Harry should strip kill count from book, ex-US defence official says

Prince Harry lookalike ‘endangered’ by Spare revelations

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A former US defence secretary said Prince Harry should take out his Taliban “kill count” in his new book, Spare, as it detracts from the “important mission” he was doing while in the army. The Duke revealed that he could say “precisely” that his number was 25 but denied boasting about the killings, as he warned about the “very dangerous” spin of his memoir.

Leon Panetta, a former US defence secretary, told Piers Morgan on TalkTV: “Based on my experience, both in the military and as secretary of defence, I have to tell you the strongest war heroes I knew in battle were those that focused on the mission and not on the individuals on the other side that they killed.

“They focused on whether or not the mission was accomplished and I think Prince Harry would have done better to focus on the missions that he was involved in rather than counting the number of deaths.

“So I think in this situation, obviously, Iran is not a country with a strong human rights record so whatever they say we’re not to really pay a lot of attention to, but I do think he could have handled this better as a soldier.”

Piers Morgan asked if future editions of the book should have that part of the book removed.

Mr Panetta responded: “I think that when you start to detail how many have been killed, that starts to become the issue. But what I’m offended by, frankly, is the distortion of focusing on the number of people killed rather than the mission he was on.

“I think it was a strong mission and important mission to go after the Taliban and those who were involved in the attack on 9/11.

“This was an important mission and that’s what ought to be focused on. So if in some way he could kind of rewrite this or include the missions rewrite this or include the missions that he was involved in without referring to the number of people that were killed.

“I think that would frankly represent a fairer description of what he was involved with in his service.”

Following the Duke’s comments, senior members of the Taliban responded by saying on Twitter the people Harry killed “were not chess pieces, they were humans”.

“They had families who were waiting for their return. Among the killers of Afghans, not many have the decency to reveal their conscience and confess to their war crimes”, Anas Haqqani, a senior member of the Taliban said.

But Prince Harry has denied “boasting” about the amount of Taliban fighters he killed, saying it is “without a doubt, the most dangerous lie” that has been told about his new book.

In the book, he wrote: “Most soldiers can’t tell you precisely how much death is on their ledger. In battle conditions, there’s often a great deal of indiscriminate firing. But in the age of Apaches and laptops, everything I did in the course of two combat tours was recorded, time-stamped.

“I could always say precisely how many enemy combatants I’d killed. And I felt it vital never to shy away from that number. Among the many things I learned in the Army, accountability was near the top of the list.

“So, my number: Twenty-five. It wasn’t a number that gave me any satisfaction. But neither was it a number that made me feel ashamed.

“Naturally, I’d have preferred not to have that number on my military CV, on my mind, but by the same token I’d have preferred to live in a world in which there was no Taliban, a world without war. Even for an occasional practitioner of magical thinking like me, however, some realities just can’t be changed.”

The passage continued: “While in the heat and fog of combat, I didn’t think of those twenty-five as people. You can’t kill people if you think of them as people. You can’t really harm people if you think of them as people.

“They were chess pieces removed from the board, Bads taken away before they could kill Goods. I’d been trained to ‘other-ize’ them, trained well. On some level I recognise this learned detachment as problematic. But I also saw it as an unavoidable part of soldiering. Another reality that couldn’t be changed.”

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