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Will the Islamic State’s Financiers Send Their Sons into Battle?

September 11, 2014


The opening of the Invictus Games – the British athletics competition for members of the armed forces of various nations injured in recent conflicts – has received plenty of media publicity over the past few days. In the UK much of it is because of the identity of the main organiser, the Queen’s grandson Prince Harry.

That the event coincides with Harry’s thirtieth birthday clearly helps, as we are regaled with articles about his wild youth and new-found maturity.

One distinctive characteristic of the British royal family is that it has never been averse to its members putting themselves in harm’s way while serving in our armed forces. Harry served two tours of Afghanistan as a forward air controller and then as an Apache pilot. In the Falklands War his uncle Prince Andrew was also a helicopter pilot. Going further back, Lord Mountbatten, Harry’s great uncle, was a destroyer captain whose ship was sunk during the evacuation of Crete during World War 2.

Britain is not alone in this tradition. The sons of several leading politicians, including Vice-President Joe Biden, have also served in war zones, as did descendants of Presidents Eisenhower and Theodore Roosevelt. Two of Roosevelt’s sons died in action – one in each of the world wars. Not only that, but distinguished war records have always been an advantage for Americans standing for high office. Presidents Jackson, Grant, Sherman, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and George H. W. Bush, among others, could all point to their military achievements, as can recent presidential candidates John Kerry and John McCain.

Some Arab leaders, however, seem quite happy to pose in uniforms and send their death squads into action (as witness Maher Al-Assad and Mutassim Gaddafi), but exposing themselves to bullets and shrapnel is quite another matter. A notable exception is the House of Saud. King Abdulaziz, the founder, proudly bore the scars of wounds he suffered in numerous battles, and his sons Saud and Faisal fought alongside him. More recently, Prince Khaled Bin Sultan, the commander of the Saudi forces in the first Gulf War, happily exposed himself to snipers at the opening skirmish in the Saudi border town of Khafji.

A bit of a cheap shot perhaps, because not many of the bemedalled Sandhurst graduates strutting round the Middle East have had the opportunity to display their prowess in battle. However, if the Islamic State has its way, they may yet.

But one wonders how many of the shadowy financiers of IS have sent their sons and daughters off to Iraq and Syria to risk their lives for the cause they espouse. Unlike the sons of tinpot dictators, they themselves are unlikely to end their days facing firing squads or falling under a hail of bullets in some final redoubt.

A case of do what I pay for, not what I do.

From → Middle East, Politics, UK, USA

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