Ever since I watched and read the Harry interviews, one thing has stuck in my mind.
Did Harry actually say he killed Taliban insurgents?
Harry’s main role as an Apache co-pilot was to provide air support for ground troops and help rescue injured personnel.
On his role in Afghanistan, one journalist asked him: “You are the man with the trigger in your hand, and if called upon, you will fire, and presumably you have and you will kill the enemy?”
“Yeah, so lots of people have. The squadron’s been out here. Everyone’s fired a certain amount. Probably a little bit more than this time last year, to a certain extent, but that’s just the way that its balanced out. Mainly due to weather, well whatever the reasons, I don’t know.
“We fire when we have to, take a life to save a life, but essentially we’re more of a deterrent than anything else. That’s what we revolve around, I suppose… If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game.”
Harry could have been speaking in general terms about the role but would he really admit to willingly making himself a target for islamic terrorists seeking retribution?
In the TV interviews, there’s no such admission.
But here were the main headlines in the papers:
“I’ve killed Taliban fighters, says Harry” – Daily Telegraph
“Harry on his call of duty: How I killed Taliban” – The Times
“Harry: I have killed” – Daily Mail
“Harry: I killed Taliban” – Mirror
So did the national newspapers overspin it?
I did a bit of research and discovered the original Press Association copy, attributed to reporter James Edgar.
The first line reads: “Prince Harry has confirmed he killed Taliban insurgents during his latest tour of Afghanistan.”
James substantiates this by writing of the Prince:
“”Yeah, so lots of people have,” he said matter-of-factly, after being asked if he had killed from the cockpit.”
But as we know, THAT wasn’t the question. The reporter had asked:
“.. if called upon, you will fire, and presumably you have and you will kill the enemy?”
But that set up question is not mentioned in the PA story.
That doesn’t seem to be an admission of killing people. The question asked if he had fired and WOULD he kill. Big difference.
Some papers have used ‘anonymous sources’ to close the gap between what Harry said and what’s been reported.
The Mail states: “An army source told the Mail: “It would be unthinkable for a gunner to go on a deployment and not have several engagements with the enemy. Of course he has killed.”
But all papers have taken PA’s pooled interview as gospel.
Today I called Clarence House press office to get their take. A spokeswoman told me the Prince “stands by the words he said.”
When I asked for a response on the reports that he killed in the papers, she added:” It’s not for us to comment on how papers interpreted the Prince’s words.”
Clarence House also confirmed that they had no involvement with the interview. It was all the responsibility of the MOD.
Whilst it’s admirable that the MOD struck a deal with the media to let him do his four week your in a blackout, the way it’s handled the story is seriously inept and potentially life-threatening.
They had control of the copy. Out of 11,000 words it’s reported the MOD changed only 30, for operational concerns.
But surely an alleged admission by the Prince that he killed Taliban fighters should have been double checked or challenged.
I discussed this theory on LBC97.3 with James Whale. It seems I’m not alone.
The Metro’s sharp political editor John Higginson has come to the same conclusion, quoting his MOD source as saying Harry didn’t admit to killing terrorists.
The Press Association may have overspun the story, but the MOD’s mishandling of the interview must really be called into question.
Their ineptitude could make Harry a marked man for the rest of his days.