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Trijicon, The Bible, And Huge-A** Headache (Or, When Wrongs Collide)

| 36 Comments

Update:
The Wixom company under fire for putting tiny references to Bible verses on gun sights sold to the U.S. military, announced today it will drop the inscriptions on future arms shipments and offer kits to help the military remove codes on sights in the hands of troops.

Trijicon Inc., responding to an uproar in the United States and abroad, said it has voluntarily decided to drop the inscriptions on all of its products made for the Defense Department. It will also supply the Pentagon with 100 "modification kits" to allow for the removal of the codes.
So the story broke yesterday that Trijicon, makers of the excellent line of ACOG firearms sights is embossing the codes for Bible verses on the sights along with the model number and serial number.

A friend of mine checked his Army-surplus Trijicon and conformed this to me (not all that necessary, because in the ABC stories that broke this, the manufacturer apparently confirms it):
Trijicon confirmed to ABCNews.com that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions "have always been there" and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them.
The usual suspects are having heart attacks over this:
who would jesus kill?

via oliver willis, we find an american munitions company that is secretly inscribing coded biblical quotations on their weapons sold to the u.s. military for use in the middle east...
And I'm feeling very, very sorry for some poor SOB in the Pentagon tonight who is drawing up contingency plans to replace or modify a whole shedload of delicate, technologically advanced weapons sights.

So where do I stand on this? On one hand, I'm annoyed at Trijicon for doing this - they're devout, but not stupid - and they had to know that this would be a significant issue. They have every right to print anything they want on their products, including the unexpurgated text of 'Ulysses' but the folks purchasing them have the right to demand that they be 'Ulysses'-free.

I'm annoyed at the folks in the procurement process who didn't catch this and deal with it.

I'm going to be incredibly annoyed at the pure-heart activists who are going to demand - DEMAND - that we recall every ACOG in service IMMEDIATELY. Because G** forbid we offend people before we shoot them.

The sights are really good ones. There are meaningful options - Aimpoint and Elcan make great optics (Biggest Guy has an Elcan optic on his M249 SAW). But the overwhelming majority of the optics I've seen in contemporary military use are ACOGS - and for good reason, they're great sights.

I really will hate to see some kind of fire drill resulting from this that will put our troops at risk. And I'll say that acknowledging that the real reason I'm annoyed at Trijicon (and the reason I may have just switched my purchase decision on an optic for my M1A to Aimpoint) is that by doing this, they have put US troops at risk. There's no good answer here, except to give a solid attention slap to the procurement officers who had to know about this and let it pass.

My head hurts...
-

36 Comments

What if the sites are quite effective because of the bible verse? I love correlation and i won't hear a word against it!

Oh My Gawwwwd! Please say they didn't do this to LEO weapons, too. Our budget can't handle it.

Propaganda is a powerful weapon and this is the kind of thing that could be used to gain more support for the terrorists and recruit martyrs. Stupid!

I think being generally annoyed at everyone involved is an appropriate response.

If there's a way to cheaply sand the messages off without degrading the optics, that's probably what will be done-- I'm not so worried about offending someone before we shoot him, but I am annoyed that a private company made mockery of the separation of Church and State.

Isn't the idea of the sight to shoot the son of a bitch before he gets close enough to decipher the embossing on your weapon?

Gosh, I sure hope Hitler wasn't offended by that stuff that B-17 crews used to paint on their bombs.

I will argue with their choice of verse. It should be 1S17:46 -
This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

Isn't the idea of the sight to shoot the son of a bitch before he gets close enough to decipher the embossing on your weapon?

Not if he is your interpreter, cook, member of local council, etc. Unbelievably stupid.

Get bent, Andrew. Your bad attitude might cause me to become a terrorist.

I say, let all the poisons hatch out of the mud. They need no excuse to do so.

One might encourage people such as Marcus to actually read the first amendment which forbids Congress from establishing a state religion or forbidding free expressions thereof.

Did Congress or any agent of the government order this particular inscription? Nope.

Is this a free expression of religion? Yep.

