I would like to preface this post by saying I am well aware of the type of comments such a topic might draw, but as a blogger, staring at this article on my screen, I felt it would be utterly wrong and self-defeating to self-censor myself as a Jordanian citizen. There is an obligation to make this kind of news, the kind I know will not make it to the local mainstream media and the kind that will not please a handful of people – known. There is an obligation, as a citizen, to examine certain decisions and voice one’s opinion in the most respectful manner I know how. As for any comments from other readers on this topic, well, I can’t possibly be held accountable for what people say or think, but I will ask that they attempt to (for my sake) articulate such opinions respectfully. It’s winter, and I quite enjoy the comforts of my warm room as opposed to any other venue I might find myself in because of something someone said.
And with all that being said:
…While Bush himself didn’t fare nearly as well, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raked in at least $316,000 in gem-encrusted baubles from the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia alone, making her one of top recipients among U.S. officials of gifts from foreign heads of state and government and their aides in 2007.
In January, Jordan’s King Abdullah II gave Rice an emerald and diamond necklace, ring, bracelet and earrings estimated to be worth $147,000, according to the State Department’s annual inventory of such items released Monday just in time for Christmas. The king and his wife, Queen Rania, also gave Rice a less expensive necklace and earrings along with a jewelry box valued at $4,630, the document shows. [source]
Now, I fully understand the type of arguments that could emerge from such news. I also understand that the Arab street has never been in line with Arab leadership and thus, there are things our leaders do that, at times, bother and annoy us, or even completely diverge from the mainstream of public thinking. Other times – not so much. It depends on the country, its people and its leadership. Political perceptions are fluid in the region.
In a population of 5.6 million, there is simply no Jordanian who has any love for the Bush administration. And to clarify what I mean by “no Jordanian”, I am referring to the 99.9% of people in this great country that have no ounce of respect, let alone love or admiration for the Bush administration. And I would go about listing the many, many, many reasons why that is; reasons that have accumulated themselves abundantly in the past eight years, but, I get the feeling that anyone reading this, be they Jordanian or otherwise, could probably list at least half a dozen reasons off the top of their heads right now.
If polled tomorrow, I would go so far as to assume (and probably with some degree of accuracy) that 99.9% of Jordanian citizens would not agree to giving any sort of gift to any one in the Bush administration, unless of course that gift was a shoe. Perhaps that is the perfect metaphor of the gap between Arab leadership and the Arab street: one gives jewelry, the other throws shoes.
Furthermore, putting politics aside, one would assume that in a time when so many of our citizens are struggling to make ends meet just to put food on the table, it is a fairly callous act to gift someone so disliked here, jewelry worth $151,630. I assure you, I am not naive in thinking that such a sum is going to change the country; that’s not my point. However, with the majority of the population making less than $300 a month, there is symbolism to consider. The symbolism of gifting someone something so lavishly, be it in the name of the Jordanian people or its leadership, is symbolically off-putting.
Please note that I do not say this in the context of sentimentality, such as: every time people don’t love one another another puppy sheds a tear. I say this with concern. I say this as a member of this population. Everything done on the state level by our leadership or otherwise, affects us all and is a reflection on us all. And while there are larger and indeed, more important disagreements to consider (such as policies) which occur a whole lot more often – this particular piece of news stands out in such a contrasting manner that it absolutely begs a critical voice to speak in opposition.
There is so much that can be said, but I think I got my point across – as respectfully as one possibly can given the circumstance.
On the bright side, at least the Dali Lama got it mildly right when he gifted Mrs. Bush with $6 worth of assorted nuts and dried fruit. If only these were parting gifts.
Lastly, I know this is probably not a single person’s decision and the news is not always gospel, but, as a citizen, I would love it if someone in government would respond to this and clarify it. The only reason this news is out there is because of the accountability mechanisms in American government. So, in the interest of transparency, I would appreciate it if someone did care enough to clarify this story.
UPDATE: King Abdullahâ€™s Gift To Condoleezza Rice Gets Corrected
While the amount of money is shocking, I honestly think the practice is a typical one in diplomatic circles. Gifts are constantly being traded between elites, but what we call it seems to differ. Some call it corruption, others call it business. In all honestly, I’m not surprised by the practice – but still disgusted.
