'Shit happens': soldiers as cannon fodder

February 12, 2011
Soldiers in the Afghanistan war are treated as ‘cannon fodder’, where they are forced to fight against hopeless odds for a s

Less than a week after Australians learned about the death of the 22nd Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan, Corporal Richard Atkinson, footage aired by Channel 7 on February 8 showed opposition leader Tony Abbott caught with his pants down.

“Shit happens,” Abbott told a US general during an August visit to Afghanistan as they discussed the circumstances surrounding the death of another Australian soldier — Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney.

MacKinney’s family had questioned whether the standard of the Australian Defence Force’s equipment contributed to his death.

Abbott’s callous retort and Labor defence minister Stephen Smith’s rush to defend him reveals a lot about the attitude of the pro-war parties, which act in the interests of the corporate rich.

They treat infantry soldiers as expendable cannon fodder. They always have and they always will. Millions of soldiers who survived the bloodbaths of the last two world wars and the Vietnam War drew this conclusion.

The term “cannon fodder” sums up soldiers in the Afghanistan war. It describes a situation when soldiers are forced to fight against hopeless odds for a strategic goal — to make Afghanistan a compliant state for the West.

The “war on terror”, which the US started (with Australian support) 10 years ago, has led to the deaths of unknown thousands of Afghans and more than 2300 coalition soldiers.

At least US$336 billion — money that should have instead been spent on services and creating jobs — has been used to prop up the corrupt puppet regime of Hamid Karzai.

Ten years on, with divisions among feudal chiefs and a population that despises Karzai and his cronies, a generation of Afghans is growing up having only ever known their country to be at war.

Melbourne anti-war activist Jessica Morrison, who is currently visiting Kabul, summed up the hopelessness and devastation.

“Life is clearly very hard for people, even in Kabul. There are always people sifting through rubbish. Young children are begging on the street.

“Electricity connections come in and out. As I go to sleep with a wood heater in my room, I’m aware that many people are on the streets literally freezing.”

If Abbott and Gillard are so keen on this war and occupation why don’t they volunteer themselves, rather than send young women and men to kill Afghans and die as cannon fodder for the US-Australia war alliance?


Considering that service in Afghanistan is done by volunteer soldiers who have the option to opt out of the deployment, don't you think that your comments in this article are way over the top? Are you aware of the context of the comment; in that Abbott was discussing what type of equipment the soldiers need that could contribute to their survival on a battlefield? That he was told that nothing would have prevented the death of LCPL MacKinney? And therefore sometime's "shit happens"? Do you at all acknowledge that vast amounts of evidence (including from people I personally know who deployed to Afghanistan in 2002) that there were terrorist training camps and that they were there due to the acceptance of the then Taliban government? You fail to mention these facts and therefore your piece is nothing but an ideological diatribe. Let's see if you publish this.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.