Update: Trijicon has announced it will no longer continue this dangerous practice, following the backlash from several prominent military agencies here in the US and internationally. Impressively, “Gen. David Petraeus, who commands CentCom, which oversees U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, told a D.C. thinktank that the company’s practice was “disturbing… and a serious concern for me” and field commanders.”
As news savvy people, you’re all probably aware of this recent story broken by the MRFF; The weapons manufacturer Trijicon has been selling the United States military scopes stamped with verse citations from the New Testament.
Now to most people this is probably a pretty small deal. They are little tiny embossed numbers that no one beyond the owner of the rifle is ever going to see. The question of Constitutionality, given that these are biblical passages being purchased by the US Military is certainly important on principle, but to most the actual effect of these little numbers seems like it would be very small. A lot of people, Skeptics included are think Mikey Weinstein is being over-zealous when he claims “This is probably the best example of violation of the separation of church and state in this country. It’s literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of a gun against the people that we’re fighting. We’re emboldening an enemy.”
The problem is, he’s right. Creationism in schools poses a major long term problem with regards to our nations ability to produce bright educated trustworthy scientists and inventors, but these scopes put peoples lives in immediate danger.
To understand this, you need to understand the mind of the religious terrorist and there is no more qualified a person to turn to than Jessica Stern, Academic Director of the Program on Terrorism and the Law at Harvard. Her insights into the motivations and beliefs of the religious terrorist are among the most respected in the world. Among the primary motivations behind terrorist activities are two psychological features.
According to Stern the first feature is alienation where “…leaders develop a story about imminent danger to an “in group,” foster group identity, dehumanize the group’s purported enemies and encourage the creation of a “killer self” capable of murdering large numbers of innocent people.” When you hear of people denouncing America (or Britain) as the “Great Satan”, this is what they are doing. The second fundamental aspect of religious terrorist psychology is humiliation whether “real or perceived”. The entire history of the middle-east is wracked with humiliating defeats, losses of national pride, coups, loss of homes, loved ones. The continuous cycle of violence that plagues the area is the manifestation of these two ancient emotions mixed with religious philosophy and outsider meddling. These feelings of humiliation and loss, fear and hatred, allow people to..
take on new identities as martyrs on behalf of a spiritual cause. The spiritually perplexed learn to focus on action. The weak become strong. The selfish become altruists, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the belief that their deaths will serve the public good. Rage turns to conviction. What seems to happen is that they enter a kind of trance, where the world is divided neatly between good and evil, victim and oppressor. Uncertainty and ambivalence, always painful to experience, are banished. There is no room for the other side’s point of view. Because they believe their cause is just, and because the population they hope to protect is purportedly so deprived, abused and helpless, they persuade themselves that any action – even a heinous crime -is justified. They know they are right, not just politically, but morally. They believe that God is on their side.
Now take all of this information and couple it with a war that is continuously being viewed as a religious struggle by extremists on both sides, and what you’ve got is the perfect recruiting tool, specially designed to appeal to the mujaheed recruiter or the young boy raised in a Hezbollah school where extremist Jihadist indoctrination can replace legitimate education. “The American president may say their country ‘is not and never will be at war with Islam’ but he lies. The Great Satan, the trickster see here he puts his false god on his weapons, the weapon which killed your brother. Let us show these filth what the True religion can do.”
By putting religious references on our weapons, no matter how small or unassuming they are, we send a message that directly feeds in the fear of Other that extremists prey upon for their recruitment. It feeds into the humiliation with the tacit assumption that the Christian savior is superior to the Muslim prophet and it puts a perceived lie to our national agenda. This can only strengthen the obstinate will of those we are trying to reach and that kills people. Thankfully, while many citizens may not fully understand this (as surmised by the many comments and emails read in regards to this story) the countries involved with Trijicon have taken notice. So far New Zealand and Britain have threatened to cut off dealings with the company unless the offending engravings are removed and the American military is investigating similar action.
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