Dear Jordanian Government, Can We Stop With The Fear Tactics?

I know it’s been a tough month for you. Security breaches have been all over the international media and things just don’t look great right now. I know in such times it’s easy for you to retreat to safer grounds where fear tactics and terrorism rhetoric is comforting, but please, can we put an end to it before it gets out of hand? The only governments who have been instilling fear in their people to either justify their actions or shut off debate and any source of opposition and/or questioning of their actions have been swallowed up by the history books – the pages of the early 21st century our generation will likely burn. Your public handling of recent security-related stories has not been exactly great, but that’s no one’s fault but your own really. The less you tell people the more they’ll speculate, and you just can’t remain silent for days and then come up with a statement littered with “Amman bombings of 2005” and expect Jordanians to swallow it like the Bush years that littered American media with “9/11” sentiments.

For one, Jordanian society differs dramatically from fear-riddled societies you might find in the US and the UK. The average Jordanian has seen enough terror, in the guise of poverty, unemployment, low standards of living, high prices, corruption, censorship, state-induced fear in the state, and various other realities of life in Jordan – to say nothing of living in a region where explosions, bombings, invasions, occupations and wars are also daily realities around us – that we’ve really become anesthetized to the whole thing.

In the past two weeks or so, the memory of the Amman bombings has been invoked way too many times by government officials, predominantly by state spokesperson, Nabil Sharif, most recently, well, today. I am not blaming individuals of course as the government pretty much functions as single entity. If someone says something it’s because someone has told them to say it. And if someone told them to say it, it’s because someone advised them that this was the line to take.

It’s not.

It only makes matters worse.

We all lived through the horrendous act of violence on November 9th and we don’t need to use the memory of the people who died that day as a way to justify current state policies because that is essentially, my dear government, what you are doing. It is a policy that ruined America and was used to justify the mess of a war that’s happening right next door – to say the least. And as sure as day it will ruin any other government that chooses to scare its citizens into submission and to shut out any opposition by resurrecting memories.

And for the moments when you’re not saying it in your own name, can you tell the people who say it for you to knock it off as well please?

An act of terrorism on Jordanian soil is indeed a red line, but so should be the act of politicizing it – and the people who died for it – for political gain. It is, in my opinion trampling on their memory, and moreover, a very dangerous slippery slope if the lessons of the western hemisphere in the past decade have taught us anything. And while we’re at it, Bush’s “we’ll smok’em out of their cave” and “we’ll fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here” also proved to be folly rhetoric and I’ve noticed the use of the latter in government statements these past two weeks.

The constant resurrection of terrorizing statements like the “Amman bombing” and “remember the Amman bombings” and “people died in Amman,” will not, in my opinion, convince the average Jordanian to approve of state policies because the government knows what’s good for them. I do not think you can, nor do I believe it is wise, to pursue a tactic where a systematic use of terror is employed in order to coerce the citizens in to submission.

And, in fact, that is actually the very definition of terrorism according to the Webster dictionary:

ter·ror·ism (n): the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion


  • Action cures fear, inaction creates terror.

    double agree on “The less you tell people the more they’ll speculate”
    as always!keep up the strong ones Nas

  • Ok, now seriously, I completely agree that using fear tactics for political gains is unacceptable, but in the same time no one can deny the real and imminent threat of terror on us whether directly or in how it remains to be the biggest factor in distorting the global image of Arabs and Muslims causing us, the innocent bystanders we are, scrutiny and even exposure to aggression in numerous occasions.
    No one can deny the well known “secret” of the Jordanian government’s involvement in the efforts against Islamic fundamentalism since 9/11 and before, yet i believe that the bigger mistake was, and remains, the government’s unwillingness to involve the public in this effort against such vile and infinitely damaging enterprises. While Jordan and other countries in this area seek to appear as innocent bystanders in this effort, especially in front of their own public, I believe they should be, government and people, in the forefront of this struggle, because of the undisputable fact is that we are the ones who get damaged the most by the existence of militant Islamic terrorism (not to be confused with authentic Palestinian national resistance).
    I think the real problem is that our government, through lack of practice and out of an irrational fear of public debate, has lost the ability to rally its public towards its’ just causes; our leaders should lead by convincing us to follow them on the right course, not by just telling us that they know what is best for us. It’s a fairly simple parenting rule: you can’t expect you children to behave like adults until you treat them like adults.

  • @boog3ee: I agree.

    I do agree that generating fear is an apparent result (or one of the results); but I don’t think the government is doing it systematically. Rather, I think that -as boog3ee said, and I mentioned this in my own posts before- that problem here with our government’s PR abilities (well, its lack thereof, actually) that make it choose silence or lofty words over intellectual, informative, statements that appeal to the mind.

