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Lesson to be learned from Harry's remarks

THERE will be no medals for the palace official who authorised the interview with Prince Harry in which he likened killing insurgents to playing a computer game.

No-one can doubt Prince Harry's commitment to the armed forces, or the pride that he obviously takes in his skills as a crew member of an Apache attack helicopter, but there have to be limits to the glorification of a calling in which the participant is likely to find themselves in the position of killing or being killed.

It's not difficult, though, to see why Captain Wales (as he is known in the army) was encouraged to do the interview. He is young, personable, third in line to the throne and had just ended a tour of duty in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous environments on Earth.

It also mattered that he was in need of redemption: before the tour he had been photographed drunk and naked at a party in Las Vegas – hardly the behaviour of an officer and gentleman. Here was an opportunity for an unthinking, feckless young member of the Royal family to put himself in a better light as an action-man hero. Being young and foolish, Prince Harry obliged.

No-one should be too surprised, though, by his comments. We might not like the concept of war being reduced to a computer game – no wonder the Taliban were outraged – but that is the way many, especially the young, see it. There is a natural tendency among frontline soldiers to trivialise the dangers of their profession and deal with fear by putting it into a familiar context, hence the comparison between the terrors of combat and an imaginary computer game.

In the greater scheme of things, some will see Prince Harry's interview as just another example of a young royal failing to put their brain in gear before they open their mouth. It is also another attempt by an organisation – in this case the royal family – to stage-manage their public image. But in this case the incident will have accomplished something if it makes us all think a little harder about the harsh realities and the consequences of frontline service in a war which is increasingly unpopular.

The army is the nation in uniform and for all his position and his family connection, Captain Wales is still one of our young personnel. It would do us all good to remember that in combat, real people are killed – for eternity – and do not stand up again when the game is over.

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