Ret. army commander "has respect" for Syria-goers

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Retired army general Peter van Uhm says he has respect for the Dutch people who leave for Syria to take part in the war there.

Van Uhm who served as Commander of the Royal Netherlands Army and Chief of Defence until his retirement in 2012 said in a radio program “Verloren Zonen -een eeuw ten oorlog” (Lost sons, a century of war) Sunday night on Radio 1, that he thinks the “Syria goers” are fighting for their ideals and are young people “who want to have the experience of doing something to make the world a better place.” The program had been recorded before it became known that some of the Dutch jihadists have committed suicide attacks, but he clarified to Volkskrant today that even then, his opinion does not change.

He said the Syria goers actually risk their necks. “They’re saying “I want to contribute to making things better in places on earth where things are worse than in the Netherlands, because we all benefit from that.” He said he could only have respect for that, comparing the Syria-goers to his son, First Lieutenant Dennis van Uhm who was killed in a roadside bombing in Uruzgan on April 18, 2008. “I can imagine that my son’s determination and that of a young man who heads to Syria are comparable. What is not comparable is the image they are going for,” he said.

The career military man said people judge too lightly about the Syria goers. “The question whether their surroundings and our community did its utmost to keep these people in the right direction is not asked often enough. You should try to understand these young people, because only then will you be able to help them.”