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Why Denmark Decided to Participate in the War Against Saddam Hussein
by Frank Laybourn, Foreign and Security Policy Adviser to the Liberal Party of Denmark
24 September 2003

Americans should not forget that many nations of Europe supported the war in Iraq, including Denmark under the leadership of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Limiting the Scope of Terrorism

International terrorism is a threat to our peace and security, and can strike any country and any population group -- including Denmark and the Danes. While terrorism is not new, today's terrorist threat is different from that of the past. The terrorist attacks on the USA on September 11th, 2001 have moved the boundaries. The attacks brutally underlined that the threats posed by international terrorist networks, and the fragile states where they find refuge, are genuine and concern us all. Access to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the technologies behind them have become easier.

In September 2002, the Bush administration published its "National Security Strategy," which deals in part with the threat from enemies either possessing or attempting to acquire WMD. "We cannot let our enemies strike first," the administration declares, and states further, "to forestall or prevent (…) hostile acts by our adversaries, the Unites States will, if necessary act pre-emptively."

The Danish Government, led by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, shares the US assessment of the new threats. At NATO's Prague Summit in November 2002 he declared that, "In today's globalized world, those who do us harm are no longer discouraged by geography or by traditional deterrence. Terrorism, WMD and missiles are the new threats." Moreover, the Danish Government has clearly signaled it believes that the use of military force is a key component of international diplomacy and that the US deserves support in its endeavor to continue its campaign against international terrorism and its roots.

The War with Iraq

The war against Iraq should be seen in the context of the principles mentioned above. Firstly, Iraq posed a threat to the regional stability in the Middle East and Central Asia in terms of its continued pursuit of WMD-capability. And if Saddam Hussein acquired nuclear weapons it would have had devastating consequences. We all agreed -- including the UN Security Council by its unanimous adoption of Resolution 1441-- that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the international community. Iraq’s use of WMD against Iran and the Kurdish minority in Iraq in the 1980's combined with the continued refusal of Saddam Hussein to cooperate with the international community on disarmament simply was not acceptable in a post-9/11 world.

Secondly, one of the lessons learned from leaving Afghanistan unsupervised under the Taliban regime during the 1990's was that rogue states and the rise of so-called power vacuums create safe havens for ter-rorists and terrorist organizations. In a post 9-11 environment this is not acceptable.

Thirdly, the Iraqi regime’s continued breach of Security Council resolutions posed a severe threat to the UN’s authority in the international system, which the Danish Government could not accept. The Danish Government deeply regrets that it proved impossible to maintain the unity of the Security Council in the face of Saddam Hussein’s blatant refusal to render the immediate, active and unconditional cooperation required by Resolution 1441. The months that passed since President Bush made his case in New York on September 12th, 2002 should have been sufficient to deal with Iraq’s failure over the preceding twelve years to comply with the demands of the international community. Had the Security Council faced up to its responsibility, the use of force might well have been avoided. Instead, the coalition took action to finish the job that Saddam Hussein never intended to complete. Furthermore, the Danish Government believes the military action was based on sufficient authority and legitimacy under existing resolutions.

Fourthly, we owed the Iraqi population an end to the years of suffering brought upon them by a ruthless dictator. The findings of thousands of bodies in mass graves after the war have only reinforced this notion.

Finally, but just as importantly, the Danish Government believes that it was right to show solidarity with the United States in its fight against a repressive tyrant. In the last century, the United States has come to our help on numerous occasions. In the First and Second World Wars. By securing our freedom during the Cold War. And by US resolve in the Balkans in the 1990’s, when bloody civil wars plagued the region and European leaders were hesitant. We felt that it was our duty to support the United States when the call was -- for once -- coming from the other side of the Atlantic. As our Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated on March 26, "Only the Americans have the military strength to disarm Saddam and liberate Iraq. But we have an obligation to help. We cannot just sail under a flag of convenience and let others fight for freedom and peace. There has in fact been too much of that kind in the past in Denmark. If we mean anything seriously about our democratic values, then we should also be ready to make a small contribution to the international coalition."

The purpose of the coalition was to put a stop to reckless and illicit armaments programs and to the ruthless and despotic regime which was responsible for them. Denmark is proud to be part of that coalition. The Danish Government has consistently supported the legitimacy and the necessity of taking action against Saddam Hussein. This was clearly the right and only thing to do and history will prove we were right.

Frank Laybourn is the Foreign and Security Policy Adviser to the Liberal Party, part of the Danish coalition Government

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