Case closed.

Jerry: Look up the Lemon test. The rifles fail as preferring one religion over another.

Glen: Go back to your video game.

Religion is of huge importance to believers. The weapon is of huge importance to the soldier. Not all of the soldiers are Christian. If the company producing the sights put "ASTAGHFIRULLAH" on them instead of a bible verse, would you be defending this action or would you be outraged?

"If the company producing the sights put "ASTAGHFIRULLAH" on them instead of a bible verse, would you be defending this action or would you be outraged?"

Neither, first because it would be a passing note on some obscure blog and i'd never have heard of it instead of a featured story on ABC. Second because if that's the most outrageous thing i have to freak out about today, i'm living with my head under a rock.

Its not a bible verse, its a code listed like a serial number. You'd really have to give a crap to even know what it was, much less work your dander up and get offended by it.

Have them filed off and lets move on. This isn't exactly painting uniforms with a giant cross across the front.

Andrew, there is no government action here. Private contractors have added coded references to biblical verses to the ends of serial numbers. The government didn't ask them to do it, and says it didn't know it was done. Obviously there had to have been a detailed procurement process that will likely show no mention or reference to "Bible Codes," but to cost and performance issues. In other words, there was a religious-neutral basis for buying the sights. The use of the sights doesn't require the user to pray.

If socializing children to say "One Nation Under God" passes the Lemon Test, or government funding of religious charities passes the test, I can't see how secret codes installed by private parties wouldn't.

This isn't about rights. An off duty cop has every right to express whatever views he likes. But would you really tolerate a police department issuing weapons with "I hate Black People" engraved on them? Would that be a 1st Amendment issue? Hell no. Trijicon has every right to put just about whatever they want on their products. But for these to be issued to troops deployed to some of the most intellectually backward, and religiously sensitive and violent places on earth, is idiotic. The protection of The Bill of Rights ends at the borders.

If the company producing the sights put "ASTAGHFIRULLAH" on them instead of a bible verse, would you be defending this action or would you be outraged?

What if the Taliban inscribed Koranic verses on their weapons? Or something really outrageous, like "PALIN 2012"?

Would we recruit 50,000 Marines and redouble our efforts against the enemy? Why not? Because we're rational human beings, and those other people are - what?

Personally, I've got no problem at all with this. As to those who aver that having "JN8:12" on a gun sight is "...literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of a gun against the people that we're fighting" I say f**k'em if they can't take a joke.

To insist that having a coded reference to a New Testament Biblical verse in little, tiny letters mixed in with the serial number on a not-commonly used piece of military equipment equates to proslytizing is idiocy. First, the enemy is the enemy and I don't care a hoot about what they might think -- kill'em and let God sort'em out. Second, for this enemy -- or a local friendly, for that matter -- to figure out the message they'd have to

1. get hold of one of the sights
2. look for the serial number
3. be able to actually read the serial number
4. recognize that "JN8:12" is a Biblical reference and not just more serial number
5. get hold of a New Testament (the ownership of which is a death sentence)
6. figure out that "JN" means "John" and not "Jane" or "Janus" or "John Jacob Jingleheimer Smit"
7. look up the quote and get someone to translate it into Arabic
8. figure out they should be offended

Stupid.

Of course, our internal enemies have already done most of that for our external enemies, haven't they?

"First, the enemy is the enemy and I don't care a hoot about what they might think -- kill'em and let God sort'em out."

Ummm, what about the non-christian who might be carrying the weapon? Do you care what he or she may think? Or do you assume that they are uneducated savages also? Or that they don't have a belief system worth respecting?

It seems to me that putting coded bible verses on our weaponry creates the impression that we, the USA, are sending a christian army oversees to fight, rather than a secular army oversees to establish democracy. As a purely practical matter, given the overall context and conditions of our military ventures at the moment, that is probably not an impression we want to create.

There's a lot of propaganda out there that we are in a war against islam. This isn't going to help any and we need all the help we can get.

