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Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Taking of Prince Harry - The Channel Four docu-drama Reviewed

This dramatic documentary caused major controversy even before it was shown, largely because it imagines what would happen should the Taliban capture a high profile hostage - for the sake of this story they have captured Prince Harry.

The program tells us that there are a great many Taliban organised kidnappings that are never reported - estimated at fifteen a week. Through detailed research the program makers have come up with a credible scenario of what would happen should such an event as the kidnapping of the prince occur. The point is made that the prince should not be allowed to serve in Afghanistan again because it would be too risky to himself and his fellow soldiers.

The Prince is captured when his helicopter is brought down but his kidnappers are opportunists and at first they do not know who they have captured - meanwhile back home an intelligence team have been set up to access the situation and a press blackout put in force. The program claims that should such events occur the first step would be to set up a chain for negotiation but also that an SAS type rescue would be immediately put on standby should their use be needed. For a rescue to be successful the best chance would be to go in immediately but the risk would be immense and if the Taliban became aware that a rescue was underway they would be likely to kill the hostage. The recent case involving Linda Norgrave who was killed during a failed rescue attempt is shown to highlight the dangers of such an operation.

The program shows the Taliban moving the hostage from location to location in order to make it difficult to pinpoint them - now initially the Taliban believe they have captured a normal soldier and they wonder what the British government would be willing to pay for a soldier - a million? Five million?

Imagine if a Taliban troop suddenly realised they had Prince Harry - what would they do? According to this program - in the first instance the hostage takers do not realise who they have captured and sell him on to another Taliban group when the British government refuses to pay up. However Harry is now being held by the extremist Haqqani group who quickly recognise him.

The what if scenario - Harry is recognised, immediately the demands of money are dropped and instead Harry is used as a propaganda tool, he is show videos of the destruction the bombing of Afghanistan has caused on innocent people, his brainwashing is now underway, if the Taliban can get Harry to sympathise with their cause it will be of incredible value to them. Harry would be treated a lot better than most prisoners but he would be filmed and made to give the demands for his relase. According the this program the price for the return of Harry would be the withdrawal of all western troops from the country. Otherwise the prince will never return home and never be found.

It truly is a horrific scenario and many will condemn Channel Four for producing and showing this program, but if the prince does return to active duty, as he wants to, then events imagined here become a very real possibility.

'If this is how I go out of the world,' Harry heroically speaks into the Taliban camera, in one of the dramatised sections,  after he has been told he would be beheaded. 'Then remember. I chose to be a soldier.'

The experts used by the program to come up with the likely events following such an event as this high profile kidnapping feel that the pressure would be so great on the British government that all options would be considered, however ultimately the government would refuse to make concessions to the terrorists. To do so would invite other kidnappings and place the soldiers serving on the front line at even greater risk.

In this program Harry manages to escape but the horror of this all happening for real has been put on the table - It'll be interesting to see what the press will make of this program and rest assured there will be a report on the Archive tomorrow.

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