 38 percent of the non-western Muslims is second generation immigrants. This percentage has increased in the past six years.

Most Muslims live in the Amsterdam region, with 13 percent of the population Islamic....(here)

and then there is this:

Original Title: "Amsterdam’s soft approach to jihadists"

By Simon Kuper

El-Tawheed mosque could only be in Amsterdam. Across the street is a coffee shop serving soft drugs. The facade of a house a few doors down is painted with naked female figures. And while some women passing the mosque wear veils, others cycle by in T-shirts.

El-Tawheed mosque became notorious in 2004 when Mohammed Bouyeri, a young man who had prayed there, murdered the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Mr Bouyeri’s friend Samir Azzouz, now serving eight years in jail for planning terrorist attacks, also prayed at El-Tawheed.

The murder of Van Gogh, who had made a film attacking Islam, has been called the “Dutch September 11”...(here - interesting site called Euro-Islam)

From Al-Ahram Weekly comes this:

In the wake of this crime, [murder of Van Gogh]...it seems as though the Netherlands has lost its innocence overnight. Suddenly, there is a widespread conviction that Islam has in general done more harm than any other world religion. The Dutch public is angry, outraged and frightened by the prospect of a society where people are afraid to voice their opinions for fear of their lives. Freedom of expression can no longer be taken for granted.

"It is a shame that opinion-makers have become afraid to voice any criticism of Muslims and Islam, and that Muslim women must fear being molested because of their headscarves," Maurits Berger, senior researcher with the Netherlands Institute of International Affairs, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende went further, telling the country's parliament that extremism was undermining democracy. "We cannot let ourselves be blinded by people who seek to drag us into a spiral of violence," Balkenende warned....(here -and yes! This one is out of Cairo)

A constitutional monarchy, the Netherlands has a long and interesting history around their royal family. The country's contitution was first adopted in 1815, but with many amednments, most recently in 2002. The State Dept. site has a synopsis here. Oh, and I also discovered, on another site, that the Netherland's national anthem has 15 verses! No, I won't include all 15 here..lol, BUT:

The National Anthem.

The Wilhelmus has been the official Dutch national anthem since 10 May 1932, when the Cabinet decided that it was to be played on all official occasions....

The Wilhelmus has 15 verses, the first and sixth of which are usually sung on national occasions. The first letters of all the verses strung together form an acrostic, WILLEM VAN NASSOV. The anthem was written during the Eighty Years' War as a tribute to Prince William I of Orange, the leader of the Dutch revolt against Spanish domination. The writer is generally considered to have been Philip van Marnix, Seigneur of Sint Aldegonde (c. 1538-1598), secretary to the Prince...

The oldest known version of the melody of the Wilhelmus dates from 1574. It originated in France, probably during the siege of Chartres in 1568. The melody as used today was written down by Adriaen Valerius in 1626.

Text of the Wilhelmus:

William of Nassau, scion
Of a Dutch and ancient line,
I dedicate undying
Faith to this land of mine.
A prince I am, undaunted,
Of Orange, ever free,
To the king of Spain I've granted
A lifelong loyalty.
...(more here)


In a country that boasts 99% literacy, the main languages spoken are Dutch and Frisian. These are the two official languages.

Jem fohren nu dör de Niekoog
Spoken in: Netherlands, Germany

That sign is in Frisian. Really! Spoken by 500,000 people, only they would know that this sign means: You're now driving through New Koog...If, like me, you have never heard of that language before, you might find this interesting:

...Frisian languages are the most closely related living European languages to Old English, but modern English and Frisian are mostly unintelligible to each other. It has been asserted that fishermen from Great Yarmouth could understand fishers from Harlingen in Friesland....(here)

The Netherlands main industries are: agroindustries, metal and engineering products, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum, construction, microelectronics, fishing, and even though it is noted that the labour force is broken down : agriculture: 2%, industry: 19%
services: 79% (2004 est.), with an unemployment rate of 5.5%, their main export partners are
Germany 25.5%, Belgium 14%, UK 8.9%, France 8.6%, Italy 5.1%, US 4.4% (2006), and their main exports are: machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels; foodstuffs. Main import partners? Germany 17.1%, Belgium 9.5%, China 9.4%, US 7.8%, UK 5.9%, Russia 5.1%, France 4.6% (2006) And they import: machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, fuels, foodstuffs, clothing (all these stats from here)

The Netherlands does have a military, which accounts for 1.6% of the GDP.

An all volunteer force, Netherlands has a close history with Canada, because of the Canadians who are buried in Netherlands as a result of WW2.

The people of The Netherlands have been especially kind with regard to their respect for Canadian soldiers and airmen who sacrificed that Holland might be free from Germany's invasion and deadly occupation. We have assembled a small album depicting the Canadian veterans who returned to Holland to honor those who never made it back to Canada. On the Memorial in the Canadian War Cemetery at Groesbeek are inscribed the following words: Pro amicis mortui amicis vivimus, "We live in the hearts of friends for whom we died."...

