by Kim Petersen
March 13, 2003
Like columnist Firas Al-Atraqchi I am also an avid viewer of Star Trek (1) although I wouldn’t label myself a Trekkie. We share something in common with a diminutive Middle Eastern ruler. King Abdullah of Jordan is also an acknowledged fan of Star Trek. In fact the King is one up on Mr. Firas and I in that he even had a cameo on Star Trek: Voyager in 1995. He played a medical officer who had a brief dialogue with Ensign Kim.
Ostensibly the Star Trek philosophy of originator Gene Roddenberry hasn’t had a profound effect on Mr. Abdullah. He really has lost sight of the significance of the character Uhuru. Freedom, huriya in Arabic, is rather limited in Jordan. Don’t expect in Jordan to have the freedom to elect your own Head of State, Prime Minister, or Senator. Don’t expect freedom of the press. Don’t expect the freedom to dissent. There are protests but only when the oligarchs give their blessing.
In fact there are no Uhurus in Jordan. Jordan is staunchly a patriarchy.
Unlike Roddenberry’s peaceful future on Earth, King Abdullah, currently sandwiched between two genocides, may soon find himself trapped between two wars.
After stating repeatedly that no US forces would be allowed on its sand, Jordan through its Prime Minister Ali Abu al-Rahgeb finally confessed that it had opened its air space to the US and that American troops were in Jordan. American chequebook diplomacy works again. Jordan, however, plays down the presence of US forces and claims they are only there for defensive purposes. Fortunately Mr. Abdullah doesn’t have to worry about his token parliament nixing any deal the way Turkish democracy did. Jordan has openly taken sides.
King Abdullah hasn’t forgotten the price Jordan was made to pay following the initial US-led onslaught on Iraq in 1991. The populace was swept away by Palestinian sentiment and Arab nationalism and Mr. Abdullah’s father King Hussein steered a neutral course. For this he was openly scorned and punished by the US.
The war drums are beating louder in Iraq. In the Occupied Territories chaos and violence reign. There is the fear that the war criminal known as Israeli Prime Minister Sharon will abuse the war in Iraq to ethnically cleanse the remaining Arabs. Jordan could very well be deluged with refugees on both sides. This is at a time when its own economy is under pressure from missing tourism revenues.
Mr. Abdullah has a split constituency. A sizeable chunk of the populace is Palestinian. Mr. Abdullah truly is between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Mr. Abdullah must be keenly aware of events transpiring in his Kingdom. Moreover, despite what is obviously, for the average Arab, tendentious support of Israel by the US, Jordan relies on its relationship with the US.
In the most recent installment of the Star Trek motion picture series, Nemesis, the theme was “peace.” US President Bush despite ingenuous rhetoric to the contrary is pursuing the path of war. In a further blow to any ideological pretence to the Roddenberry vision that Mr. Abdullah might profess, he is seen as a potential beneficiary of the war. It has been suggested that Abdullah might wind up with an expanded Kingdom: a change imposed from outside.
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Firas Al-Atraqchi, “Iraq and Gene Roddenberry,” YellowTimes.org, Tuesday, March 04, 2003: http://yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=1117