ANDREW NEIL: Harry will never recover from Taliban killing claim

ANDREW NEIL: Harry will never recover from Taliban killing claim

ANDREW NEIL: Harry’s excruciating Taliban killing claim hasn’t just created a security nightmare – it’s a blunder his reputation will never recover from

Among the many incendiary claims in Spare, Prince Harry’s upcoming memoir, the boast that he killed 25 Taliban while serving as an Army helicopter pilot in Afghanistan will do him the most long-term damage by far.

I doubt he will recover from it.

Most of the revelations in his book amount to a further public airing of his family’s dirty laundry, an endeavour to which he and wife Meghan have devoted their lives since running off in a huff to California. Jaw-dropping as some of them are, their real import serves merely to confirm what most had already concluded about Harry.

Blaming William and Kate for encouraging him to dress up as a Nazi for a fancy-dress party in 2005 illustrates his repeated failure to take responsibility for his own stupid actions and reinforces his default position that, no matter his own culpability, he is always the victim.

Andrew Neil doubts Prince Harry, pictured here in a Spartan armoured vehicle in Helmand Province in 2008, will recover from his boast about killing 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

The Duke of Sussex, pictured in Afghanistan in 2012, sparked fury after making the claims in his new memoir, Spare

Revealing that he lost his virginity to an ‘older woman in a field’ who ‘treated him like a young stallion’, sending him on his way with a spank on the bottom, suggests he is no gentleman, for gentlemen simply don’t talk of such things — certainly not in public. It’s just one example of many of a moment in which good judgment has deserted him.

In relating an altercation with his brother at his London home in 2019 which resulted in him falling on a dog bowl and breaking his necklace, Harry shows that he has lost all self-awareness and is beyond embarrassment. As a friend said to me last night: ‘If that had happened to me, I would have gone to my grave without ever mentioning the necklace.’

The great 19th-century expert on the constitution, Walter Bagehot, famously wrote about the monarchy: ‘We must not let in daylight upon magic.’ That stricture is now in tatters. Harry is piercing the monarchy with searchlights that reach into every corner, making the Royal Family a laughing stock in the process.

What is left but to laugh at a Prince who boasts of killing the Taliban but gets distraught over a broken necklace?

He doesn’t seem to care, as long as he and Meghan get to promulgate their supposed ‘truth’ and so-called ‘lived experience’, accumulating great wealth as they do so.

But Harry is not necessarily the most reliable of storytellers. He says the first thing that he, a Taliban killer, did after the unbrotherly confrontation was call his therapist (as I say, he’s beyond embarrassment).

Yet, in previous exposés of the evil ways of his family, he claimed that when Meghan was going through some mental anguish of her own, she was left to deal with it alone, unaided. Why that should be so when he had his therapist on speed dial is not clear.

The revelation by Harry, pictured here in Helmand in Afghanistan in 2008, will ‘haunt him and his family for some time to come’

Prince Harry, pictured walking his dog Pula in California earlier this week, ‘is not necessarily the most reliable of storytellers’, Andrew Neil writes

EXCLUSIVE – Taliban taunts ‘big mouth loser’ Prince Harry after he revealed he killed 25 enemies in Afghanistan: Islamists say Duke is ‘mad’ and ‘the “chess pieces” now rule after you fled to your grandmother’s palace’ 

 

But it is the excruciating stuff about Taliban kills which will haunt him and his family for some time to come.

It is unseemly, unnecessary and, most important of all, un-British. It amounts to a watershed in public perceptions of him, from which there is no turning back. Even the Americans, hitherto far more sympathetic to Harry (and Meghan) than the Brits, are turning on him.

It’s not just that there’s something unsavoury about being proud of kills made from the world’s most advanced and sophisticated attack helicopter against an enemy, however barbaric, armed largely with Soviet-era AK47 rifles. It’s the way he compounded this folly, as only Harry could, by saying he regarded the targets as pieces on a chessboard.

All of that would be bad enough. But he’s also breached the long-standing convention among British military veterans of all ranks that they don’t talk much about the wars they waged, and never about ‘kills’.

Just why Harry decided to flout that convention is best known to himself. But folks are furious.

Former Army officers, including those who’d served with him in Afghanistan, are speaking out against what he has said. But I found the testimony of civilians whose fathers and grandfathers had fought in various wars even more telling.

When news broke of Harry’s ‘kill’ claim, I tweeted: ‘My father was in uniform against the Nazis for six years. Never once in his long life did he ever talk to me about killing the enemy. Even the concept, much less numbers. And he was at Alamein. On the ground. Not in a helicopter.’

El-Alamein, of course, was a seminal battle of World War II in which Britain’s Eighth Army defeated Field Marshal Rommel’s legendary Afrika Korps in the North African desert at a time (1942) when Britain had won precious few victories against the Nazis and their allies.

The Twitter reaction was massive — at the time of writing almost 600,000 have read it — and of those responding there was overwhelming confirmation of, and support for, the tradition of omerta among our veterans.

‘What is left but to laugh at a Prince who boasts of killing the Taliban but gets distraught over a broken necklace?’ writes Andrew Neil

‘Same here,’ tweeted one. ‘My Dad was in Korea and would never give any details about the lives taken or lost.’

‘My father was at the Battle of Kohima,’ wrote BBC presenter Nicky Campbell. ‘We only found out after he died. Not a word. Not a word.’

