U.S. optics manufacturer Trijicon has bowed to pressure to remove biblical references from their optics products, just days after the decades-old practice was sensationalized in an ABC News report that claimed the references were “secret ‘Jesus’ Bible codes” that could inflame radical Muslims who have attempted to brand wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as modern crusades since those conflicts began.
Trijicon’s Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) telescopic sight and close-combat Reflex optic are key components of the U.S. Special Operations Peculiar Modification (SOPMOD) kit adopted for the Green Beret’s M4 carbines in the late 1990s, and have since been adopted widely by other U.S. military forces and allied foreign governments. The U.S. Marine Corps currently has a $660 million multi-year contract to supply 800,000 ACOGs.
Trijicon founder Glyn Bindon had included references to biblical passages on the company’s optics from its inception (and before military adoption), and the tradition was continued after his death in 2003. Each line of optics had its own New Testament verse printed alongside the scope model number. All verses include the word “light,” a reference both to Bindon’s faith and the glowing tritium used in the company’s rifle scopes. Knowledge of the scripture notation on Trijicon products was common in the civilian shooting community no later than 2006, and posts about the practice were noted on various Internet shooting forums. The references were also known in some circles of the U.S. military, though the extent of the knowledge seems to have been limited to the operational ranks where Trijicon-enhanced small arms were actually handled.
Top brass in the U.S. Army and Marines claimed to be unaware of the references after the story broke, and their initial reactions were mixed. An Army spokesman for U.S. Central Command noted that the inscriptions were not more religious (and far less overt) than the U.S. dollars emblazoned with “In God We Trust” that Islamic nations worldwide eagerly accept. A spokesman for the U.S Marines was far more cautious, saying that they were “concerned with how this may be perceived.”
Characteristically, the Council on American Islam Relations (CAIR) was quick to attack the perceived slight, while the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) called on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to remove all Trijicon optics from combat immediately. Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC’s executive director, claimed: “All of us are concerned about the security of our nation.” He proved MPAC’s true allegiance by demanding all Trijicon optics be removed from rifles even while soldiers and Marines were relying on them in combat.
Al-Marayati seemed far more concerned about offending Muslims than doing what is best for American troops. More than one critic of these organizations noted that the same protesting groups rarely voice the same level of outrage when their coreligionists murder other Muslims in the name of Allah.
Nonetheless, allied Western military forces were quick to jump on the bandwagon to pull the optics, with New Zealand and the United Kingdom quickly capitulating to political correctness. New Zealand’s forces will not withdraw the sights from combat, but the country decided to remove the inscriptions on the optics in the field as is practical. Pressure further mounted against Trijicon when U.S. General David Petraeus criticized the company for the references.
Shortly afterward, Trijicon announced that it would cease the release of the scripture on future products, and would provide kits to remove the references from optics in the field. The issue of Bible verses on military optics now seems to be dying down, but observations of the situation from start to the presumed finish raise troubling questions about the media, the military, military suppliers, and an overeager drive for political correctness.
As noted in a previous article, Trijicon’s inscriptions are hardly a new development. They have been a part of the company’s standard practices well in advance of obtaining military contracts. In each and every instance, it appears, the optics purchased by the U.S. and allied militaries were what is known as commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products. No taxpayer dollars went into the research or development of Trijicon’s optics. They were instead funded as a private business venture.
The military forces purchasing such COTS products always have two choices. They can buy true COTS products, or they can adapt existing products to specific needs, and the modifications are typically bankrolled by the military service looking to use the modified product. In the case of Trijicon, U.S. military procurement officers had every opportunity to examine and test ACOG and Reflex optics, and we know for a fact that such tests were performed before these optics were officially adopted as part of the SOPMOD package more than a decade ago.
If the military had any questions or concerns about the meaning of the inscriptions on Trijicon’s products, or were concerned about the company’s openly faith-based culture, they should have addressed them well in advance of making them a key component of American small arms procurement. Instead, the inscriptions were an open secret for more than two decades before being publicly being cast in a bad light by a sensationalist news story that relied upon Internet message boards, an anti-religious rabble-rouser, and his single disgruntled Muslim soldier-client.
It seems a shame that the faith and pride Trijicon has in God and country been turned upon by military customers seemingly more worried about public relations and political correctness than fairness, objectivity, or the freedom of American companies to practice free speech.
At the very least, the allied militaries that hung Trijicon out to dry should have acknowledged that they made the mistake in not asking questions about a prepackaged product. Instead, they sputtered about not knowing about the biblical inscriptions and insinuated that the company may be at fault for delivering an out-of-spec product (they clearly aren’t) or violating the terms of their contract (they didn’t). The simple fact of the matter is that Trijicon delivered the exact product they were asked to deliver: a superior product that has helped allied troops keep the enemy at a distance, helped discriminate friend from foe, and often kept perpetually outraged but non-combatant Muslim civilians alive by making military small arms fire more accurate.
Though the U.S., UK, and Kiwis have bowed to political correctness from atheists and Muslims, and the Australian military is still determining how to proceed, one U.S. ally refuses to be drawn into a pointless and superficial debate. The Israeli Defense Forces are too experienced with Islamic double-standards and ideological oppression to care if terrorists and their allies are offended by references to religious texts.
If they have any complaints at all, it seems to be that the ACOGs carried by Israeli marksmen don’t come in an Old Testament version.