    I think the government is at fault in the whole mess; but not for “attempting to generate fear”, but for “failing to be informative”.

  • @boog3ee:

    “I think the real problem is that our government, through lack of practice and out of an irrational fear of public debate, has lost the ability to rally its public towards its’ just causes; our leaders should lead by convincing us to follow them on the right course, not by just telling us that they know what is best for us.”

    I agree that this is a source of the problem. Like I said earlier, without information people are free to speculate and most speculations – especially in Jordan – quickly become conspiracy-laden exaggerations. Today HM King Abdullah talked about starting an era in the country’s history of transparency – one of the key ingredients needed for transparency to exist is the government’s willingness to provide information and its subsequent ability to accept public debate in all its forms. Otherwise, our definition of transparency will become: however open the government decides it wants to be at a given time.


    @mohanned: remember, i dont know you 😉



    “that problem here with our government’s PR abilities (well, its lack thereof, actually) that make it choose silence or lofty words over intellectual, informative, statements that appeal to the mind.”

    I agree that the government’s PR abilities are lacking (i’ve said that several times on this blog) and that lacking has manifested in public stumblings.

    “I think the government is at fault in the whole mess; but not for “attempting to generate fear”, but for “failing to be informative”.”

    My concern however is that the former is being substituted in lieu of the latter.

  • @Eyas: couldnt have said it better! Undermining the intelligence of the public is sadly a common mistake, and if they happen not to absorb and embrace your statements, actions and intentions, provided that these are truly aiming for the common good, you are at fault for not expressing them properly.

  • I must admit, this page is such a breath of fresh air! I only stumbled upon it whilst frantically searching for information vis-a-vis the gridlock yesterday. Assuming the worst, and without an explanation from any official, I thought my life was at risk (especially considering the incident nearby the Allenby Bridge).

    But does anyone kno what’s going on?! There’s still something not quite right. I live close to the 4th circle and was not allowed to dribe back to my apartment until I could prove that I lived there. What’s even scarier, its not the regular soldiers on the checkpoints anymore :s

  • I think that the incident with the guy that blew himself up along with the CIA guys had made a dent in the GID image, he brused them, he shattered their shatter proof image, he put them in an awkward position, they don’t know what to do, it is a failure of the highest order. They need to come up with something quick to restore their downgraded behemoth image. So unless they come up with something big like locating the number 2 man or even the number 1 they aren’t going to take a break any time soon.

  • Good message but it has been sent to the wrong address.

    Jordan government has no control on the security forces, they are directly linked to higher positions in $#$%@#$% and $%@#$%@$#

    **** coded words are to comply with the modified media law, ma 7ad b7ib ybat fe beat khalto

  • Nas,

    My concern however is that the former is being substituted in lieu of the latter.

    I certainly hope not! Now with all the bomb threat rumors going on though.. ehem.. yeah I don’t know 😛

    With the whole talk of transparency by the king, I certainly hope he (and the government, collectively) has the examples we mentioned in mind. Can’t say I’m optimistic, but I’m still hoping for some drastic change.

    And what kills me about this is that … taking me as an example.. if the government had said that Sharif Zaid was working on a terrorism-related mission in cooperation with the CIA, I would’ve been much fine. Instead, I ahve to hear “we have no information at the moment, investigations need to take place first” — all I think is: WTF? They should at least know the reason for sending the guy! I mean, who do they kid when they say such things? All such answers, combined with the rumors going on (and people rekindeling talk about King Hussein being on the CIA’s payroll), I felt furious about my country, and many others did too. I can’t imagine it getting any worse if they said the truth from day 1.

    @hatem: well I agree; but I’m dumbfounded why they think that doing what they’re doing right now would make things better. I think the GID’s image would become GREAT if the government cuts the self-righteous attitude that’s currently there, and for the GID to be more transparent about their goals and motivations. (not asking for strategic transparency, just talk about ethics/positions/motivations/etc).
    Personally, I support a good number of positions of the government myself, such as terror-related, 94-treaty related, parliament related, etc. stuff.. but these positions are not being articulated well if at all. the government is so afraid of debate, or some backlash, oblivious to the fact that the silent backlash happening now is far more harmful than that occurring from outspoken debate.