"It seems to me that putting coded bible verses on our weaponry creates the impression that we, the USA, are sending a christian army oversees to fight, rather than a secular army oversees to establish democracy."

"Putting" is an active verb, which implies intent. It happened. It can be fixed in a matter of days for zero dollars. Instead, its probably going to cost millions because we just have to recall all of these things and beat them into plow shares and then cast them into the deepest trench in the world in a carbon neutral hemp shroud while wearing copious amounts of sack cloth and ashes.

And in the end it won't make a damn bit of difference whether we file them off, bury them, or just ignore them, because Glen is absolutely correct, nobody actually straps dynamite to their body because of this kind of nonsense, and we're treating both ourselves, or allies, and our enemies as dolts by suggesting it really matters outside of talking head circles. This story will undoubtedly draw more hand wringing in our college campuses than any Madrasah in the world.

I'll call BS on a few things being claimed here.

The first is that "no one would have known if it wasn't for those pesky activists" - that's like blaming my next door-neighbor for telling my wife that I had Uma Thurman over last night. Which one's the problem? My neighbor tattling - or my sleeping around? (note to the audience: my wife says that in the case of Uma, I get a hall pass, so in this case it may not be the best example...)

Security through obscurity isn't really a very good policy in almost any case, and that what RDO and Glen are suggesting.

The second is "oh, that doesn't really matter, they hate us anyway" which is equally bullshit. Anyone and everyone who studies this says that our biggest screwup is public diplomacy - is the messaging we're sending out along with the good we do and bad guys we put underground. Hint: this is bad messaging, very damn bad messaging.

We're supposed to convince them to come over to our side, aren't we?

Marc

This Robert Kaplan piece is probably worth considering for context:

"Today is Palm Sunday," he began. "The day of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where he broke the bounds of Hell. Tonight commences your triumphal entry into Fallujah, a place in the bounds of Hell. This is a spiritual battle, and you Marines are the tools of mercy." As Hall invoked the Holy Spirit, the Marines all dropped to one knee and bowed their heads, removing their bush or field caps as they did so.

After more than a year of travel with the U.S. military I had become accustomed to such sermons. For young men living in austere conditions, going out daily to risk their lives, morale is based not on polite subtleties but on a stark belief in their own righteousness, and in the iniquity of the enemy. The spirit of the U.S. military is fiercely evangelical, even as it is fiercely ecumenical. Although both kosher and halal MREs are provided, and soldiers and Marines of all races, religions, and regions of the country are welcomed into the ranks, the fact is that not all races, religions, and regional types join up in equal numbers. So it is that the martial evangelicalism of the South and the Bible Belt gives the military its true religious soul, along with its compassion for innocent civilians—a phenomenon I had seen in Afghanistan, the Philippines, and other places, and would see again in Fallujah.

The coded verses seem like small beer compared to the overt expressions of religiosity, or if you prefer superstition, that accompany war.

Mark B.,

I haven't heard anyone suggest that this will increase the number of suicide terrorists. But if you are a soldier in rural Afghanistan trying to get some information from a group of locals, you probably would prefer they didn't think of you as someone with coded bible messages on your riffle. We're trying to win a lot of people's trust. People that don't necessarily think the way you and Glen think. Their views are important and do/will have an impact on our success. It's how they might react to this that makes it a potential problem. There are enough difficulties to overcome as it is. We don't need more.

I'm not sure it is a large enough problem to justify the expense of fixing at this point. I would advocate stopping the practice, however, going forward.

"But if you are a soldier in rural Afghanistan trying to get some information from a group of locals, you probably would prefer they didn't think of you as someone with coded bible messages on your riffle."

And how could they possibly ever know that fact? Particularly given their daily diet of myths about jews baking childrens blood into bread and no doubt americans burning prisoners alive. If the bad guys don't have an axe to grind, they invent one. If we spend our lives trying to chase down everything that might offend jihadis, we're doomed, and if there is one lesson we've drawn from this conflict to date, it is just that. They are called 'justifications' for a reason.

But I do agree there is certainly no reason to keep producing these, nor not to order them filed off.

