The media has spoken to Prince Harry, and it doesn’t make for particularly comfortable reading. The main revelation is that he’s killed a number of people in Afghanistan, which is a little more visceral than pictures of Kate walking Lupo the cocker spaniel in the manicured grounds of Kensington Palace. Harry calls his victims Taliban fighters, but since he’s doing the killing from the safety of an Apache helicopter, you have to wonder if he knows whether he’s killed anyone at all, let alone whether he’s killed people he’s meant to be fighting against.
But then he’s just one of the lads, right? He’s a just a normal, average soldier – mucking in with the squaddies on base, getting on the Bagram banter bus and partying in extortionately expensive suites in Las Vegas. He’s Captain fucking Wales. And do you know what Captain Wales does? Kills people. NBD – that’s just what being a regular guy in the army is all about. Some lowly goat herder takes a pop at you? You decimate his hillside with the rockets in your airborne killing machine. Then you get back to base and thrash the lads at FIFA.
The fact that he is an actual killer hasn't been glossed over by the press, but it does seem to have been underplayed. They seem to have equated destroying the lives and homes of non-specific bearded humans is the equivalent of Prince Charles butchering pigs on his organic farm. Harry says he “takes a life to save a life” and goes on to say that if “there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game, I suppose”. He is allowed to sit, smirking casually, as he uses Old Testament language to describe the killing of Muslims thousands of miles away from the UK, while David Cameron talks about generational war and a new front in the war on terrorism opening up in North Africa. To Captain Wales, killing isn’t real, so he needn’t take it too seriously. And anyway, if a trip to North Africa is on the cards, count him in – there’s some bloody great whore houses in Tangier after all.
Wales isn’t the only soldier to distance himself from the reality of killing, but he may be the only one who's done it that casually in an internationally syndicated interview. The self-styled jock of war lets the world know that he’s really good at his day job (killing people) because he’s really good at playing computer games. "It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think that I'm probably quite useful," he says flippantly, as he describes slaughtering people with his Apache helicopter.
For Captain Wales, battering your dozy co-pilot at Call of Duty is basically the same as killing other human beings. Removed from the battlefield, unable to know if he’s really killed anyone, Harry can blast away at insurgent devils as if he was jerking off onto his Xbox.
He’s not, as we perhaps all thought, a royal mascot or a James Bond figure, he doesn't subdue his mortal enemies merely by stunning them with well-placed karate chops or making them do back-flips off exploding boats. He’s a well-built lad who sits in the sky and takes people out with some serious kit. There’s no ambiguity to it. No, “Hey, do you think that guy who Bond threw in the snake pit actually died?” No, “Do you think the guys in the police car Batman just ran over are OK? Do you think they have families?” All there is, in my mind, of Harry is death, pure and simple.
And imagine, if you will, being one of those guys he takes out. Taliban fighter or innocent goat herder, you’d look up, see a glint of ginger in the helicopter wheeling way above you and think 'FFS, bombed out of existence by the roguish rugger bugger from Eton' as the missiles came to engulf you in flames. No one wants to be another notch on Wales’s apparently well-notched kill post. Yet many are, it seems, and Harry – full of soldierly bravado – continues to try and convince us that he’s Prince Hal and the Black Prince rolled into one. He’s trying to take it back to the muddy green fields, when royals led the line and the enemy was French.
If it’s not Prince Hal he’s evoking, then – as Jonathan Jones suggests in The Guardian – it’s Tom Cruise. Jones drools over a picture of Harry running to his helicopter ("acting out chivalrous fantasies") and gets a little hysterical about how sexy and warlike he is. The headline tells us Harry is “more Top Gun than Wilfred Owen” and of course that’s true because, as he freely admits, the Prince barely read at school and, as we can ascertain, he’s almost certainly a massive idiot.
Wilfred Owen knew the price of war, he knew the pain of it and he understood it. He knew that “it is sweet and right to die for your country” was an old lie and that war was no place for heroes. He would know too that braying and bragging about taking an “eye for an eye” is the kind of thing a poorly-educated, deluded poser does. And a media that blithely peddles such a line is no better. But then, I guess it’s just really fucking important that we all think Prince Harry is a regular soldier – it's already hard enough having his comrades "gawp" at him in the tuck hall.
Follow Oscar on Twitter: @oscarrickettnow
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