Open Letter to Prince Harry
Dear Prince Harry,
The London Observer has anointed you as the "Mother of All Targets in Iraq."
The Times of London reported that, after weighing the risks, General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff, has decided to send you to Iraq. He has underestimated the political consequences of your death.
You are game. Just like your mother.
Your imminent deployment to Iraq has the British news business, Iraqi insurgents and other nefarious political and militant groups scrambling to capitalize on the price of your scalp. The race might even set new records. The lust to capitalize on your blood--breaking the news of your death--is pitting politicians, terrorists, and journalists in a full-on sprint. It is going to take more than a tank to shield you.
Although as Princess Diana's son, there is not a home in Iraq where you would not be welcomed as a guest, you should have no illusions about your security.
The instant you step into Iraq, you will not be an average British soldier, but a powerful political symbol. Killing you would be seen as a triumph over centuries of occupation, domination and humiliation by Anglo-American powers with a long history of dividing and ruling the Arab and Islamic world.
Your presence in Iraq also has grave political implications for other soldiers, British and American troops. Even former British defense minister John Nott told the BBC that you'd be a "threat to the soldiers." Michael Portillo, another former defense minister, went further, telling the BBC that your murder or kidnapping would be a "disaster for Britain."
And it would be a disaster for peace in Iraq. Your presence in Basra would inflame the Iraqi insurgency and undermine the legitimacy of a fragile political process. Sunni and Shia militias are issuing threats against the British camp there.
Abu Zaid, identified as a commander in the notorious Mahdi Army, warned in The Observer: "We are awaiting the arrival of the young, handsome, spoilt prince with bated breath and we confidently expect he will come out into the open on the battlefield. We will be generous with him. For we will return him to his grandmother (the queen) but without ears." (On the bright side, Abu Zaid appears to find you attractive.)
Abu Samir, a former major in Saddam's army turned Sunni insurgent commander, claimed that you won't be able to escape detection because, he said, your face is even more familiar to the Iraqi people than the world class soccer players Zidane and Ronaldinho.
The Observer quotes another Sunni insurgent declaring that "as soon as the prince arrives, the race will be on to seize him as a trophy," presumably by trading their trophy for the release of captured insurgents, the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, or perhaps your poor grandmother's collection of ill-gotten Mughal jewels.
Yet, the race to cash in on your capture or death is not limited to Iraqi insurgents. Virtually all the great and small powers in the Middle East buy and sell hostages. It is a flourishing market. Whoever catches you can irritate the Brits by selling you to the French through the Syrians. Or--even worse--to the Iranians, via the Lebanese. The Daily Telegraph editors have it right: "The notion of a government as innately incompetent as ours dealing with the third in line to the throne being taken hostage by a vicious enemy is terrifying even to contemplate."
And beware of your allies in the Bush Administration. Should you be the victim of friendly fire, your tragedy could be pinned on the Muslim terrorist of the week: the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Muqtada al Sadr, the Iranians, the Saudis, and quite possibly, Saddam's ghost. And with American elections coming up, your scalp, like that of the victims of 9/11, can be used to dismiss candidates as being soft on crime and terrorism.
Even if you're not captured or killed, you would be a liability to peace. If you are caught so much as slapping a single kid, let alone blowing a hole in his stomach or kicking down the doors to his home, the images will cause as much of a furor as those from Abu Ghraib.
The instant you fire on anyone--Sunni, Shia or Sufi--you will trigger a backlash that will endanger thousands of British citizens in the Islamic world, not to mention the billions of dollars in lost investments. Arab kings, princes and other Muslim leaders ruled by ancient codes of honor will be forced to respond to tribal demands for retaliation against the West. Al Qaeda will grow in power and popularity.
If you are captured or killed, Al Qaeda and virtually all other militant factions will stage your "conversion" or use your death to recruit more terrorists and spread more death.
Remember Archduke Ferdinand: His murder triggered World War I. Symbols matter to terrorists. For anyone who wants to spark a clash of civilizations, you are the ultimate target. If you want to be a true prince, turn the force of your faith and the price of your face against war. Be the Prince of Peace.