What do they mean? With so many angles trained on Biblical gun sights, where exactly does the end of this story lie? Is a Taliban propaganda victory or US crusade the main issue? Is it the lack of awareness in the US government?
Each of these problems could negatively impact Afghanistan and anywhere else America wages war in a predominantly Muslim country, but today we’re more concerned with ourselves. Whether right or wrong in principle, America’s internal response to this mini-scandal leaves much to be desired.
Today everything seems in order. Two days after the story broke, both the Army and Marines released statements distancing themselves from the gun sights produced by Trijicon.
The army said in a statement Thursday that it was, “unaware of these coded biblical references until several days ago... It is not the policy of the Army or the Department of Defense to put religious references of any kind on its equipment.”
The Marine Corps also denied knowledge of the references and ensured, “We are making every effort to remove these markings from all of our scopes and will ensure that all future procurement of these scopes will not have these types of markings.”
But the strength of these statements was diminished after NATO, the UK, and New Zealand preempted America in denouncing the practice and calling for clean replacements. Immediately America was cast in a lesser light as the slowest to react; all, however, used the same excuse. That they were unaware of the Biblical references is extremely difficult to believe.
Trijicon admits it has imprinted Biblical verses for over 30 years. Tom Munson, Trijicon's director of sales and marketing, responded when the story initially broke, "We don't publicize this. It's not something we make a big deal out of. But when asked, we say, 'Yes, it's there.'"
He’s basically saying the US military “never asked.” Did it already know and not need to ask? Did it not care? Did it not want to know? The most harmless excuse is complete ignorance, but incompetence is a counterproductive excuse in the military. It seems impossible that the US government was unaware of these Biblical references.
Munson said the inscriptions "have always been there" and that there was nothing wrong or illegal about them. He said the issue was being raised by a group that is "not Christian."
We aren’t sure whether this statement is meant to be an insult or not, but it encapsulates the irony pervading this story: what is Christian about lying and scapegoating, or arguing Islamic militants are guilty of similar offenses? When did two wrongs make a right in the Christian world? When did ignoring one’s mistakes become faithful?
On the outside we’re told by CENTCOM commander David Petraeus, "This is of serious concern to me and to the other commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan because indeed it conveys a perception that is absolutely contrary to what it is that we have sought to do."
On the inside we’re told by Major John Redfield, CENTCOM spokesman, "The perfect parallel that I see is between the statement that's on the back of our dollar bills, which is 'In God We Trust,' and we haven't moved away from that."
Refield argues that no laws are being violated because the weapons aren’t distributed outside US military personal, even though the gun sights were given to Afghan and Iraqi security forces.
On the outside we’re told, “US officials say no one in the military leadership noticed the references.” On the inside video proof was available on YouTube since 2006, making it impossible for US commanders not to know and turning every protest and denial into a lie.
On the outside we’re told the US military has halted orders of the sights in question and requested kits to remove the numbers from existing weapons. On the inside we’re told by Stephen Bindon, Trijicon’s president, “Our decision to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate.”
Trijicon is actually trying to spin itself as sensitive and responsible when there’s nothing voluntarily about Bindon’s “decision.” His hand was forced and now he’s lying to coverup and save face. Trijicon still sees nothing wrong with its actions - valid in a vacuum, delusional in reality.
What we have is a scandal that no one is owning up to. Both the US military and Trijicon want to have their cake and eat it too. The irony is how many Christian principles this fallout seemingly violates, and that it creates a propaganda defeat not in Afghanistan, but right here at home.