US has done a ‘deal with the devil’, Afghanistan war widow says
Victoria Bateman, 35, lost her husband, Lance Corporal James Bateman of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment in 2008, when he was shot by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
Sky News sat down with her to hear her thoughts on the peace deal signed between the United States and the militant group responsible for the death of her childhood sweetheart.
How do you feel about the US-Taliban peace deal?
Mixed feelings really. Anything that can bring peace to a region that has been so unstable would be amazing, however, I think personally it is doing a deal with the devil.
The Taliban have funded al Qaeda and hid its leader Osama Bin Laden, which is the reason the US and British forces went in in the first place.
How did your husband die?
On the morning of 12 June  they were coming in from a shura, which is a meeting with local elders as part of the hearts and minds campaign. On the way back to their forward operating base they were ambushed and he was shot in the ambush.
Do you think back to the moment you received a knock on the door, to tell you your husband had been killed?
Often. I do think about that time often. Every year when the anniversary comes around. Every year at Remembrance when that happens.
It is 12 years since you received that news, do you still remember how you felt?
You can never be prepared for that – it was just the most heart-wrenching, awful experience. I cannot put into words what I felt that day.
All I know, all I remember is that it was a day my life completely flipped on its head. It changed my life forever. Made me the person I am today which is probably stronger, more determined, but I would 100% give it all up just to have him back.
Do you remember the last time you spoke to him?
Funnily enough I had a conversation at work. He called me. It was shortly after three other members of the Parachute Regiment had been killed by a suicide bomber. He called me to let me know he was okay.
I was reminded of the conversation by a colleague because I had been so distressed that I couldn’t even remember if I’d told him that I love him.
That haunted me for a lot of years until one year after dinner I was talking about it and she said “you did you did tell him you loved him”. That put me really at peace. He was really concerned about the fact that I knew that he was okay. Obviously, he was down because he had just lost members of his regiment.
How does it make you feel to know the Taliban – responsible for the death of your husband – could be back in government?
I harbour no hatred. I think hatred will just consume me. It concerns me how extreme they are and how radical they can be in terms of women’s rights and Afghanistan developing into a democratic country, which is what we were trying to achieve.
I think if I’m honest, left to their own devices it [the country] would massively regress through fear, intimidation. They take too much money out of the drug trade – to give that up. I don’t see any alternatives have been offered.
Was the war in Afghanistan worth it?
That is a difficult one. I don’t want to take away what all the guys and girls in the forces have achieved.
Personally, not for me. I lost too much. I gave up too much and I don’t see anything tangible has come back. I don’t know if any life is ever worth it, but there is never any justification.
If you can tell me a group of girls graduated in the area my husband died because of his sacrifice it wouldn’t bring him back but would it make me feel like he’d achieved something? Absolutely. I just don’t see it.
How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel… it’s devastating really. I gave the ultimate sacrifice and for what? For nothing really. It is devastating but I think I can’t dwell on it or it will just consume me. I have a life to live. I have got to continue my life for him and for me.
You have to trust in the people that we vote into government to do the right thing. Is this the right thing? Not in my opinion.
As more time passes since British forces were fighting and dying in Afghanistan, do you worry that people are just going to forget the sacrifices that were made?
I think to some extent it has already been forgotten. I think people think it was such a long time ago, should we be over it. [There are commemorations] for World War One and World War Two. Will we see that for the people who passed away in Afghanistan and Iraq? Probably not. Should we? I think it should be marked.
The sacrifice of the people today is no different from back then. They all gave the same. They were all prepared to do the same and it was all in conflict no matter what the scale. They all went in the name of Queen and country. I think it should be marked in some way.
When your husband was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 what did you hope it would achieve?
As a woman there were high hopes, first of all to secure peace, to allow people to vote freely, to have a democratic country, for women to have the rights that they enjoy in other countries – that we enjoy here such as education, employment. That is really what I hoped it would help achieve.
It is not an instant quick fix granted, but it does not seem to be as though anything tangible has come out of this that anyone can say will continue under the new peace deal.
What do you think he would think about the United States doing a deal with Taliban?
He would be incredibly proud of this regiment and what they have achieved.
Secretly he would probably be quite cross. I think he probably would have thought that we left too early…
He probably would agree it is doing a deal with terrorists which they always believe never to do.
How is life for you today, 12 years on from losing your husband?
Life is what I have made of it. I try to take a positive approach as much as possible and I obviously carry his spirit and his strength with me and the traits that he had. He was powerful, determined, strong. I have tried to take that with me as I continue my life.
Things like this that come up do bring it all back and make you wonder if it was all worth it. It does bring you back to that feeling when you knew he passed away and the reason why.
When people think of war widows, they typically think of older women, but Afghanistan left a group of young widows. What has it meant for your life, being widowed so young?
I was 24 when James died. We were very young. He was my childhood sweetheart so in some ways it completely ruined my life. In other ways it has showed me things about myself that I never knew were possible.
The campaign has changed, ruined and affected so many people’s lives from people who have lost someone to people who have been injured physically or mentally.
It affected me mentally the trauma of losing my husband. Dealing with that publicly at 24 years of age was something I was not prepared for and looking back I’m not sure how I made it through that either.