It’s true. Soldiers not only die protecting the UK and us, they also kill to do it as well.
Underneath, sometimes far underneath we all know this, but we leave the thought mostly buried under a fiver in the tin for Help for Heroes and a sad unease as another plane returns home with a soldier who’s lost their life.
The confused way in which Harry’s remarks were covered reflects our struggle to not go too deep. The Guardian wrote that the prince ‘admitted’ firing at the enemy as if he thought he had made a mistake, whilst others claimed that he was boasting about taking lives.
Our squeamish thinking exposes our reticence to draw a linking line between the safety of our every day lives and what we as a nation ask our compatriots to do to try to protect us.
The Forces themselves are complicit in this. Harry followed a long established strategy of euphemism to avoid thinking too hard about killing people. Remember ‘collateral damage’ from the Iraq conflict? Harry preferred to discuss ‘taking people out of the game’.
It doesn’t work – I’ve talked to many soldiers living with the memories of the people they’ve killed in combat and the shame they feel for their past pride for ‘taking someone out’.
Bearing the weight
Whatever you think about the need for war in general, or the Afghan conflict in particular, let’s truthfully bear the weight of this reality alongside our armed forces: Our country asks you to risk being killed and to kill other human beings.
Speaking this truth releases stark dignity for everyone and enables us to face up to ask what, if anything, is worth fighting for.