Friday, December 08, 2006

The Secret War

The documentary movie "The Secret War" [Den Hemmelige Krig] by Christoffer Guldbrandsen and Nils Giversen was released last week and it has already such a stink here in Denmark the like of which we haven't seen in a long time.

Leading figures of the two government parties, the Conservative People's Party, the Left Party and their support party, the Danish People's Party have with considerable vigor criticized the movie for "being slanted" and "being selective of the facts".

For example, the Foreign Policy Speaker of the DPP declared that he "was shocked at the methods the two journalists used".

Two this, Guldbrandsen replied, "We can only wonder how he can reject the movie so without having seen any of it at all!".

We saw the movie on television last night and afterwards there was debate between four leading Danish politicians and I can assure you they went at it hammer and tongs!

The premise of the movie is that, when a Danish Special Force unit [Jaegerkorps] was dispatched to Afghanistan in 2002 they, apparently after orders, handed prisoners over to American forces ostensibly for interrogation and that the prisoners were tortured and some if not most of them were also sent to Guantanamo as "enemy combatants".

We're not talking about a really large number here, probably 30-40 Afghanis, but the point is that this hits at the heart of a sore point in Danish self-understanding. We are Good and we respect human rights and in most particular we respect the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of prisoners of war.

The movie uses a lot of clips of the Danish PM, Anders Fogh, speaking in Parliament and saying in various ways that the Danish Gov't respects human rights would reject any policy which negated the Geneva Conventions.

In some ways, Anders Fogh was molded by 9-11 -- it's not that his gov't was swept into power by it in November 2001, but it helped and it and the War on Terror and Denmark being a part of the Coalition of the Willing has always been a major political stand of his gov't. In fact, I often refer to him as Bush Lite.

Therefore, the Danish gov't has always been in denial of the obvious, that the American gov't, as a matter of policy decided already in 2001 to ignore the Geneva Conventions in any way it saw fit.

I'll give you a recent example of this. The Danish Minister of Defense in responded in this manner to allegations that prisoners handed over to them by the Danes had been abused: he wrote a letter to the Pentagon! The minister got a reply of course which he related to the Foreign Affairs Committee, saying that the prisoners had all been released shortly after detainment and -- surprise! surprise! -- the Pentagon had no information on "any allegations of mistreatment of these detainees".

The sad -- disgusting! -- thing is that the minister thinks he can get away with this shit!

And that is what the debate centered on between four politicians, two from the gov't parties and two from the opposition.

The gov't speakers mainly made use of various variations of plausible deniability only admitting such facts as official statements, policy and papers.

The opposition, the other hand, made excellent use of well-known facts from public media. The gov't people seemed to think this was rather dastardly. At times, the debate almost degenerated in into a shouting match and the gov't speakers were obviously upset, almost exploding in anger.
The debate closed with a comment pointing out that the Bush administration had detained people for up to five years without charge and that even US courts had rebuked the Bush admin for this -- so, how could they stand there and say that they did not know that US gov't policy abrogated the Geneva Conventions?

Ah, that warmed the cockles of my heart!

[The picture at the beginning of this post is from the movie and shows two American MPs with a hooded prisoner between them with a Danish soldier standing behind them. For the sake of good order, I should say that it wasn't completely clear how this particular picture was taken -- this doesn't mean I doubt its authenticity!]


Lurch said...

It's interesting to learn that yet another European country suffers from a near-terminal case of denial. Have you seen local polls as to the ratio of Danes who support this whole enterprise in Afghanistan? How does that figure compare with support of what's being done in Iraq?

Chuck Cliff said...

The last I noticed, it is pretty much the same as in the US -- 60% want our some 7-800 pairs of boots home.

This is a reversal of what it was before.

We also had the case that the PM lied to Parliament, saying that they knew for sure there were WMD in Iraq.

A guy in intelligence blew the whistle and got 9 months in the shade for revealing state secrets.

They tried to get the journalists who publicized, but the courts threw it out with the reason, yes it was secret, but it did not endanger Denmark or Danish soldiers.

Wierd coincidence(?) Today, the day after the movie was shown, almost half the Danish contingent in Iraq was involved in a massive raid along with the Brits. This had up-front, primetime coverage on the tv tonight.