Nobody scares me. – King Abdallah II of Jordan
When news broke that ISIS had brutally burned downed Jordanian pilot, Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, alive, King Abdullah II of Jordan was visiting in Washington, DC. He was reported to be so angered he quoted Clint Eastwood’s character in the movie Unforgiven , “I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down.” He said, “There is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn’t seen”, vowing to his people that “our response will be on the level of disaster.”
King Abdullah had been trying to negotiate the release of Kasaesbeh but ISIS was demanding the release of convicted terrorist Sajida al-Rishawi who was sentenced to death for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack that killed 60 people. After learning of the inhuman killing of Kasaesbeh, Abdullah’s s first action was to have her publicly hanged along with another al Qaida operative convicted of murder. Then he went to the home of the murdered pilot, personally consoled the family, and promised them he would avenge their son for his sacrifice.
Initial reports out of Jordan claimed that when the first flights of F-16 attack aircraft streaked over the skies of ISIS’s capital that night dropping a barrage of bombs on ISIS targets, King Abdullah II was flying the lead aircraft. Jordan has officially denied this, but many think it is true given the release of a photo showing him dressed in full military gear with an “I’m mad as hell” expression shortly before the strikes. On the way back to base, the squadron flew a Missing Man Formation over the home of the pilot’s family.
King Abdullah II is more than capable of carrying out such an attack. At 53 years of age he has spent 35 years of his life in the military. He’s a trained Cobra attack helicopter pilot, an armored warfare tank commander, a graduate of the British Military Academy, and the founder of Jordan’s Special Operations Command unit of elite counter-terrorism commandos. He’s performed hundreds of drops as a front-line paratrooper.
He graduated the UK Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, served as a Second Lieutenant of the 13/18th Royal Hussars Cavalry Regiment in Northern Ireland, flew Cobra helicopters in North Africa, became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Jordanian Third Armored Division, and then ultimately was appointed Commanding Officer of the Jordanian Special Forces in 1993. Abdullah’s forward-thinking policies and commitment to “quality over quantity” led him to completely reorganize the unit into a unit that is now universally recognized as the most over-the-top hardcore special operations unit the Arab countries have to offer. These guys are trained in counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, interrogation, and close-quarter combat in urban environments, can deploy anywhere in the Middle East at a moment’s notice, spend their summers in the USA training with Rangers and SEALs, and operate deep behind enemy lines for extended periods with little to no support. They are also believed to have agents who have infiltrated at all levels at ISIS.
So when King Abdullah II of Jordan says he’s going to “open the gates of Hell on them,” this is what he’s working with. He has vowed to fight ISIS until “we run out of fuel and bullets.”
Besides being a formidable warrior King Abdullah is an impressive figure. His wife, Queen Rania looks like a supermodel and is a progressive leader in her own right. Four beautiful children round out their family. Since taking over as king in 1999 he’s done a lot of work to grant freedom to the media, improve the economy, advance women’s rights, and build peaceful political relations with Israel. He has kept his country together despite war and revolution all around him. He is member of the Hashemite Dynasty, the traditional guardians of Mecca and Medina and has been genetically confirmed as a 41st-level direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2004 he gave the Amman Message, a speech he issued after he organized a convention for 200 Muslim clerics (both Sunni and Shia) from over 50 countries. He told his fellow Muslims they should strive for compassion, mutual respect, tolerance, acceptance and stop declaring jihad on everyone they perceive to be infidels.
King Abdullah is the epitome of a life well-lived. He once rode a Harley across California and drives a variety of awesome muscle cars and motorcycles. The most amazing bit of trivia is that he once appeared in a Star Trek: Voyager episode. His U.S. advisor arranged a surprise visit to the set for a cameo role as a non-credited extra as a human science officer. The then 34-year old Abdullah enthused, “I would have been thrilled just to visit the set but this is too much.” He is a majority owner of a Star Trek theme park in the Jordan city Aqaba that will open in 2017.
Abdullah collects ancient military weaponry, takes princesses skydiving in his spare time, has won a couple of international Rally Car races and is an author. The most endearing quality of this warrior king with a chest full of well-deserved medals is his unpretentiousness. In a time when world leaders demand to be treated like royalty, this true royal drives his own cars instead of using a chauffeur. In 2013, during a rare Middle East cold snap in Amman he helped push a car stuck in deep snow on a street.
King Abdullah II stands as a leader that most countries long for; strong, ready to fight for his country and someone whose actions back up his rhetoric. He looks to the future and moves his country forward to a more progressive nation. Yet he is a man of compassion who truly cares for humanity. Jordan is not perfect and has a way to go before it is a country where women have equal rights, but it is rated number one in 19 Arab countries in democratic reforms.
As an American, I look to his example of bravery and resolve and wish we had the same leadership. We have a president who was elected on words of hope and change, and while I admit we have changed as a country under his leadership, it has not been for the better. Our leadership branch is rife with bipartisanship that hobbles any meaningful progression for us as a nation. The current administration’s hesitant foreign policy has left us ridiculed and weak in the world’s eyes. We don’t need or want a king, but we do crave leadership, something we haven’t had in a long time.