Speaking at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in Netherlands on May 3, 2005, Canada's Governor General Adrienne Clarkson told a crowd of about 8,000:
"With the Dutch people we share blood and we share remembrance .... As a family we stood together against tyranny. As a family we knew and felt each other's sacrifices. As a family we have savored together all the lasting joys of liberation."

That really IS an awesome article, a must read. Find that here.

"... More than 7,600 Canadians gave their lives for freedom (for The Netherlands). ... The foundations of a special relationship between our countries were established during those dark years of the Second World War. ...The evidence may be seen in the tulips which bloom in Ottawa each spring; in the friendships made and maintained over the distance of time and miles; and in the care and attention bestowed by the Dutch people on the burial places of our war dead...."

The Canadian War Cemetery Groesbeek - Le Cemitière de Guerre Canadien Groesbeek. Presented by The Hins WWII Collection, The Netherlands.

Depending on where you look, the Netherlands has (or had) anywhere from 600 to 1,500 to zero troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the Coalition.

Dutch soldier dies in grenade attack in Iraq

11 May 2004

AMSTERDAM — A 36-year-old Dutch sergeant was killed in a hand grenade attack in the Iraqi city As Samawah on Monday. The attack comes as the Dutch Cabinet is due to decide on whether to extend the peacekeeping mission in southern Iraq....

The Defence Ministry said several grenades were thrown at a patrol of Dutch troops on a bridge over the Euphrates River. Two soldiers were injured — one seriously — and were taken to the Dutch field hospital at Camp Smitty, the Dutch base in As Samawah...

There are presently about 1,260 Dutch troops maintaining security in the thinly-populated, desert Iraqi province Al Muthanna. Monday’s attack was the first death of a Dutch soldier in Iraq....(here)

Check this out. There is a site with many pictures of the Netherlands military here

Special Forces in Afghanistan, near Kandahar

Dutch army suffers first combat-related fatality in Afghanistan

Last Updated: Friday, April 20, 2007 | 8:21 AM ET

The Dutch army suffered its first combat-related death of a soldier in Afghanistan early Friday.

The Netherlands' defence chief, Gen. Dick Berlijn, said the NATO corporal was killed by a suicide bomber in southern Helmand province while taking part in Operation Achilles. Canadians are also involved in that operation.

The soldier was on foot patrol during the NATO mission to flush out militants entrenched in the opium-producing province.

Although five Dutch soldiers have been killed while serving in Afghanistan, this is the country's first military fatality from hostile military action since the Dutch government sent nearly 2,000 troops to neighbouring Uruzgan province last August.

Most of the Dutch troops are stationed in Uruzgan.

Previously, three Dutch soldiers died in flying accidents, one was killed crashing an armoured car and one soldier apparently committed suicide.

With files from the Associated Press (here)

And in a very current story reported in a Canadian newspaper:

Last updated at 6:21 AM on 29/09/07
Netherlands to increase troops in Afghanistan print this article

The Netherlands announced yesterday it will send 80 more troops to support its own mission in Afghanistan after NATO allies failed to respond to its request for reinforcement.

The additional troops will bring the Dutch military presence in Afghanistan to 1,745.

Wouter Bos, the deputy prime minister who made the announcement after a weekly cabinet meeting, said the deployment is being made on a temporary basis.

"They will be going in order to assist our troops," said Bos, filling in for Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who was travelling home after addressing the United Nations in New York on Thursday.

The Netherlands had asked NATO for reinforcements in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, but was forced to fill the gap itself when no other allies were willing to come forward with more troops.....(here)

Netherlands is part of the ISAF force, committed to the rebuilding of Afghanistan:

ISAF troops under NATO command.
ISAF troops under NATO command.
The initial ISAF headquarters was based on 3rd UK Mechanised Division, which was led at the time by Major General John McCall. Until ISAF expanded beyond Kabul, the Force consisted of a roughly division-level headquarters and one brigade covering this capital, the Kabul Multinational Brigade. The brigade was composed of three battle groups, and was in charge of the tactical command of deployed troops. ISAF headquarters serves as the operational control center of the mission.

This is a very interesting synopsis of all the coalition forces who are operating as part of ISAF in Afghanistan here.

The relationship between the US and the Netherlands extends beyond the boundaries of just this war, though. Long time partners on many fronts, there are signed agreements/ understandings relating to other topics such as HIV/AIDS, education, etc.


There is so much more to read on Netherlands' contribution in this GWOT. I have just scratched the surface here, as always! That Netherlands is an active member of the coalition is beyond dispute. They KNOW the taste, and the price of freedom.

"Dank je, Tankje wol"!

Although a lot of the original pictures I included in that post seem to have disappeared, my original Tanker Bros column is here.

Let us never forget that many other countries have given their all to this ongoing Global War on Terror.

The Netherlands troops are heroes - every single day.

"Dank je, Tankje wol"!

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