Kohima was a three-month struggle of appalling ferocity in which the British and their Indian allies thwarted Japan’s brutal attempt to take India — a significant turning point in World War II.

If you know about this battle, you will understand why our veterans didn’t want to talk about its horrors.

‘Same with my father,’ tweeted another. ‘WW2 pilot. Never once talked about the action he saw. Anecdotes, friendships, training cock-ups, tropical kit issued by mistake to convoy headed to Russia — all of that. But action? Not a word. There’s something not right here.’

Someone else wrote: ‘My dad served in the Pacific and when he returned he never discussed war. Served his country — that was the beginning and the end of the discussion.’

Clearly not for Harry.

Prince Harry pictured scrambling to his Apache helicopter in 2012 while serving in Afghanistan

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I cannot understand what possessed him to say this, or why he was allowed to by those around him. A responsible publisher would have urged — even insisted — he blue-pencil the remarks.

But his publishers are more interested in putting out content that will generate headlines and sell books regardless of the fallout, to justify the massive advance they shelled out for Spare.

Meghan, of course, is the one person Harry does listen to. I doubt he does or says anything without her approval. But in this matter she would have been wholly useless, ignorant of British military tradition, or of the consequences that could follow from flouting it.

Maybe she was happy to have him talk of killing people on the grounds that it would counter the widespread impression that he’s under her thumb by reminding people that he was once quite the macho man.

If so, it was a massive miscalculation. Harry has placed a large target not just on his own back but on his family’s and even his neighbours’ backs. As this paper reports on the front page, the whole Royal Family is now in greater jeopardy.

So is anybody physically close to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if those who live next to the couple in the wealthy Californian enclave of Montecito — where I’ve seen reports that people are already tired of their presence — are thinking of launching a petition demanding that they get out of town.

Social media in the Islamic world is awash with posts depicting him as a ‘crusader, terrorist, murderer’ and spreading the word that he ‘enjoys killing Muslims’. Who knows where this will end? It is actually rather scary.

The Taliban are condemning him as ‘cruel’ and ‘barbaric’ (I guess they know about things like that) and demanding he be brought before an international court for ‘proudly confessing [his] crime’. Some in the Taliban, and its allies, will already be mulling over a rather more violent response.

The danger he and those around him now face isn’t just some planned and professional revenge assassination attempt, though that can’t be ruled out. Every amateur jihadist in America and around the globe must now be thinking this is their chance for Islamist glory.

The private security service on which Harry and Meghan now depend must be furious.

The Duke of Sussex, pictured here at the age of 18, also discussed how he lost his virginity and relayed intimate conversations between family members in his memoir 

On Thursday night, I also tweeted: ‘Harry’s claim that he killed 25 Taliban is a nightmare — an absolute nightmare — for his security teams.’ The thought resonated with just about everyone who read it, which is 3 million and rising. There is clearly huge international interest in this sorry saga. I concluded: ‘How stupid can you be?’

Harry reveals he killed 25 Taliban fighters: Prince’s astonishing revelation as he describes how – during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan – he took out insurgents but saw them as ‘chess pieces taken off the board’, not ‘people’ 

Harry pictured during his second tour of duty at Camp Bastion, southern Afghanistan, in 2012

 

Very, if you’re Harry. If I were on his security detail, I would resign. Private security is simply not equipped to deal with terrorist threats, organised or random, especially if they involve suicide bombers. Which has led some to conclude that it’s all a cunning plan to get his official British close body protection back, with all its links to the intelligence and security services around the world.

Maybe it is. But if so, I suspect it’s yet another major miscalculation. I think the chances of someone so cavalier about their own security getting official round-the-clock protection is now close to zero (unless, of course, there is specific intelligence of a clear and present danger).

As editor of the Sunday Times, I serialised Andrew Morton’s book Diana: Her True Story which, at the time, was every bit as explosive as Harry’s memoirs. The initial Establishment reaction was to condemn me and Morton for peddling a lot of fake news that distorted and misrepresented Diana’s story.

That’s not a defence Harry can use. Though the book is ghost-written (unsurprisingly), there can be no denying Spare is Harry’s story as he sees it.

When it was eventually revealed that Diana’s fingerprints were all over the Morton book — down to reading, amending and approving proofs — there was a massive outpouring of sympathy for what she’d endured (it was not a comfortable time for then Prince Charles).

Harry can expect no such sympathy. The tide of opinion is turning against him and Meghan. This book has sealed their fate. Their descent into unpopularity, even derision, was well under way in Britain before its publication. But now even the more sympathetic Americans are having second thoughts. A leading CNN anchorman has called the book ‘gauche’.

One influential columnist said Americans were ‘sick of hearing about his plight’. Another called Harry a ‘baby’ who ‘can’t even take responsibility for his own mistakes’. The late-night TV comedy shows are already awash with jokes at their expense. Even the supportive Daily Beast website is now on the attack.

It was always going to end in tears. I thought people would just grow tired of their relentless whingeing and parading of victimhood, recycling the same tales again and again, while living lives of the most extreme privilege.

But Harry’s book has sped up the process of disillusion hugely and their decline in popularity is now at a fast and increasing pace, propelled in this country, above all, by his crass claims about killing Taliban.

I’m sure that won’t stop the book being devoured across the globe, and I suspect that there will be several reprints. But when that happens, it might be more accurate if the publishers change the title from Spare to Harry Kiri.

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