If Harry sounds insensitive about killing, he is. All of us who served were – at least he knows why | joe gleton
AAs an ex-soldier, I have followed Prince Harry’s career with a mixture of wry and genuine interest. We served in similar times and in the same war. Friends who worked alongside him in the Household Cavalry and Army Air Corps reflect that he was a decent and fairly youthful officer who did his job, which is the highest accolade available to anyone who has gone to Sandhurst.
I am an outspoken Republican and don’t hide it. I was a Republican when I took the oath to the monarch required to enlist in the army and I have never wavered since that first political commitment. The army was a refuge from drudgery, not an expression of my politics. What I’ve gleaned from Harry over the years is that The Mob, the army he was destined to join, may have ended up as a sort of refuge for him as well: in his case, as a shield against the scrutiny of the withering press that seems to have shaped his life, rather than from cycles of precarious work and poverty.
However, it seems to me that when he talks about his experiences in the war, Harry expresses, knowingly or not, feelings common to many veterans of Afghanistan. He does not regret killing the 25 Taliban soldiers he claims to have killed as an Apache gunner. However, he seems to understand quite well the processes that have allowed him to remain relatively indifferent.
You can’t kill someone “if you see it as a person,” he says, but the army “had trained me for ‘other’ them and they had trained me well”.
Whether this is a bragging, a lament, or a statement of fact is unclear, though I suspect the latter. I am quite interested in whether your understanding of the concept of otherness is a sign of your own political development or a picked up term. in therapy or his liberal (however, Chomsky’s reading) wife. But, in any case, it is a frank and correct comment on how the lives of the enemy and the occupied are devalued long before a soldier arrives on a battlefield. It’s literally how it is out there. We can, and many will, ask if any of them were civilians. And in a conflict like Afghanistan, it’s a valid question.
Certainly, bragging about killing people is generally frowned upon, but even so, there are caveats. It is particularly impolite to do so outside of the company of your fellow veterans, for example, with civilians. The problem here is cultural. It breaks the sharp separation of the military and civilian worlds; the chasm that is essential to professional military identity but makes the transition back to the real world so fraught after discharge.
People have attacked him for it, including the talibanthough you suspect much of the furor is dusty old media colonels using a stick with which to beat a mildly dissenting prince.
I found other parts of his testimony more revealing, of him and the distance between him and others like me who served in the same war. He watched the 9/11 attacks from “the TV room at Eton.” He was laying a rug in a housing estate outside Norwich when the news came over the radio. Starks, actually.
It describes those responsible for the attacks and their supporters as “enemies of humanity” and says that fighting them was an act of revenge for one of the worst crimes in human history.
I have a bit more sophisticated view of the origins of the “war on terror” these days, but his sense of reactionary outrage was pretty much the same as mine at the time.
Harry is Prince Harry: an imperfect lens through which to read the general psychology of Britain’s veterans. And yet he is a veteran, and being one clearly remains a driving force in his life. If he sounds numb to death, as he did when he earlier compared his military duties to playing play Station, is because it probably is. Just like many of us are. And doubly so in his case, because he went through a dehumanizing Eton in addition to military training.
I’m not entirely convinced that there is any far-reaching truth to be gleaned from all of this. There’s a stir of military adoration, down-to-earth adulation and Piers Morgan tantrums, contrasted with Harry and Meghan’s irritating brand of America. I’m told he’s not a bad boy, but I find it odd that he and his wife so rightly criticize the personalities and conduct of the royals without even addressing the real issue: that the entire parasitic enterprise of the monarchy they describe has had It’s the day and you have to go.
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