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
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