Everybody remember those Jesus Rifles? The rifles being used by our troops in Iraq in Afghanistan that have Bible verse inscriptions on their sights? The sights whose manufacturer, Trijicon, was going to be sending the military modification kits for to remove these inscriptions? Well, this isn't going exactly as expected.
As ABCNews.com reports, the U.S. military, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to remove the inscriptions from the sights that are in storage first, and then wait to remove them from the sights on the weapons currently in use in Iraq and Afghanistan, after the deployed units that are using them return home, a plan that completely ignores the biggest reason that the inscriptions urgently needed to be removed.
The whole Jesus rifles issue began because the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) was receiving emails and phone calls from soldiers, either already in Iraq and Afghanistan or soon to be deployed, who were worried that having Bible verse inscriptions on their weapons was a danger to the troops. While religious inscriptions on our military's weapons is certainly a constitutional issue regardless of whether those weapons are here in the U.S. or with the troops who are deployed, the primary concern with the Jesus rifles was that they are all over Iraq and Afghanistan, providing fodder for propaganda that we are crusaders fighting a holy war. These rifles are not only being used by our own troops, but are being used to train the Afghan and Iraqi forces, as the photos in my previous post clearly show. A typical example of the emails MRFF was receiving is also included in its entirety in that post.
Now, jumping forward two months to the present, MRFF is still receiving emails and phone calls about the Jesus rifles, now from deployed soldiers asking when the hell they're going to get the promised modification kits. Rather than try to describe these recent emails, I'm just going to post one of them in its entirety, as I did in my previous post.
I am a United States soldier currently deployed to Afghanistan. I am a practicing Baptist and my wife is too. My combat [sic] unit is currently engaged in major combat operations in the southern provinces of Afghanistan. I am of junior enlisted rank and my fellow soldiers (most of them to my knowledge being Christians, too) and I are at the bottom of the chain of command. Many, many native Afghan civilians and especially the Afghan military members here are well aware of the "Jesus rifles" controversy which was covered all over the place by the news services back in the middle of January of this year. It makes them very, very mad at America and our military. They constantly ask us if we are still using these "Jesus rifles". They ask us to see for themselves what is written on our gunsights. Wherever we go these same questions come up almost immediately. Not all the native Afghans ask them but enough of them do that my fellow soldiers in my company and even my battalion have asked our military chain of command about what we're supposed to say to them when asked. This has been a mess. We've been told to "shut the fuck up" and to "tell them that it's none of their damn business 'cause we're there to save them from Islam (yes, ISLAM!)". We've even been told to explain Christianity to them and use it as "an opening to enlighten them." Yes, those exact words! We all heard that there were supposed to be "100 kits" which the company that put the bible references on our gunsights were going to be sending to the military right away to "fix" the "problem". When my fellow soldiers and I have asked our chain of command about this fact, we've been told that "that was just to shut up the traitors in the media and the bleeding heart groups". Our chain of command really hates the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and blames it for all of this mess in the first place. If any of them knew that any of us were talking to the Military Religious Foundation about this problem here, it would be over for us and our families immediately. It's not just embarrassing to have these "Jesus rifles" with us but it's also a serious security threat to all of us. When we walk into an Afghan village trying to determine whether it's "friend or foe" regarding the Taliban etc. and they ask us right off the bat if we are using the "Jesus rifles" it is a VERY BAD way to start out considering our combat mission. We want the bible stuff off of our gunsights. We feel it makes us targets. We want them off now! When are we EVER going to see one of those "100 fix kits" which were supposed to be sent out? None of us here feel we can even raise the subject again with our chain of command because we risk being identified as a "problem child" and when you're fighting a war like this one here that can get you in alot of trouble; it can get you killed.
In addition to emails like the one above, MRFF has also been receiving emails from soldiers telling us that their worried parents have been asking them if their rifle sights have been fixed yet. One deployed soldier's father, a Baptist minister, recently called MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein, expressing his anger that his son is being placed in harm's way by something that could be fixed in less than 30 seconds, and telling Weinstein that he had taken it upon himself to "send the 101st fix kit over," going to a Home Depot and buying thin black duct tape to send to his son's battalion to cover up the Bible verse inscriptions on their weapons.
Judging by what Col. Doug Tamilio, who runs Project Manager Soldier Weapons, recently told the Army Times, the military apparently just doesn't get that it's the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who need these Bible verse inscriptions removed from their weapons immediately, and that the ones in storage or being used for training here in the U.S. can wait.
According to Tamilio:
"It's going to take us about a year to get the whole Army done. We've got soldiers engaged in combat; I don't want to disrupt what the soldiers are doing over there."
I guess in the meantime our troops in the war zone will just have to rely upon makeshift solutions and inventive parents sending them duct tape to fix the Jesus rifles that are right now 'disrupting' what they're doing over there.