  • I will attempt to be the devils advocate here for a second: the general image of a CIA operative in the mind of the common Jordanian might as well be of a monster with a pitch fork, two horns and a long red tail, so i can understand the government’s hesitation at this point to divulge information about its involvement in operations alongside the CIA. And while this involvement is common knowledge to most of the well informed, it is stupid to assume that all Jordanians read the New York Times.
    That said though, i believe the problem runs deeper, namely in the fact that the general image of Islamic fundamentalism in the Jordanian society is not as bad as that of the Americans or the CIA, and that in many ways is due to the PR failure that was mentioned.
    While America reeks havoc to our east and Israel remains a dagger sized thorn in our side from the west, a simple Jordanian has far too much to fathom on a daily bases; how is he/she expected understand that our need to address a problem as critical as terrorism as it threatens everything we stand for does not mean that we are getting into bed with an even more deplorable foe, especially when the government keeps him/her in the dark and thus hardly stopping short of implying such adultery.
    Transparency needs to be on all levels and at all times, our country is small but it has huge potentials to make a great difference in the world, we need to make sure that we are all working together and have the same goals in mind, neither the government nor the people should take each other for granted, nor assume anything until it is openly expressed, discussed and agreed upon.

  • No government on earth will ever tell you the absolute truth. Any way It may not be very helpful for the citizens to know the whole truth.Some times the national security is at steak and divulging information may harm the national security. Sometimes there is a fear of backlash, sometimes the issues are too sensitive, too insulting to certain groups, and so on. The government business is to do whatever it takes to protect its soverignty and safe guard its citizens.We can’t always go too hard on the government but at the same time the government can’t come too hard on us. It is more or less a quid pro quo type of deal.We need the government to show us that it is on our side since we all are on their side. A happy citizen is a productive one and a dissatisfied citizen will turn into lethargic one.The average citizen is somehow not feeling that the government is doing all it can be done to uplift the citizens of the country to a satisfactory level. There seems to be a feeling of resentment, a bitter taste if you will.Bias, partisinship, nepotism, are an ongonig never ending problems. It is always who you know and not what you know is the only way that will get you going. There is a feeling of helplessness and powerlessness that exists especially amongs the youth.All you hear is that people want to leave after they finish their high school because the general feeling is that no matter how hard you work in Jordan and how dedicated you are to your business, you still never going to secure a decent living because the decent living is only reserved for those select few.

  • @boog3ee, no need to be a “devil’s advocate”; what you’re saying is absolutely right anyways. My argument is different however, what I’m saying (and it’s speculative, again), that.. sure, the majority of Jordanians would negatively react . But when the government speaks nothing, though they intend to decrease the backlash (a result of public opinion), the atmosphere of mystery created much tension, rumors, and negative backlash by itself. Not sure about you, but I personally heard a lot of rumors on the street in the first couple of days, by people who don’t read the Washington Post or the New York Times — and it was *all* negative. So my argument is that people who would react negatively to the information are also probably going to react more negatively to abrupt statements that fuel their rumors (and rumors where MUCH more negative that GID-CIA cooperation for counter-terrorism; as I mentioned, people brought up the king hussein-CIA affair again, some assuming “conspiracies”, etc).

    @hatem: sure, no one would dispute the right, and often the need, for a government to withhold certain information. Point is, this time, withholding information has damaged the Jordanian government, not helped it, and I don’t tihnk it was necessary to begin with. We’re not talking about revealing the inner workings or anything, just reveal the elementary information that has already been revealed by other sources, that in no way can harm security/strategy. In other words, the Jordanian government would have benefited more if they revealed more information, were more open, etc. Besides, I don’t think its a matter of being a dissatisfied citizen; I’m a very satisfied citizen in most aspects; but I get disappointed when the image of the government is tarnished unnecessarily, and I get especially disappointed when the reason for such tarnishing *is* the government itself; and I only mention it because I want to see that change.

  • here’s my deepest thought:

    here it goes: terrorism bla bla bla.. that was it!

    jordan has institutions fully funded by Balwi’s target.. the government needs the money..

    in the seventies one head of intelligence said: we have a ****, and we have the secret service, why would we possibly need a people.

    nationhood, identity and society are not confronted as they are not needed, the information around what is going on is very easy to obtain throught the all types of media, but the people are retired, as is the government, and in retirement you seek a comfortable life with no strings (nation) attached.. welcome to the island life, you got the money you get the beach.. you got the info you better dissolve into solid matter to become a building, one you have to pay taxes on and feed the hungry government.

    i would recommend a mass move, a positive diaspora and productive displacement of all those living withtin the borders of this buffer zone, stop hassling the government!

    freedom of speech.. pffff… we are masters of sarcasm as truth is as slippery as a meanings of justice to be grasped in pornographic oil wrestling..

    thailand is nice i heard.. see you there..

  • eyas,

    You are a satisfied citizen because you are attending MIT. How many other Jordanians you know of attending MIT?! I’m not jealous or anything but not too many people Jordanians or otherwise get to attend MIT. I’m proud of you & of all the other jordanians that make it big time. I wish you the best.

  • Ouch. Well stated, certainly the last image anyone on this earth needs to take a role model in how to enourage its citizenry is post-911 America. The full extent of the damage that W did to America has yet to be counted. Well stated…

Your Two Piasters: