Why have a shoey when you can have a false leggy?


A faux scandal erupts in the middle of a real scandal (alleged, and subject to future court cases).

One of the less savoury of all Australian drinking traditions is the so called “shoey”, or – as the name implies – drinking (beer, usually a whole can’s or bottle’s worth) from a shoe, your own or a friend’s. Why, you ask? Who knows. Now, the Australian special forces accused of executing prisoners and civilians during their service in Afghanistan more than a decade ago are being fingered for a similar misdeed:

Shocking pictures have emerged purporting to show an Australian soldier drinking from a prosthetic leg of a dead man in Afghanistan.

The Guardian has published the pictures that are reportedly taken at an unofficial bar known as the Fat Lady’s Arms, inside Australia’s special forces base in Tarin Kowt, the capital of Uruzgan province, in 2009.

Fairfax had reported two years ago that Australian troops had been using the prosthetic leg of a prisoner from Afghanistan as a drinking vessel at SAS headquarters in Perth, after it was brought back as a souvenir in 2009.

However pictures of the incident have not been published until now.

Another picture appears to show two soldiers performing a dance with the leg.

Shocking? I mean ancient warriors used to drink out of their enemies’ skulls and as recently as the Second World War and Vietnam the Allied troops were routinely accused to collecting all sorts of grisly mementoes of their foes. This is not to commend such conduct but to remind everyone that amidst the horror that is war – including irregular, guerrilla warfare – there is surely a gradation of offences. Unauthorised consumption of alcohol by the serving personnel is an issue in and of itself; what utensils soldiers might use for such illicit drinking is beside the point.

As former Navy Seal, Michael O’Neill, tweeted in response to the controversy:

O’Neill, by the way, is the guy who pulled the trigger on Osama Bin Laden, so there is a beer or six waiting for him whenever he makes it down to Australia, though dare I say I won’t be supplying a jihadi prosthetic for the occasion. The allegation of 39 murders committed by 19 Australian servicemen are serious enough; the accused will face the courts, as they should, and justice will be done. By contrast, drinking from a dead Taliban’s flip-flop-clad leg is a bullshit issue undeserving of attention by any serious media outlet or any serious person.