Cablegate: Cartoon Anniversary: Danish Paper Decides Against


DE RUEHCP #1327/01 2720813
O 290813Z SEP 06




E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/27/2016

Classified By: Ambassador James P. Cain, reasons 1.4b,d

1. (S/NF) Summary: To mark the one-year anniversary this
weekend of its publication of Mohammed cartoons, the Danish
daily "Jyllands-Posten" weighed, but ultimately decided
against reprinting the caricatures, at least so soon after
the controversy stirred by the Pope's speech. Our discreet
discussions with the paper and with senior Danish government
officials underscore both how close we came to another
potential crisis and how much the defense of free speech and
domestic political calculations remain paramount for the
government and for many Danes. End summary.

Another Cartoon Crisis Averted

2. (S/NF) Post's public affairs counselor learned from a
"Jyllands-Posten" journalist (strictly protect) last week
that the paper was considering several options to commemorate
the cartoons' first anniversary September 30, including
re-publishing the original cartoons or running new ones on
the subject. The paper,s fiery cultural editor, Flemming
Rose, had recently resumed his job, after several months in
the U.S., and was reportedly pushing for re-publication. The
Ambassador called Prime Minister Rasmussen's national
security advisor, Bo Lidegaard, to ask if this was true and
to find out how the government was going to handle the issue.
If we believed the paper was going to re-publish the
cartoons, the Ambassador stressed, we would need to notify
our government and help prepare our embassies around the
world for possible reaction. Lidegaard was clearly surprised
by the question, stunned that the paper would consider such

3. (S/NF) In a subsequent conversation with the Ambassador
September 26, Lidegaard confirmed that "Jyllands-Posten" was
weighing a second run of the cartoons but indicated that the
government did not want to get directly involved in the
matter. So sensitive was the issue, Lidegaard told the
Ambassador confidentially, that the prime minister's office
had made a conscious decision not to alert the foreign
ministry or the intelligence services. (RAO's sounding of a
senior intelligence official days earlier suggested that the
service was not paying any attention to the looming
anniversary.) Furthermore, Lidegaard explicitly warned
against any attempt by us to openly influence the paper's
decision, which, if made public, the prime minister would
have to condemn, he said. Lidegaard agreed, however, that no
harm would come from a straightforward query from us to
"Jyllands-Posten" about their plans.

4. (S/NF) With that, the Ambassador telephoned
"Jyllands-Posten" editor-in-chief Carsten Juste, and asked
straight out about his paper's intentions for commemorating
the anniversary. Juste told the Ambassador that he and his
team had been considering re-publication, but concluded that
such a move would be unwise, especially so soon after the
controversy caused by the Pope's Regensburg remarks. The
Ambassador welcomed this news, noting that none of us wanted
a repeat of the crisis earlier this year. Lidegaard was
demonstrably relieved when the Ambassador reported this
exchange a short time later.

How Could It Happen Again?

5. (C) For all the shock of the cartoon crisis and Denmark's
heightened sensitivity to the Islamic world's concerns and
the challenges of better integrating its own 200,000-strong
Muslim population, there are still a lot of Danes who welcome
confrontation with those they consider extremists and oppose
any sign of retreat on core values such as free speech. The
anti-immigration Danish People's Party, which votes with the
government coalition, may be the most vocal on the subject
(as well as the party that gained the most politically from
the crisis). There are also many within the governing
Liberal and Conservative parties who remain highly motivated
in defense of free speech and Western culture. More broadly,
Danes are conflicted, if not divided, recognizing the
challenges posed by radical Islam to traditional Danish
values but holding fast to their image of themselves as
committed to tolerance and multiculturalism.

6. (C) In the wake of the cartoon crisis, free speech has
become, more than ever before, a "third rail" issue in Danish
politics. Even the government's principal rivals cannot
bring themselves to fault the prime minister for more than
tactical missteps in his handling of the crisis, while
Rasmussen himself remains convinced that a firm,
no-concessions approach in defense of free speech is the

winning course. A poll published September 28 shows that a
year later, despite the worldwide violence attributed to
their publication, 46.7 percent of Danes support the original
decision to publish the cartoons. A popular book published
earlier this month, "Islamists and Naivists," written by two
prominent Danish commentators, sees the cartoon crisis as
part of the overall threat to Western values from Islamic
radicalism. PM Rasmussen continues to view the cartoon issue
first and foremost as a domestic political issue, certainly
more aware of the international implications but no more
inclined to put them before the reaction at home.

7. (C/NF) When, then, the newspaper that ignited Denmark's
worst foreign policy crisis in sixty years essentially
threatened to do it all over again, the prime minister
apparently concluded that the potential costs of being seen
to intervene against free speech outweighed even the risk of
another uproar. The Danish government might not have been
able to dissuade the paper's editors in any case; one could
also argue that another such provocation is inevitable. It
seems clear from this episode, though, that Rasmussen's first
priority was to stay on the right side of the free speech
issue and avoid any suggestion of concession.


8. (C/NF) Comment: This episode illustrates that the Danes
have drawn mixed lessons from their experience in the cartoon
crisis. These lessons have positive and negative
implications for the U.S. On the good side, the Danes have
stepped up engagement in promotion of democracy and reform
abroad, especially in the Middle East. They now recognize
the need to improve integration and outreach to the country's
immigrant communities. Since the cartoon crisis, they have
extended troop mandates in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the
negative side, though, this popular center-right government
has hardened its views on the absolute primacy of free
speech. The prime minister appeared willing to let
Jyllands-Posten dictate the timing of the next Islam vs. West
confrontation without question or open discussion within the
government. While this particularly vulnerable moment of the
cartoon anniversary may pass without violence, our
discussions this past week remind us that the Danish front in
what they see as a clash of civilizations could reopen at any


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