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EDITORIAL: We need a Truth Commission

New revelations again stress the need for a Truth Commission to bring transparency to the Iraq War.

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Do the furious generals in the Pentagon, and our own irate NATO secretary-general, have a point in seriously condemning the massive leak of military documentation about the Iraq War that took place on Saturday?

The international media – led by the New York Times – that decided to pass on and verify the enormous amount of material, do not think so. And any risks there may be, pale compared with the risk of letting the powers that be wage war behind closed doors.

The decision to go to war – and this is not a question of a defensive war – is so grave, and can have such terrible consequences, that it must be able to tolerate full and extensive verification.

This is particularly the case with the Iraq War, which from its inception had no basis in international law. As a result, more than any other recent war led by a coalition of democratic countries, it could only be justified by an eventual, unequivocal success.

Unfortunately, the release of some 400,000 documents confirms that the Iraq War is a conflict involving major human and financial costs and with a highly questionable and uncertain result.

The human cost, calculated in overall loss of life - appears to be even higher than previously thought.

Even worse than that, the torture scandal that was unearthed at Abu Ghraib, is only the top of the iceberg in relation to an even greater moral catastrophe: the United States and its allies, including Denmark, have handed thousands of Iraqis over to even worse and more extreme torture than was the case at Abu Ghraib.

There was an inherent risk that the new Iraqi security forces would carry on Saddam Hussein’s worst traditions. But that does not justify ignoring the risk, not to mention legitimising it oneself by undermining the ban on torture, as was the case during the Bush years.

It is gratifying that so many parliamentarians have reacted so gravely to these revelations. As Obama’s caution in opening legal proceedings shows, it is difficult for democratic politicians to criminalise a policy that their similarly democratically elected predecessors have conducted. Even when it was criminal.

But that does not alter the need to bring transparency to the issue, in order to avoid a repeat.

A Truth Commission, in which those responsible are heard, and the complex in its entirety is exposed, should be the least we can demand. Here in Denmark too.

ts

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