One of the new revelations is that former Defence Minister Søren Gade (right) hid an agreement with Blackwater. Photo: Forsvaret/Scanpix
One of the first things that the new Venstre government did upon taking power was to put an end to a commission investigating Denmark’s involvement in the Iraq War. The decision to end the commission’s work, which wasn’t finished, has been heavily criticized and new revelations about Denmark’s role in the war seem to have been coming ever since PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen pulled the plug.
First came the revelation that Rasmussen’s predecessor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen (no relation), told former US Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz that Denmark would join the United States’ invasion of Iraq nearly a year before the war began. The leak of the classified document revealing the early commitment stands in contrast to Fogh’s later statements in parliament, where he repeatedly indicated that his decision to involve Denmark’s in the war was still in question until a vote on the issue was called on March 18th, 2003.
Over the weekend, Jyllands-Posten then revealed that former Defence Minister Søren Gade attempted to hide an agreement that the Danish military had with the controversial private military contractor Blackwater, whose members killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in what became known as the Nisour Square massacre.
Jyllands-Posten published a document that it said proves that the Danish military was attempting to hide its arrangement with Blackwater, which called for the private firm to come to Danish troops’ defence in the case of emergency. According to the newspaper, an internal military memorandum said that the cooperation with Blackwater should not be made public and that parliament should instead be told that Danish military personnel only “had a conversation” with Blackwater representatives.
“What’s serious about this case is that there has apparently been one form or another of misrepresentation to parliament,” Martin Lidegaard, Denmark’s recently-replaced foreign minister, told Politiken.
But that was not the end of the new Iraq information. On Monday, it was reported that the Military Prosecution Service (Forsvarets Auditørkorps) is currently investigating a group of five Danish soldiers accused of having so-called ‘trophy photos’ of dead Iraqi war victims.
A Prosecution Service spokesman confirmed the investigation to broadcaster DR.
“Some photo material has surfaced among the Danish personnel in Iraq. I won’t go into details, but it shows the victims of war. So now we need to find out more about the photos, where they were taken and who took them,” Jan Mortensen said.
Mortensen added that the photos were likely not taken by the Danish soldiers themselves but rather “exchanged between the Danes and some of our coalition partners”. But because Danish soldiers are obligated to report any human rights violations – which would include disrespectful treatment of a corpse – the five soldiers in question could face punishment.
According to DR, the soldiers testified before the Military Prosecution Service last week but no charges have formally been filed.
The so-called ‘Iraq Commission’ was established by the Helle Thorning-Schmidt government in 2012 to investigate the basis for entering the war as well as Danish policies related to the treatment and transfer of prisoners of war. The commission was due to complete its investigation by December 2017. When Lars Løkke Rasmussen ended the commission’s work, his government said that Denmark’s involvement in the war has already been thoroughly investigated and he characterized the commission as a waste of money.
The Iraq Commission has cost 14 million kroner, compared to the 2.4 billion kroner that the actual war cost.
Thirteen people were still due to testify before the commission, including Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who admitted last year that Denmark “could have prepared better” for the Iraq War and its consequences.
Since October 2014, Denmark has been back in Iraq participating in military strikes against the terror group Isis and training Iraqi troops to take on Isis themselves.