Should we forbid our troops from having bibles with their personal effects? Should we ban chaplains from sensitive deployments?

I really think this is one of those areas where the people on the ground would be dumbfounded about our concern over this kind of thing. And AL, I disagree- indeed, a lot of other nations feel disrespected by American and Western hubris over the years, but in a way this is the same kind of disrespect. I'm not sure why a deeply religious Afghani would be disturbed or even surprised to learn of something like this. When an imam invokes jihad on a daily basis, this is rather... well amateurish by comparison. I think this is very much OUR sensibility being called into question, not any muslims. And of course once again projecting our sensibilities onto them, which is supposedly what has been hurting us.

And how could they possibly ever know that fact?

I guess I am assuming they read WoC.

But I think you and I are talking about two different groups of people. You are talking about jihadis or potential jihadis. I was talking about all the millions of muslims who are neither, but who might be more or less inclined to help our project depending on their opinion of our ability and our intentions. I believe it is in our interests that people in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan do not believe we are at war with Islam. Using weapons with coded Bible verses doesn't help our cause.

A.L.:
We're supposed to convince them to come over to our side, aren't we?

Who are we convincing to come to our side? I take it that we are not hoping that al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives will desert to us. If so, religious proselytizing in hopes of converting them would be not just our best hope, it would be our only hope. Europe ended centuries of Viking terror only by converting them to Christianity, after all. (Whether proselytizing is more shocking to them, or to us, is a real toss-up.)

So we're talking about Muslims who see both our side and the jihadist side as viable choices. I don't need to remind you that our side includes the lawfully constituted governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, recognized as such by the UN.

Let's recall the propaganda that we've been aiming at our own heads for 8 years. We've been insisting that real Muslims want nothing to do with Islamist terror. Real Muslims, in fact, countenance Christianity, and even Judaism. They regard Jesus Christ as a great prophet, and would not offended by expressions referring to him.

There are some actual grains of truth in some of this, but it's so mixed up with politically correct bullshit that we can no longer tell the difference between what we want them to believe and what we want ourselves to believe. On the one hand we insist that "militant extremists" are miles removed from real Muslims, and on the other we claim that the separation is so thin we don't even dare breathe too hard.

We are deeply confused, and our enemies are not. Maybe that's why they respected that crusading imperialist Richard the Lion-Hearted, but they don't respect us.

"You are talking about jihadis or potential jihadis. I was talking about all the millions of muslims who are neither"

Actually I think I am talking about them, and I think its not a certainty that this would offend them. Obviously some will be offended (out of a billion, not much you can do that doesn't offend a given 50 million). My point is that this could well be an example of us projecting our values and assumption onto those exact people.

Not only is the argument that mixing religion and a warrior is automatically offensive (which I am willing to bet isnt the case, particularly in Afghanistan), but the idea that the idea that they can't handle it even if it is offensive. Thats treating them rather childishly, as well as playing on the field the extremists insist we are playing on.

In other words- instead of chalking this up to a mistake and making the change because this isn't the message WE, our culture, want to send, instead we are going to apologize profusely and assure these folks that the barbaric idea of a devout warrior has no place in our universe.... not that there's anything wrong with that. Its a weird, condescending message.

Mark B.,

For heaven's sake, as it were. I'm not arguing that "they" can't handle it, or that "they" will be offended. You can't deny that there is a great deal of suspicion on the part of muslims about the true intentions and motives of the US in sending troops to the ME and Afghanistan. That suspicion is something we try to overcome -- for all kinds of obvious reasons -- and this episode, however small, won't help. If you are tying to win someone's trust, it isn't wise to play into their suspicions.

Frankly, while you claim you believe it's a mistake and you don't favor continuing the practice, I don't see anything in your comments so far to suggest why you think so. You seem rather to think it's a perfectly reasonable and acceptable thing to do. So let me ask you, why do you think it was a mistake, and how do your reasons differ in any way from what I've written?

I don't need to remind you that our side includes the lawfully constituted governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, recognized as such by the UN.

