Cannon fodder

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Cannon fodder refers to soldiers or other enlisted personnel who are considered expendable. Usually, the men or women who are considered to be cannon fodder are the least-trained and of the lowest socioeconomic group. Cannons are tubes from which projectiles are fired, usually cannon balls. Fodder is an Old English term for food, epecially hay or straw. Thus, cannon fodder is “food” to be consumed in battle.

Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV, mentions the concept of men being food for battle. But the first use of the term cannon fodder is attributed to Chateaubriand, in a criticism of Napoleon’s cavalier expenditure of conscripts. These conscripts were lined up to march shoulder to shoulder toward the enemy, providing easy targets. It was assumed that most would not survive the march.


The maquiladoras created, he says, “social catastrophe”, footsoldiers and cannon fodder for the violence and “a logic of the market, to which the explosion of domestic drugs as well as smuggling to the US, adhered and still adheres”. (The Guardian)

India, however, was not just a source of cannon fodder in the 1940s. (Financial Times)

Tehran reportedly sent hundreds of illegal Afghan immigrants to fight in Syria, often on the front lines as cannon fodder. (Business Insider)

In a speech tomorrow, Cameron will launch a five-year plan to combat Islamist extremism, with a warning to young Muslims tempted to join Isis that they are “cannon fodder” who will be killed or raped if they do. (The Sunday Times)

What did it matter to Trump if Jon Stewart used him as nightly cannon fodder? (The New Yorker)

But in this case, the soldiers firmly believed that their commanders were lying to them about unheard-of salaries in the Donbass and treating them as cannon fodder. (The Moscow Times)