Snake blood, flaming bricks: Mattis gets bizarre send off
JAKARTA: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis saw Indonesian troops drink snake blood, roll in glass, break bricks with their heads, walk on fire, and more, in a rare military demonstration yesterday meant to show the unique skills of Indonesia’s military. Pentagon chiefs are accustomed to seeing foreign forces carry out more routine military demonstrations during foreign travel and, ahead of the event, the press traveling with Mattis was expecting a hostage rescue drill.
The ceremony at Indonesia’s armed forces headquarters was far more theatrical, however, even featuring a blindfolded soldier shoot out a balloon held between the legs of one of his colleagues. At least one shot missed, although no one appeared injured. To the sounds of beating drums, the Indonesian soldiers performed a series of gripping martial arts techniques, breaking what appeared to be concrete bricks with their heads. They also smashed stacks of burning blocks with their hands. Wearing a hood to blind him, one knife-wielding Indonesian soldier slashed away at a cucumber sticking out of his colleague’s mouth, coming just inches from striking his nose with the long blade.
Perhaps the highlight was a demonstration involving live snakes, which Indonesian forces brought out in bags and scattered on the ground, just feet from where Mattis was standing. That included a King Cobra, which widened its neck as it if were going to attack. The soldiers then cut off the snake heads and fed the snake blood to each other, as the crowd looked on. At least one Indonesian soldier bit a snake in half. At the end of the demonstration, to the tune of the movie “Mission Impossible,” the Indonesian forces carried out a hostage rescue operation, deploying stealthily from helicopters – with police dogs. The dogs intercepted the gunman.
“As you can see, the dogs bit the terrorist,” the narrator concluded. Mattis appeared to enjoy the demonstration, which came at the end of a three-day visit to Indonesia, and spoke about how the Indonesian forces were smart to wear the snakes down before trying to handle them. “The snakes! Did you see them tire them out and then grab them? The way they were whipping them around – a snake gets tired very quickly,” he told reporters as he flew to Vietnam. Indonesian forces are active in jungle conditions and do have to deal with snakes at times.
The demonstration also showed the intensity of the training of Indonesian forces, Mattis said. “You could imagine how much training went into each individual there, that they were able to do that,” he said. “When you watch a force do that, many small things, perfectly, you can imagine that they can also put the bigger things together.” Some of the troops came from Kopassus, Indonesia’s elite special forces, a Pentagon spokesman said. Indonesia hopes Mattis can restore closer US military ties with Kopassus, which have faced restrictions under US law over human rights abuses in the 1990s.
In another development, disturbing video footage of dogs being butchered and their hair burnt off with blowtorches at markets in Indonesia has prompted howls of protest from animal rights activists. Campaigners from the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia group are urging authorities to shut down the country’s live animal markets, where they say thousands of dogs and cats are bludgeoned to death each week.
Video filmed by the activists at markets in Tomohon and Langowan cities on Sulawesi island shows a stomach-churning array of burnt, mutilated animals-including monkeys, cats and bats-being sold openly. Among the most disturbing images is footage of dogs being clobbered to death and blow-torched in the street amid the rows of grubby stalls. Dogs packed cheek by jowl inside tiny cages appear to tremble and whimper as they watch what is going on around them. Lola Webber, from the Dog Meat-Free coalition, described the market as “like walking through hell”.
However, that hasn’t stopped it becoming a popular tourist destination. The group is now calling for the Indonesian government to put an end to the brutal trade. “The tourist board’s slogan of a ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ rings hollow when you’ve gazed into the eyes of a dog spattered with blood and shaking with fear,” Bobby Fernando of Animal Friends Jogja said. “We need the world to join us in calling for an end to Indonesia’s dog and cat meat trade.” The vast majority of Muslim-majority Indonesia does not eat cats and dogs, but the trade in exotic creatures is booming in some parts of the sprawling archipelago where it can form part of the local diet.- Agencies