Sending Harry, a Prince of the Realm, to help bring democracy to Afghanistan was always a crass idea. The UK King’s son owes everything in his life to hereditary privilege and not merit, let alone equality or justice. It is evident in his ghost-written memoir Spare – one that is littered with factual inaccuracies and unproven allegations – that he is either ignorant or contemptuous of all complex ethical principles.
So much so, that Harry boasts about shoots in which he massacred more than two dozen unidentified Afghans in their own country from the extremely safe position of a $52 million Apache attack helicopter. This is the kind of aircraft with missiles that can liquidate human beings from more than five miles away, or rip their bodies apart with a chain gun.
Harry spares us the specific operational details of why these executions from on high were necessary, except to say that he did not view his victims as “people”, but instead as “chess pieces” that needed taking out.
“So, my number: Twenty-five,” he states unequivocally in his book, adding: “It wasn’t a number that gave me any satisfaction. But neither was it a number that made me feel ashamed.”
Military veterans were among the many who condemned Harry’s callousness – it is highly unusual for professional soldiers to dwell on kill counts, least of all to dehumanise their victims as chess pieces.
Despite this, the self-satisfied celebrity later cynically claimed that his humble bragging – “sharing that detail” – was somehow aimed at stopping other soldiers from committing suicide. As usual, nothing was his fault, and he blamed press “spin” for anyone thinking negatively about him.
Prince Harry told 60 Minutes that joining the British Army and serving in Afghanistan “saved me in many regards.” Harry said his struggle began when his mother died and serving helped him heal. “It felt like I was turning pain into a purpose.” https://t.co/eclCB6rz4m pic.twitter.com/T2z6Faol17
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) January 9, 2023
Such deceit is typical of Harry’s communication strategy – he pours out select claims about his odious adventures, and then tries to mitigate them with more weasel words. What is far more important than Harry’s shoddy PR image, however, is what this garrulous show-off tells us about the West’s asymmetrical conflicts in Muslim-majority countries.
Without mentioning them all – and there are many, from Iraq to Libya – we can say that the Afghanistan disaster is just like the Harry-style barbarism that has prevailed. According to the US Department of Defence, almost a trillion dollars was spent on the two-decade war that finally ended in defeat in August 2021. More pertinently, at least 114,000 Afghans were killed – including tens of thousands of civilians – compared to 3,587 service personal fighting for the Americans and their allies.
The vast majority of the Afghan deaths, together with many more wounded, were caused by airborne weapons. Sandal-wearing insurgents brandishing Soviet or even Victorian era rifles did not stand a chance, nor did the women and children who stayed close to them.
Harry, who comes across as a Hollywood obsessive brought up on childish black-and-white moralising and video games, claims the Afghans he butchered were “‘bads’ taken away before they could kill ‘goods'”, but there is no proof of this whatsoever.
He says they were members of the Taliban, but the extremist Islamist group is well known for mixing its combatants with innocent civilians, and indeed for forcing the non-committed to take up arms on its behalf on pain of death.
READ: Taliban criticises Prince Harry over Afghan killings comment
The truth is that the tribes which dominate the mountain ranges of Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, have repelled invasions for centuries, and – whether British, Americans, or Russians – foreign armies are naturally viewed as enemies, especially when their ultimate mission is so imprecise.
While serving in his grandmother’s army – the UK sovereign is Commander of all British forces – Harry infamously referred to such combatants as “ragheads” – a racist slur referencing the kind of headwear worn by numerous Muslims. His bigotry towards Muslims extended to calling Pakistanis “Pakis”. Pathetic mitigation offered for this in his book, is that he didn’t know that the word was a pejorative one.
In fact, Harry’s racist tropes are comparable to the bigots who relish spreading collective guilt, and who view pouring fire on Muslim countries as being morally justified. Harry himself confirms that at one point he was fed the narrative that he was part of a “Christian army, fighting a militia sympathetic to Muslims.”
He also makes out that he was in Afghanistan to somehow exact revenge for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, even though not a single Afghan was involved in the 9/11 atrocities.
Harry even refers to his Afghan victims as an “Other” – language that, at worst, evokes the sub-human category embraced by the Nazis. (Harry once wore an Afrika Korps uniform complete with Swastika to a fancy dress party). Despite Harry’s allegations, this is not how the professional soldiers of the modern British Army are trained. On the contrary, the Geneva Convention instructs soldiers to respect their foes.
Huge efforts were put into the “hearts and minds” campaign in Afghanistan – one that was meant to portray western soldiers as peacemakers tasked with rebuilding a shattered nation, not as gung-ho crusaders focused on death and destruction.
The purple prose deployed by Harry’s ghost-writer briefly makes the fresh-faced prince (just look at how young and untroubled he looked in all his staged PR images from Afghanistan) sound like the mournful narrator in military classics such as All Quiet on the Western Front. In fact, there were no trenches, or hand-to-hand combat, or last stands in isolated fox holes during Harry’s service career.
READ: The state of modern Britain and its monarchy
Harry’s crowing about killing Afghans started back in 2013, when he told journalists, “Take a life to save a life,” without yet letting on that he was on his way to 25 dead.
One ludicrously crafted stunt video from the time shows Harry grinning as he operates a machine gun from what looks like a battlefield fire position, but it is so obvious that there are no enemies in front of him. No, it is only during short sojourns in an armoured helicopter fortress that Harry really went in for the kill.
Shortly before, Harry had mysteriously missed a drugs test at his Airforce base in Britain, and he has since admitted being a regular user of all kinds of illegal substances including cocaine, and to being a heavy drinker with psychological problems.
Outlining how many Afghans a junior officer with so many serious personal issues was allowed to blast to death with impunity does not reflect well on the image of the UK armed forces.
Harry’s revelations have certainly threatened the security of past and present military personnel, including veterans who compete in the Invictus Games – the sports event for limbless and otherwise wounded soldiers of which he is patron.
The ultimate aim of Harry’s verbiage is, of course, to increase book sales, and so make as much money as possible. This precludes any kind of compassion for the 25 anonymous Afghans he slaughtered. Like him, they are likely to have once been part of loving families, but such facts are clearly irrelevant to Harry’s wretchedly destructive egotism.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.