Prince Harry's Iraq Deployment Questioned

Prince Harry is serving in Britain's military, and his unit is set to be deployed to Iraq. The Sun newspaper has reported that the second lieutenant may be kept out of Iraq for fear that insurgents would target him and his fellow troops.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

There's lots of news about military deployments to Iraq - repeated deployments, problems for families. Here's a story about a young single man who wants to go to fight in Iraq and his military bosses might not let him. You might have heard of this story. The young man in question is Britain's Prince Harry. He's due to deploy soon with the rest of his army unit. But now the British army is having second thoughts.

NPR's Rob Gifford is in London. Rob, he's a fully trained officer who wants to go and now the army says, well, wait.

ROB GIFFORD: That's right. According to this one report that's in a tabloid newspaper this morning, The Sun, says there's an 11th hour review going on. And the big concern, of course, is that if Prince Harry, who is third in line to the British throne, goes to Iraq and he goes out on reconnaissance missions in the armored vehicles for which he is trained, that he will become something of a magnet for the insurgents because he's third in line to the British throne. And that will put his comrades, his colleagues in danger. It is a dilemma. They don't want to withdraw him. He doesn't want to be withdrawn. And many think it would be something of a propaganda victory for the insurgents if they did withdraw him.

CHADWICK: Well, it's not just this tabloid paper. I think there was a piece over the weekend in another paper saying that insurgents apparently had a plan to capture Harry, and holding him as a hostage.

GIFFORD: That's right. There have been many reports coming out of Iraq that they're showing his photo on Web sites that anyone who wants to attack the British and American forces will specifically be targeting him.

CHADWICK: Well, yeah. What is he saying about it?

GIFFORD: Well, he hasn't spoken in the last few months, but he has made it quite clear that he comes from a long tradition of British royalty who served in the military. Going back, of course, you recall William Shakespeare, put the words in Prince Harry's namesake mouth - Henry V of Agincourt shouted cry God for Harry, England and St. George.

So and right the way down to Harry's uncle, Prince Andrew, who served in the Falklands war. It's been a long tradition. Last year, Prince Harry, on the occasion of his 21st birthday, had this to say about the issue of going to Iraq.

Prince HARRY (United Kingdom): If they said no, you can't go to the front line, then I wouldn't drag my sorry ass (unintelligible) and I wouldn't be where I am now. Because the last thing I want to do is have my soldiers sent away to Iraq or wherever like that and for me to be held back home, twiddling my thumbs, thinking, well, what about they, what about that, you know.

CHADWICK: Sandhurst, that's the British military school where he went for four years. He said, okay, I did that - I should really be a soldier. Does it strike you, Rob, that they couldn't see this coming?

GIFFORD: Well, I think, probably there are some people high up in the British military who've seen it coming all along. And here, perhaps, you see some of the tensions of modern Britain. You have this 22-year-old soldier, who is after all a member of the royal family.

Now it's not like he's pulling rank or something necessarily in a very sort of covert kind of way. But he is part of the royal family. He has said he wants to serve, and there's a sort of why should he not serve? He's serving his country. He is after all a member of the royal family. And I think there's been a tension for many months about this. And really it's only now that it's coming out into the open because his deployment is literally just weeks away.

CHADWICK: Is there any kind of compromise you'd see that could come out of this?

GIFFORD: Well, that's one issue that has been thrown around today in the media and on the television chat shows that he could be given a desk job. From everything we know about him, he likes to party. He likes to serve in the military. He's not the kind of guy who's going to be sitting at a desk job in Basra.

CHADWICK: NPR's Rob Gifford from London. Rob, thank you.

GIFFORD: Thanks very much, Alex.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: And stay with us on DAY TO DAY.

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