Denmark's new Social Democrat government has decided against re-opening an official inquiry into the country’s 2003 decision to participate in the US-led military coalition in Iraq, despite pledges to do so by the party leader Mette Frederiksen during her time in opposition.
“My view is crystal clear: The government should re-open the Iraq commission”, Mette Frederiksen wrote on the Social Democrats' website in 2015.
The commission was effectively shut down by the previous Venstre-led government. The same liberal-conservative Venstre was in power in 2003, when then-Prime Minister and future NATO Secretary General Andes Fogh Rasmussen decided to send Danish troops to Iraq.
Social Democrat Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod confirmed that the centre-left government didn't intend to re-open the commission. At the same time, he castigated his predecessors for closing it.
“It is a disgrace to a government to shut down a commission that has been working for several years without completing its work”, Kofod told Danish Radio. “The decision regarding Danish participation [in the Iraq war] goes back 15-20 years. We now have a historical account of the war, so we clearly have a good basis on which to look at what happened at the time”, Kofod added, referencing an academic report on Denmark's military engagements in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, which was published in February this year.
According to that report, the liberal-conservative coalition was given information which stated there was no clear evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Still, then-PM Rasmussen assured parliament and media that it was the case.
In 2012, the government, at that time left-wing coalition led by the Social Democrats, appointed a commission to look into Denmark’s decision to join the US-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which ravaged the entire region. That commission was ultimately closed by the Vestre government in 2015, despite Social Democrats' protests.
“In a democracy, it is crucial that parliament and the population can hold the government accountable, regardless of its party colours. It requires a government to be ready to investigate itself, even though it is politically inconvenient”, Mette Frederiksen wrote in 2015.
The academic report published this year was touted as a replacement for the commission. While that report made several criticisms of the decision to participate in the Iraq war and triggered renewed demands from left-wing parties, including the Social Liberals, the Red Green Alliance and the Socialist People's Party to reinstate the commission.
“Great shame that the Social Democrats retracted from re-opening the Iraq Commission. Yes, we have reached greater clarity on the mistakes and shortcomings of the decision-making process in the war investigation, but still many stones to be turned”, Alternative political spokesman Rasmus Nordqvist tweeted.
En stor skam at @Spolitik bakker på genåbning af Irak-kommissionen - ja vi er blevet klogere på fejl og mangler i beslutningsprocesser i krigsudredningen men stadig mange sten der skal vendes #dkpol https://t.co/AhyDq9tlgz— rasmus nordqvist (@rasmusnordqvist) 30. september 2019
“Listen here. You send us to war based on lies. When we get home in pieces, you disappear and leave the scraps to the families. When the refugees afterwards come to us, you build a fence. Damn right there must be consequences for you to lie to us”, Iraq war veteran Anders Koustrup Kærgaard of the whistleblower organisation Veron tweeted.
Hør her #dkpol.— Anders Koustrup Kærgaard (@Anderskoustrupk) 30. september 2019
I sender os i krig på løgne.
Når vi kommer hjem i stykker - forsvinder I og overlader stumperne til familierne.
Når flygtningene så bagefter søger os - bygger I et hegn.
Damn right det skal have konsekvenser for jer at lyve for os.
Ny Irakkommision - nu pic.twitter.com/65Wry9ldYA
Denmark decided to join the US-led Iraq campaign in March 2003 by a slim majority. Besides ousting Saddam Hussein, the US-led invasion supported by Copenhagen displaced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and kindled religious tensions across the entire Middle East. Its consequences are still being felt today.
Danish troops were deployed in Iraq between June 2003 and July 2007, peaking at about 550 men.