Thursday, February 28, 2008
The Harry Tapes
The stacks of tapes arrived on my desk with a thud.
That was way back in December when the British Ministry of Defence requested that we agree to an embargo. We, along with other broadcasters and newspapers, were asked not to report that Prince Harry was in Afghanistan until he came home in April. Television cameras were given unprecedented access to the prince fighting a war on the battlefield which we could run when the embargo was lifted.
The tapes came in and I reviewed them, hour after hour of Prince Harry in Taliban territory. I was absolutely glued to the pictures of Prince Harry taking on the Taliban, on patrol in Afghan villages, and calling in air strikes when he needed to. Prince Harry was honest to a fault during his interviews saying he didn’t miss booze, he laughed when his fellow soldiers called him the ‘bullet magnet’ (but not too hard) and he was basking in the anonymity that perhaps only a place like Afghanistan can afford him.
I was the first to tell my managers this would never work; surely someone would break the news blackout within days. I was dead wrong.
After watching hours of footage of Prince Harry, what impressed me most was the risk ‘Queen and country’ were willing to take with an heir. There is no question the royal family and the British government knew this would be an unprecedented piece of good PR if they could pull it off. And yet, call me naïve; I still refuse to believe a grandmother would send her grandson to war for the sake of a few good headlines.
No matter what you think of the British royal family or the war in Afghanistan it is hard to argue this was a shrewd, gutsy move. And every frame of video told me this was history in the making.
By CNN's International Security Correspondent Paula Newton
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