I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that Britain’s Daily Mail and Sun newspapers were carrying news that Prince Harry is undergoing survival training in Wales in advance of his re-deployment to Afghanistan “some time next year”. He must now decline to return.
Unfortunately, these two newspapers (and I am sure others will follow suit) are putting lives at risk by announcing to the world, and more especially the Taliban and their friends in al-Qaeda, that the grandson of Queen Elizabeth will be returning to the battlefield and a rough timeline of when. This puts the life of Prince Harry in danger, but more seriously, it puts the lives of countless other soldiers, with no choice regarding their deployment, at greater risk.
These newspapers have done as great a disservice to those who serve in the allied armed forces and supporting agencies as Geraldo Rivera did when he gave away 101st Airborne location in Iraq in 2003 and as Richard Armitage and Robert Novak did when they revealed the true occupation of Valerie Plame!
Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for Prince Harry. He has walked the walk when it comes to service and has more than done his part. However, now the news is out, he should put the lives of those he would serve with first and not deploy. While many may say these soldiers are already at risk, the added pressure of knowing they are serving alongside what would be considered a high value target to an enemy, and knowing that, as a result of publicity, there may be increased hostility, is just too much extra to ask of them.
The training, I am sure, will be of benefit to him, and it is only right that he experience first hand what others who serve have been through.
Both newspapers gave a brief overview of the experience he will undergo. Anyone who reads about it or has been through this training, or training like it, will have added respect for Harry. He will be taken to the Brecon Beacons (or some other equally challenging location) and hunted, all the time knowing that capture is inevitable. Once captured he will be taken to a location and will undergo some rough treatment and, yes, some torture. His experience will likely include sensory deprivation; exposure to loud music and white noise to prevent sleep; being placed in “stress positions”; being stripped naked, hooded and then laughed at, including having his “endowment” mocked.
This is all part of what American service personnel commonly know as SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) the same acronym letters are used in the UK, however there the official training, is, or was, called Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract.
Much was made in the articles of the Special Air Service playing the role of hunters and interrogators for Harry. Indeed, the picture in The Mail shows a scene, likely not by chance, from the Brecon Beacons that looks like it is very close to Pen-Y-Fan, known as the scene of the “Fan Dance” portion of special forces selection (and also used to test the resolve of others in other parts of the services). Prince Harry will not be in Wales for a picnic but he will not be undertaking the “Fan Dance” or the “Long Drag” so the scenery is irrelevant; the involvement of the SAS is also incidental but I suppose it “sexes” the story up a bit. That would be fine and quite benign if it did not then go on to announce his battlefield deployment.
It seems Prince Harry, the SAS and Afghanistan are a recipe made in heaven to sell papers. Unfortunately, that recipe may now spell disaster for brave and honorable soldiers who will face a violent enemy made more violent by their desire to capture, and either leverage their hostage or make a Khalid Sheik Mohammed inspired video of his assassination.
Harry must now stay home and the newspapers should exercise a little more restraint before publishing stories that can cause harm.