We certainly do seem to be losing a framing issue. It seems to be conventional wisdom these days that we are killing Muslims; no sense of what a COIN operation is about.

Is it time to concede that Obama is no better than Bush II in using the pulpit to preach the nature of the mission: to save Muslims? Or perhaps worse, Bush II was actually just engaged in denying space to terrorists, no COIN intended.

Using the word of God to stop a life God created.

Who is the evil now?

See the evil.

God does not kill.

Brainwashed humans do.

"You can't deny that there is a great deal of suspicion on the part of muslims about the true intentions and motives of the US in sending troops to the ME and Afghanistan."

No. What I can deny is that they think we are coming to impose Christianity on them, as opposed to more legitimate fears and grievances that we ignore in favor of fantasies like these.

"If you are tying to win someone's trust, it isn't wise to play into their suspicions."

You don't tread them like superstitious hicks either.

"Frankly, while you claim you believe it's a mistake and you don't favor continuing the practice, I don't see anything in your comments so far to suggest why you think so."

When did you stop beating your wife? Its a mistake because there is zero upside. It doesnt help us win the war. The only substantial way it hampers us is in how WE make an issue of it, but since we WILL make an issue of it, better to make simple corrections and move on.

"You seem rather to think it's a perfectly reasonable and acceptable thing to do. So let me ask you, why do you think it was a mistake, and how do your reasons differ in any way from what I've written?"

Because war is not life. In war, you ask young people to give up their lives for a cause (that should be) worth dying for. Hence whatever you are doing should serve the needs of winning that war. Nothing about this issue serves that need, so it should be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Its as simple as that.

Yea!!! Logic!!!

Jesallweh,

God does not kill.

So what do you do with Genesis 7:22? Or Romans 6:23 God, weather you call him Allah, Jehovah or Elohiym He does in fact take life. To suggest that He does not is to suggest that God is something other than God.

Ooopsy... sorry I forgot to code my messages: GEN7:22 or ROM6:23 RDO had it right

It might surprise people to know that in military contracting for parts and finished products, the marking and serialization style is often specified very precisely.

It might further surprise people to know that going off and adding your own markings, unless there are areas and details left to the artistic creativity of vendor, can result in parts being out of spec.

Without seeing the detailed spec in question, of course, I can't know that these parts are out of spec. But I know if I did something like that, my stuff would be out of spec. And I'd be out of a job.

Pajamas Media has a good post about this very thing. I agree with them -- there's no problem with this, legally or morally, as long as the government didn't actually request the verses to be put on there. Also, I don't see the military doing any recall on this. It'll blow over completely over the next few weeks, and you'll hear about it only very sporadically afterward. A whole lot of hub-bub over nothing.

And for the record, if I found out that some contractor that made some magazines with a reference to the koran on it, I wouldn't care either.

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/abc-raids-message-boards-to-break-a-decades-old-story/2/

Marcus V., but aren't the Trijicon sights COTS items? It would be completely different if you were manufacturing, say, door panels for Strykers.

It would still depend on the specifications.

My experience will not map directly on to this, but when we buy COTS parts, we don't just jot a part number down, we work with the vendors to specify just what that part number entails (sometimes including marking, for purposes of inspection if nothing else) so the vendor doesn't change it out from under us later. (Not even out of malice-- it just happens.)

Seems to me that if this is a great surprise to the Pentagon, the procurement system broke down somewhere because it shouldn't be a surprise. And if it isn't a great surprise to the Pentagon, the procurement system still broke down because this is a clear and present embarassment waiting for a time to happen.

It's kinda trivial to say, "Yes, we like everything about these. Please do not stamp the religious propaganda on our secular sight, and we'll take ten thousand."

This does not raise to the level of outrage in my mind, but it does raise to the groaning level of, "What the fuck were you people thinking?!"

Andrew, there is no government action here.
Except for buying and using the weapons.
This does not raise to the level of outrage in my mind, but it does raise to the groaning level of, "What the fuck were you people thinking?!"
They were thinking everyone needs to hear the Word.

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