Call of Duty: Grand Theft Allah

by Hemang Sharma


Henry Charles Albert David, i.e. Prince Harry of England, is in the news for comments he made about his experiences as a soldier in Afghanistan.


Deployed on a 20-week stint as Co-Pilot Gunner with the British Army, Prince Harry flew Apache helicopters and his job involved taking out insurgents on the ground that possessed a threat to other units. Harry described his duty of taking out ground targets from a helicopter as a “joy,” and said it was just like being in a video game.


"It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful," The Guardian quoted Prince Harry as saying.  


To be fair, gliding in a bulletproof Apache helicopter 2,000 feet into the air and firing at some suspicious-looking person on the ground does seem quite a breeze and awfully convenient like playing a shooting game in your living room.  All one has to do is keep their eyes on the prize and press the button that will unload a hellfire of bullets onto your target and keep you breathing. 


Like Prince Harry’s Playstation-inspired bravado in the skies of Afghanistan, an American soldier who sits on a base in Virginia and takes out a target in a remote village in Pakistan, also risks being desensitized.  Comfortable, removed and immune to the violence — that is how our soldiers are when they are physically away from the combat.


As the New York Times have reported, our drone strikes kill more innocent people than targeted terrorists. Many civilians; innocent men, women and children are killed. We destroy people’s worlds both psychologically and physically. When innocent civilians die in these drone strikes, we end up hurting our relationship with native peoples. We may be creating hostiles as Prince Harry uses his ever so useful gamer thumbs. When someone's innocent little girl dies, it can prompt them to wage Jihad and join the extremists.


Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want our soldiers in hostile areas with the risk of getting hurt. In fact, I don’t want them there at all. I want them home. But Prince Harry’s comments bring out the ugly truth of the growing trends in war, from de-sensitized Western soldiers to possible collateral damage that we cause.


War is never easy, and far be it from me to tell soldiers how to conduct wars and what sort of mental compass they should carry while going in to defeat the enemy ,but with greater technological reliance and must come a respect to humanize our enemies and the innocent casualties of war.