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Danish government 'streamlined' information over Iraq war participation: report

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Danish government 'streamlined' information over Iraq war participation: report
Former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Iraq in 2004. Archive photo: Atef Hassan/Ritzau Scanpix
18:21 CET+01:00
Prior to its decision to join the US-led military campaign in Iraq in 2003, the Danish government 'streamlined' information in reports that were already reliant on assumptions and estimates, an investigation has found.

The conclusions are made in a long-awaited report on Denmark’s military engagements in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, which was published on Tuesday.

“It can be stated that the government, in a number of instances, did not pass on important information to parliament or that the government ‘streamlined’ information, so it gave parliament an incomplete picture of the situation,” the report states.

Professor Anders Wivel and associate professor Rasmus Mariager of the University of Copenhagen, who led the investigation, cite a number of examples of the so-called ‘streamlining’ referred to in the report.

On such example relates to the question of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

“The Danish Defence Intelligence Service’s (FE) assessment that there was no definitive evidence, but that Iraq was considered to possess weapons, was changed to the prime minister’s [Anders Fogh Rasmussen, ed.] declaration that ‘this is something we know’,” the researchers write.

Information on how UN weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix regarded the situation with Iraq was also ‘streamlined’ by the government, according to the researchers.

The inspections were described by the government as “in vain and futile”.

“That was not a technical, but a political assessment, and was related to the proximity of the deadline for military action,” the report states.

Researchers also found examples of information and assessments provided by the government to parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee (Udenrigspolitisk Nævn) which were in conflict with information the government itself had received.

“The prime minister and the foreign minister [Per Stig Møller, ed.] declared many times to the committee that the aim of the action against Iraq was to disarm the regime’s weapons of mass destruction,” the researchers wrote.

Under then-PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a parliamentary majority voted for Denmark to join the US-led military campaign in Iraq in 2003.

In comments given to Ritzau on Tuesday, Rasmussen, no relation to current prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, denied that information had been selectively edited before being relayed to parliament.

“I have certainly not streamlined any of the assessments I received,” he said, adding that he “didn’t know” whether any officials had ‘streamlined’ information.

“Whilst I have only read the conclusions of the report, I cannot see any basis for criticism of the information that was given to parliament,” he added.

The researchers said that, despite the general acceptance that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, the issue did not actually play an important role in Denmark’s decision-making process.

Other suspicions which have been voiced regarding Denmark’s motivation for taking part in the war were also addressed in the report.

No evidence was found that the government attempted to exert pressure on FE to produce reports that could be used to justify participation in the war.

Neither was there any suggestion that parliamentary legal advisers were told by the administration to find legal justifications supporting the decision to go to war.

READ ALSO: Denmark to keep Iraq war document under wraps

 
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