What does surprise me is the fact that a monarch of a relatively poor country, where the GDP per capita is (constant 2000 international $) only 4585, where the top 10% get 30% of the income and the lowest 10% get 2.7%, feels that a gift of such magnitude can be justified. What about the serveece drivers who make 10 JD a day? Or the cleaners who make 150JD a month?
Kabobfest also say a few words on the matter:
It saddens me that you had to write a half page of an introduction.
The KabobFest post mentioned something that crossed my mind…US gov officials aren’t even supposed to keep these gifts.
the article also mentions that rice wont be allowed to keep the gifts so i wonder if the gifters knew that or not when they gave it away .. also the article mentions other gifts that rice has received from other diplomats and none of them are worth over 1500 USD .. so that also sheds some perspective on the whole thing ..
anyway suppose the value of the gifts was not 300 thou but 300 mil .. shu kuna ra7 nsawi ya3ni .. haik haik we will not do a damn thing (except maybe blog about it) .. anyway thank u US govt for having some transparency so we can know about the gifts our leaders give away :/
One more step in the “evolving” process for Nas
Hopefully it will help the evolution of your brain and beliefs towards realising the trivial truths about Jordan
Of course, a couple of months from now, Nas will be live-blogging from the World Economic Forum, praising the vision….
well musa…i think the entire human race has to catch up to your obviously advanced line of thinking.
until then, the lesser of us can only continue to be deluded into thinking that the power of our cynicism alone is enough to lift this country from its status quo.
caring is sharing
Ted stevens of alaska also recieved some gifts while Kennedy of Mas got a white rose while in hospital..
One can look at it from a different perspective and ask: why are you pissed or annoyed? We are the second or the third largest reciever of US aid. We have people who lobby on the regime’s behalf in DC. We are the most “cooperative” country in the region. Are people pissed because it went to condi?
We are hypocrites by choice.Oh I mean by genes…
Not the entire human race, only those who cannot come to terms with reality.
And the line of thinking is not that advanced at all…actually it is primitively naive: If it acts like a totalitarian regime, it is a totalitarian regime.
I think the limit for receiving such gifts is $50. All these things eventually end up as wall decorations in government buildings or (more commonly) in boxes in the National Archives. For Rice, the nuts were the only gift she could use.
The exception to the rule, of course, is President Clinton. When he and Hilary left the White House they took a lot of the furniture that had been donated with him. The donors – often noted American craftsmen who hand-made the stuff – were shocked; they thought they were furnishing the White House. But the letter they received soliciting their work, soon after Clinton won the presidency, made no mention of this and simply referred to the Clinton family. They thought they were giving to the nation, but they were really providing the millionaire Clintons with free goods of high value. As “personal” items “unrelated” to their office, the Clintons were able to take all these goods with them if they wished.
Nas, very interesting. My first thought on reading this was also that employees of the US government are not allowed to accept gifts with value greater than $50. So, while I am positive it would have been rude to refuse a gift from His Majesty, I’m also certain that the government will end up putting this in a museum somewhere. Maybe next time a more appropriate gift would be hand-crafted articles from local artisans. While they wouldn’t approach the bling of the $300K necklace they would represent more of what Jordan has to offer. In addition, maybe what would be better is to give $300K worth of locally created items earmarked for each US State’s Governor’s Mansion. Then the people of Jordan will benefit by selling the items to the government and the US can receive some inkiling of the beauty of the traditional local handcrafts…
Trasparency can be a great thing (albeit costly and often irksome for those in power). I’m glad that one home’s transparency helps build knowledge in the other… And I also agree that the symbolism of this is a bit disturbing. Some much being give to someone who is perceived to have done so little for Jordan, it’s a shame… Thanks for bringing this to our attention, as always your eye is on the ball.
With all this wasted public money ,we can feed 10000s of poor in Jordan; to you Mr Nassem ,it might not seem lots of money but it’s lots money to be wasted on gifts that the US government will keep as the Israeli government did and eventually all the gift that were received were auctioned off to support the Israeli’s war machine. It’s time for people to wake up and change this corrupt system.
