Authoritarianism in Jordan

I never understood how a unit of the army – for that is what they are – can call a civilian for a “cup of coffee” and a friendly chitchat without due process. There is no writ of habeas corpus nor legal representation. Subpoena rights are out of the question of course, but they still call you and ask you to attend.

I know I live under an authoritarian regime, I never imagined anything different and I never thought that the instruments of authoritarianism will ever surrender their power without a fight. To be clear, the Jordanian regime has made it clear that the fight will always be peaceful and as long as it is principled, it will always be fruitful.

I just never knew how to be sure about how authoritarian the regime was until I saw an episode that John Oliver‘s show did in November 2018

So I wanted to use the 1,2,3 of John Oliver to check if Jordan is an authoritarian Regime

I was called into the intelligence services offices a couple of times, and no, it wasn’t because of my intelligence. I was never insulted, threatened, or even offended or anything of the sort. The experience was always pleasant, in so long that I understood that they can ask and I can answer.

I never understood how a unit of the army – for that is what they are – can call a civilian for a “cup of coffee” and a friendly chitchat without due process. There is no writ of habeas corpus nor legal representation. Subpoena rights are out of the question of course, but they still call you and ask you to attend.

Seeing a Jordanian Brigadier General get 4 – yes, four- cars for the benefit of his family always made me wonder. I am certain that any self-respecting military in the modern world do not extend such privileges to their senior officers, yet it happens.

I knew it was the one of the ways the regime appeases the tribal associations that are being maintained in the military, but I was saddened that this is where my tax Dinars are going. I didn’t think it was undeserved, but rather excessive.

On the same scale I used to walk into police stations and find Lieutenants in charge of the couple of rooms that were the law-enforcement capability in the area. While a precinct in NYPD -for comparison- is usually headed by a Captain, sometimes a Major (Deputy Inspector). The inflation in rank whether in the Army, Gendarmerie or Military has become so obvious in Jordan that it became the butt of some untasteful jokes.

1-Image of strength

While this resource-intensive exercise in imagery and prestige is a must, it hurt to realize that this was mainly done to project the image of strength, capability and military might. Strength is one image favored by authoritarian regimes and usually on parallel with images of their leaders in full military uniform, often leading the march on their enemies.

Being a Field Marshall or a similar high rank was almost a prerequisite for the despots of old time.

The Jordanian regime is not a power usurper as with the cases above, nor is it a failed republic or a dysfunctional democracy. It is however, a constitutional monarchy. The Monarchy part is active, the other parts of the equation, not so much. The image of strength is heavily present in all sorts of media and propaganda, and the one below was copied from our embassy in Washington’s website

Our King is a Field Marshall, however, he is probably the most militarily capable of the Field Marshall’s I mentioned. He runs his military actively, but that is because he was trained for it at the best institutes of the world and he is a formidable military leader

2-Demonizing Enemies

Enemies are another favorite of despots but that is mainly on us, trump understood this back in ’12, watch him use it soon!

That is the easiest way to increase your popularity, no one ever heard of someone asking for a change of course during war. All that people ask for in wars is unity behind our troops and leaders. There is no doubt that Roosevelt would not have served 4 terms were it not for the oratorical space provided by the Second World War.

Think of Churchill losing the election 2 months after VE Day and you will understand two things: 1-The necessity of public support which is why the election was not delayed to a “more appropriate time”. 2- The peaceful handover of power, even -and perhaps especially- for wartime heroes.

Jordan has been notoriously unlucky with its enemies, in 2011, the king called on Assad to step down, later we were at war with extremism in some form or the other for a few years. Finally, it seems the country whose burden of providing refuge, military resistance and political and ideological moderation has been rewarded with the raw end of the deal.

So much so, that the new bogie man is now the “Deal of the century” and its backers who are attempting to move the Palestinian “Final Solution” to the Jordanian boundary.

The three men (Mohammed Bin Salman, Trump, Kushner) pushing the “Deal of the Century” which is rumored to include a city in the south of Jordan and North of Saudi Arabia that will hold those disaffected by the deal that

We are supposed to be afraid of a deal that no one knows about yet. All the government ministers are supposedly refuting that they have seen any scheme of the deal. Yet they are adamant that they are refusing it.

Our foreign minister told me -among others, in public- last week, that he is not aware of the details of the deal. This is therefore the typical definition of fear mongering. Why are we all worried about a deal that we know nothing about.

The issue to me seems to be that Jordanians do not know whether moderation now is the right thing. It has brought us nothing but international scrutiny and national debate on our ability to have our own sovereignty.

We have had more than our share of Enemies and we have demonized them. Whether our stands were inconsistent with each other remains to be seen.

3-Dismantling institutions

I recall vividly that I read about the constitutional crises that faced King Hussein, however, he never assumed that the problem was with his father’s constitution. In fact, while he pushed martial law and emergency decisions, The Constitution remained a bastion of freedom and an exemplary document that other countries envied and sometimes copied from.

However, the recent amendments in the constitution has shown an escalation of the speed in which power and authority is being consolidated in the palace institution and these changes are outside of the old, established and sometimes antiquated institutions of government that preserved some semblance of democracy.

It is interesting to note that all the people I talk to in the higher echelons of politics insist that these changes were not the wishes of the King but the reactionary ventures of those who surround him and who try to protect the regime – of which they are a part- with the only way they know how

Peace, Out!

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