The Danish army has participated in the US invasion of Iraq almost from the get-go; 470 Danish soldiers are now serving there.
When Denmark’s participation was originally agreed upon, there was plenty of argument at home over the decision; now, with Bush and his buddies in some sort of disgrace, few Danes think this was the correct decision.
That’s especially true now that six Danish soldiers have died there — four of them just this year.
However, as one Danish friend told me while I was visiting Denmark recently, “We went in there, so we can hardly just up and leave now, can we?”
And she’s right.
They can’t, and there is an agreement among Danes on that issue, regardless of how they feel about the chumminess between their prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and George W. Bush.
Many say that relationship is very one-sided. Fogh Rasmussen is criticized for bowing to the power in the West.
Lately, he has come under even harsher criticism thanks to a new Danish film.
The documentary, Den Hemmelige Krig or The Secret War, focuses on the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002.
In it, an American interviewer claims that on March 18, 2002, the Danish army arrested 31 prisoners and handed them over to the American army, which then tortured them.
The filmmakers allege this was done with the full knowledge of Denmark’s prime minister and defence minister.
These are very serious charges.
Fogh Rasmussen called a press conference last week, in which he denied the accusations, claiming his government had no information that suggested the prisoners had been tortured.
In fact, he had George W. Bush’s personal promise that all prisoners handed over to the US military by the Danes would be treated “in accordance to the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.”
Opposition members and others have accused him of naïveté, and perhaps rightly so.
Many times, the US Army has namely many times been accused of not adhering to that agreement, and need one simply mention the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, where still today 430 prisoners sit without ever having been served an official charge.
In an attempt to calm the critical storm, Soren Gade, Danish Defence minister, put forward formerly secret information on the Danes’ participation in the war, but to little avail.
The opposition complained loudly that his documents did little to answer the many new questions, and accused Gade of trying to mislead the parliament by insisting the Danes had not taken any prisoners of war at all.
Gade said his information was that the Danish army had taken 31 prisoners of war, but set them free a short while after.
In an interview with the Danish paper Politiken, Gade said that while he cannot speak of the documents themselves, which are still kept secret from the public, he hoped they will answer some questions.
“I am firmly against of torture; that is something I feel deep in my soul,” said Gade.
He added: “Then to be blamed for something that occurred in the two years before I became a minister….”
Someone should have told him that the public is rarely sympathetic with politicians who publicly lament alleged attacks upon their persons.
A reporter reminded him that his personal views on torture are not at stake, but rather whether he had misinformed his Parliament.
“I have in no way changed anything or manipulated anything,” insisted Gade.
He added that, if, after seeing the film, he comes to believe something was amiss within the Danish army in Afghanistan in 2002, he will have that matter looked into.
Last Wednesday, the Danish government issued a report on the controversy. It claimed total innocence.
The Danish army has not handed over war prisoners to the Americans in several instances, as the American claims in the film, but rather only once, when it delivered 34 prisoners to the Americans in March 2002.
From Danish news, I have not been able to figure out the discrepancies in reports on the number of prisoners handed over, nor whether the film speaks of many instances, or only one.
The government also stated its army had not overstepped the boundaries by handing prisoners over to the Americans.
Furthermore, it says parliament was not misinformed on the intention of the American military to uphold the Geneva Convention, nor has it given wrong information on the matter.
That seems a bit dubious to me.
But, then again, my country doesn’t even have an army.