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Speaking of hand-crafted materials, any Jordan River Foundation item would be quite suitable!
Many showcased items are suitable, and hey, if they amount to more than 50 JD’s, then, in effect, we are show-casing Jordanian tradition and culture in high-end museums.
$147,000 is a painfully large sum of money, let alone the spendings of diplomats, members of parliaments, and other gov officials, which we have no idea about! Transparency is needed.
@musa: ah, yeah, just like that kid in plato’s cave. that story ended pretty well too. in any case, those of us in the dark (primarily me) thank you for the light that’s you’ve shown us. you humble yourself just by leaving a comment here. time and time again.
I agree with Diala, Jordan River Foundation would be the ideal gift shop, I would buy Rice a Bani Hamida rug, she seems to me the type of woman who can do with a rug in her living room!
I am sure that a gift made in Jordan, even if it was jewelry, is good as long as the purchasing money is awarded to Jordanian craftsmanship and talent.
As the article notes, these items are sent to the National Archives (i.e., for storage, not display). No mention is made of who else in the American government received gifts from Jordan, other than the Defense Secretary who received a $345 steel dagger. But it isn’t a stretch to imagine the total spread around amounts to materially more than $152,000.
This has been going on for years. The father also spent lavishly on gifts when the country could ill afford it. Surely by now the givers know these large gifts cannot be used by their recipients. So it may have more to do with ego and with outdoing the Gulf countries.
Do we have any information on whether the US administration gives personal gifts to world leaders, and if they have given personal gifts to the Arab leaders mentioned in the story?
What is a $150,000 compared to all the gifts that Jordan received from the states???
anyways, a light scan across media outlets shows that articles are only highlighting the part about Arab leaders gifts. It will be interesting to know if they had the biggest share of contribution to her jewlary box, and if it is a diplomacy ritual done to all Secretary of States?. I personally hope the gifts will be handed down to Hilary Clinton so we dont have to do it again!
this is funny .. ammon published the story but left out the references to jordan even though they mention their source ..
they refer to the king as “za3eem 3arabi” and the queen as “qareenat za3eem 3arabi” ..
see for yourself .. http://www.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleNO=32113
Creative gifting has so much more value – a box full of trinkets made by the hands and hearts of the under served community of Wadi Feynan is simply priceless 🙂
I think the problem is that HM sees the national wealth as his own, free to spend it as he pleases. It is a shame he doesn’t have the same attitude towards the national debt. This is a scandalous waste of money.
I agree with all those who suggested some Jordanian handicrafts as a more appropriate gift.
Ammon is stupid!
While I am surprised of the numbers mentioned, and the whole notion of exchanging gifts at that level because it has never been mentioned before. I don’t know what to really think about it. Is the king entitled to his own fortune? Doesn’t he spend as well from his own money to help people inside Jordan? It did happen on various occaison, no? Where does the King fortune come from? Is there any transperacy about that? Can we ask? Isn’t it better to draw the lines here?
For a full list of gifts received in 2008:
It is amazing they felt the need to declare a $23 “small green dish” from the prime minister of Qatar. Can anyone remember any mention of any gifts received by any Arab official?
Why don’t our officials declare gifts?
Diplomacy has to do with it, exchanging gifts are gestures of comfort.
The question is whether we want a flourishing relationship with the US or not? You can not act smart and be on international platforms while denying obligations related, even in the smallest portion of that: gestures and gift exchange.
I do not think that this is some pie slicing, its even silly to think that 150000$ would even be a slice or a price for something else.
I agree that the value is too much, symbolic gifts of Jordan would do or anything that would not cost the treasury that much.
Nas, i saw the updates/correction. i also checked the link provided by Ibby, there’s no way the State Department’s information could have been misunderstood:) please “correct” me if i’m wrong!
…or tell you what, im just glad you’re still able to enjoy the comforts of your warm room:)) there is still justice in this world, praise the lord.
@layan: from what i’ve gathered from various sources, some of the entries by the state in to the ledger were mistaken and the AP simply used what data it was provided.
“99.9% of Jordanian citizens would not agree to giving any sort of gift to any one in the Bush administration, unless of course that gift was a shoe” that Made me laugh 🙂 , well put