WASHINGTON — Donald Rumsfeld has resurrected a bizarre gift from Saddam Hussein: a video that purports to show female Syrian soldiers biting the heads off snakes, and a male comrade stabbing a puppy to death.
The former US defense secretary, an architect of the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, said the late Iraqi dictator gave him the video as a parting memento when Rumsfeld made a secret mission to Baghdad in 1983 as former president Ronald Reagan’s Mideast envoy.
“Such gifts can be unusual, but even so I was shocked by this one,” Rumsfeld said on his website, “The Rumsfeld Papers.”
“Saddam had given me a three-minute videotape documenting alleged Syrian ‘atrocities,’” he said.
“The blurred, choppy footage shows young Syrians biting the heads off of snakes and stabbing puppies, to the apparent applause of then-Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad.”
Rumsfeld posted the black-and-white video on his website, with a warning: “This video depicts graphic violence. Some viewers may find it disturbing.” His office said on Twitter that it was the first time it had ever been made public.
It shows what appears to be a Syrian military unit putting on a display for an audience of dignitaries, including Assad.
Young female soldiers, in berets and camouflage uniforms, are shown lined up before a reviewing stand, each holding a writhing snake, which they then proceed to bite repeatedly until they are able to tear off their heads.
In subsequent scenes, the soldiers are seen skewering and roasting snakes over open fires and then eating them, while Assad and the audience applauds.
That is followed by a sequence showing young male soldiers jumping out of the back of a truck. One of the soldiers holds down a live puppy, stabs it repeatedly with a knife, and then hurls its lifeless body to the side.
“Saddam’s message was clear: The Syrian regime was barbaric,” said Rumsfeld. “Though his evidence was hardly convincing, his conclusion was a tough one to dispute.”
Rumsfeld has posted documents gathered over a long political career on the website, in connection with the publication of his memoirs, “Known and Unknown.”
His controversial tenure — which saw Al-Qaeda attack the United States, a retaliatory war in Afghanistan, and a US invasion of Iraq — ended with Rumsfeld’s forced resignation in 2006 as Iraq spiraled into chaos.
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