Friday, January 22, 2010

Guns N' Rosaries

Desert Calm by Pants

The Australian Defence Force is today engaged in an embarrassing tactical retreat over the, er, revelation that the serial numbers on some US manufactured gunsights contain embedded biblical codes. Here's an example,


The theologians amongst you will immediately recognise this as a reference to Psalms 27, verse 1 which, I am sure I need not remind you goes like this,

The lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

Well done, because it has taken the Australian military twenty years to crack this enigma. US hardware supplier Trijicon has apparently been supplementing its serial numbers with these little pulpit-pleasers for that long and more. But suddenly there's a pressing need to eliminate these product identifiers in case they should cause affront to the religious sensibilities of people whose countries ours has chosen to invade on certainly dubious and quite possibly illegal grounds. I'm guessing that should a piece of offensively marked equipment happen into the hands of an 'enemy combatant', decoding the serial number is not going to be number one on his task list. 

By chance I happened to hear a radio programme this week in which American journalist Jeff Sharlet, editor of, was talking about an American tank he saw in Afghanistan with the slogan, Jesus killed Mohammed stencilled on it. You can listen to it here. Sharlet talks about US military briefings he attended as a journalist where high-ranking chaplains openly invoke the crusader ethic. I'm thinking there may be slightly more pressing matters of religious diplomacy to deal with in these occupied zones than filing off cryptic number sequences. 

The Pentagon is also making suitably outraged pronouncements about staging reviews and violations of its codes of practice. It doesn't much matter if fundamentalist Christians are making your weapons but it does matter if they're running your armed forces.