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Prince Harry’s new book has been billed as ‘tell-all memoir’ but will he discuss his time in Afghanistan?

The Duke of Sussex’s controversial upcoming tome is sure to ruffle feathers at the palace, but, beyond royal gossip, he could make a valuable contribution to the debate around the ill-fated 20-year conflict in which he served.

Prince Harry’s ‘tell-all’ memoir will be ‘explosive’, that egregious British rag, The Daily Mail, writes. A Prince, a soldier and an ‘advocate for social issues’, Harry will be ‘a global leader’, you learn. Hyperbole apart, Harry’s time in Afghanistan does interest this priest. As Yanks and Brits cut their losses and scarper away after 20 years of failed intervention and dead bodies, Harry’s war experience could be a contribution to the debate: what went wrong?

President George W. Bush and the neo-con gang launched their invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11. The Taliban regime had extended hospitality to Al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama Bin Laden, so Bush demanded they surrender him to America, or else. The Taliban could not overtly hand over a Muslim guest to the infidels, but they weren’t fools. They knew America desired to destroy their regime. Thus, they summoned the scholars and asked their opinion. The reply was a sensible subterfuge; Bin Laden could not be handed over but he ‘could be asked to leave the country’ – same thing. Bush and his neo-cons ignored the proposal and invaded. The rest is history.

Warfare necessitates bloodshed, and Harry will have done his share of killing in Helmand. Will he ‘tell-all’ about what it feels like to terminate another human being? Tricky because in the Taliban’s eyes he was a Christian Prince. A Crusader, a slayer of Muslims. Had he fallen into the enemy’s hands, what would have happened to him? Probably they’d offer a choice: either embrace Islam or death. “There is no compulsion in religion,” says the Koran but the reality is something else. Choosing Islam would have been a safer bet for Harry, never renowned for his Christian allegiance. What a propaganda coup for the Taliban! Worth 10 battles won! A Channel 4 scenario way back had Harry captured by the Islamic warriors and then escaping but religion was kept out of it – the diabolically canny Brits! (In WWII the Germans captured Stalin’s son but that is a tale too dirty to tell – literally!)

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Safe to assume that the ‘tell-all’ story will fall short of the outrageous Afghan exploits of a fictional, infamous Brit named Harry Flashman. George Macdonald Fraser’s scoundrel hero harks back to the first British adventure beyond the Khyber Pass – another military debacle. Flashman, a former Rugby schoolboy, is a Victorian blackguard who is an officer but no gentleman. He lies, skulks, betrays and cheerfully rapes an Afghan damsel. Harry however is a gentleman and, I trust, behaved impeccably with the local beauties. Yes, he did at some stage refer to the natives as ‘ragheads’ and called a fellow soldier ‘our little Paki friend’. Harmless Etonian banter, eh? Given that one of Princess Diana’s fondest lovers was a Pakistani… Good job mum had flown above – she’d give him a thorough spanking!

Two remarkable women are essential to understanding Harry’s mind and heart. The first is of course his mother. Merely 12 years old when she perished, the trauma for the young lad was enormous. He must feel she will always be with him, by his side. This is no mere metaphor. You see, I knew the Princess. In a book available on Amazon I tell Diana’s story where she is now, in the next world. Aaargh! Do you think I am off my rocker? Hold on! Isn’t a priest meant to be an expert in matters supernatural? Shouldn’t he believe in life beyond the grave, to preach about it, to have a connection with it? And I do. No apologies about that, guys!

Harry’s wife is the other. It is easy to have a go at Meghan, to cast her as the villain of the piece. To heap obloquy on her as the Yankee sorceress who bewitched the naïve young Prince, wormed her way into the Royal Family and caused havoc. True or false, that narrative is too simplistic. You may as well argue the opposite. That Meghan woke Harry up from his stultifying conventional role, that she made him grow, spread his wings and become a person truly autonomous. Quite possible. As to what Diana makes of Meghan… Pass!

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Will Harry’s ‘tell-all’ book include a critique of the Afghanistan campaign? Will he tell of doubts whether the war was ethically justified? You don’t have to have studied moral theology to know what makes a war unjust. Even a professional soldier has a moral duty to examine the causes of a particular conflict. ‘My country, right or wrong’ may sound patriotically OK but ethically? If a war was undertaken for the wrong reasons and conducted in the wrong manner, a conscientious soldier should speak out, whatever the cost. The Prince may not have thought so at the time but maybe Meghan will stimulate his little grey cells into reassessing the matter.

‘Is it always a sin to fight a war?’ A question St Thomas Aquinas debated. It would be good if in his book Harry considered it.

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