Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Quickfire
6 January

Harry’s talk of Taliban kills shows he wants to have it both ways

He presents himself as the progressive beacon for emotional literacy in his family, while seeming to speak callously and insensitively of the brutality of war.

By Martin Fletcher

Amid the long list of perceived slights, wrongs and injustices that Prince Harry complains about in his memoir, Spare, one revelation is especially jarring: his assertion that as an Apache helicopter pilot on tour in Afghanistan in 2012-13 he killed 25 Taliban fighters.

Throughout the rest of the book, and in his seemingly endless stream of media appearances, this privileged young émigré to one of California’s most elite enclaves portrays himself as the emotionally literate victim of an emotionally repressed and repressive family. He professes to be deeply upset by a bout of ill-tempered fisticuffs with his brother; or by his father jokingly calling him the “spare”; or by an unnamed royal speculating on the colour of his and Meghan’s children; or by someone suggesting (God forbid) that his wife was “difficult”.

And yet Harry (or his ghostwriter) states coldly of killing more than two dozen of his fellow human beings: “It’s not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me.” He regards those he killed not as people but as “chess pieces”. He sees them as “bad guys eliminated before they could kill good guys”. The army had “trained me to ‘other’ them and they had trained me well”.

Leave aside the stupidity of discussing your “kills” in Afghanistan when you are already so concerned about your security that you have launched legal action against the Home Office for cutting your police protection. The dangers of Islamic fundamentalists targeting Harry and his family have just increased exponentially.

Leave aside the breach of the unspoken rule that soldiers never reveal how many enemies they killed. Leave aside, moreover, the indisputable fact that the Taliban are evil fanatics who have inflicted deep suffering on the Afghan people, especially its women.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

The point is that Harry cannot have it both ways. He cannot present himself as one who has rejected the formal, old-fashioned, deeply conservative stiff-upper-lippery of the royal family in favour of a much more progressive, liberal, unbuttoned lifestyle – yet simultaneously seem to speak so coldly, callously and insensitively of the tragedy and brutality of war.

Content from our partners
Harnessing breakthrough thinking
Are we there yet with electric cars? The EV story – with Wejo
Sherif Tawfik: The Middle East and Africa are ready to lead on the climate

[See also: Prince Harry’s Spare is a deeply uncomfortable read]

Topics in this article : , , ,