Some Texas Republicans Are Freaking Out Over A Military Exercise Called ‘Jade Helm 15’
There must be something odd in the water in the Lone Star State, because a bizarre conspiracy theory seems to have taken root there.
Texas Republicans seem to be in the grips of a bizarre conspiracy theory involving Wal-Mart, the United States military, and a military exercise scheduled for this summer that some people seem to think is cover for a military takeover. It’s called Operation Jade Helm 15 and, it is freaking out not just the fringe right that tends to revel in conspiracy theories but also no small number of Texas politicians:
Texas residents were up in arms this week over a planned U.S. military training exercise that’s been portrayed in right-wing conspiracy theory circles as everything from a ploy to confiscate Americans’ guns to an excuse to abduct political dissidents.
The speculation reached such a fever pitch that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday asked the State Guard to monitor the exercise so that “that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”
Residents’ fears can be traced back to a “leaked” slideshow presentation that outlined the operation’s goals and logistics and made the rounds on the fringe of the conservative blogosphere. The document was posted by the conspiracy theory website All News Pipeline to the document sharing site Scribd in March under the headline “Jade Helm Martial Law WW3 Prep Document 1.” As of Thursday, it had been viewed more than 2.1 million times.
The document contained a map that labelled certain states, including Texas and Utah, as “hostile.” So it comes as no surprise that rumors about a possible military takeover would run rampant among anti-federalists and conspiracy theorists.
It’s worth noting that Brazos Valley, Texas radio station WFAW actually posted the U.S. Army’s slideshow presentation back in February when county commissioners approved the military’s request to conduct the training exercise. The document posted by WFAW varies slightly in content and length from the slideshow cited by conspiracy websites.
The training exercise is scheduled to last from July 15 to Sept. 15 in Texas and six other states, according to a release from the U.S. Army.
“The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas,” the release read. “The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise. There will also be economic gain: an increase in the local economy, in fuel and food purchases and hotel lodging.”
The military’s official statements on “Jade Helm 15” have done little to quiet anti-government fear-mongering, though. Here are the wildest rumors about the training exercise that are floating around the fringes of the Internet.
The conspiracy theories that have been generated from this report are about what you’d expect, and they’ve largely been promulgated by people such as Alex Jones, the host of an Internet-based talk show and founder of websites such a ‘Infowars’ and “Prison Planet’ who has a long history of spreading conspiracy theories regarding everything from the September 11th attacks to the birth and citizenship of President Obama. Depending on who you ask, Jade Helm is a cover for the imposition of martial law, part of a plan to seize Americans’ guns, designed as cover for the arrest of political dissidents who will be imprisoned in camps in undisclosed locations, the means by which the government will eliminate, as in murder, people who are on some unspecified “enemies list,” or that it will coincide with a “false flag” operation such as an economic collapse or terrorist attack that will allow the Federal Government to step in and take control of troublesome states. When it was announced earlier this spring that five Wal-Marts in Texas and other states were suddenly closing for what the company described as issues related to the plumbing in each of the buildings in question, this was added into the conspiracy theory as proof that the Wal-Mart locations would be used as holding areas for the troublesome, or for some other nefarious purpose.
To a large degree, of course, much of this is standard, paranoid conspiracy nonsense that is typically relegated to the fringes of the Internet and to talk radio hosts that pretty much nobody listens to. What’s made the story of Jade Helm 15 bizarre, though, is the extent to which Texas politicians, all of them Republicans, have seemingly embraced the paranoia of their constituents. Last week, for example, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas National Guard to “monitor” the exercise and the military’s preparations, a move he is defending as a means to keep communications between the state and the military open, but which one fellow Texas Republican has described as “pandering to idiots.” Texas Senator Ted Cruz has said that he talked to the military about the operation and received assurances but still seemed to be sympathetic to the conspiracy theorists when he went on to say that the “distrust” the operation has engendered is due to the Obama Administration’s overreach. Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul praised Governor Abbott’s decision to look into the matter, and his son Kentucky Senator Rand Paul promised one supporter that he would “look into” the matter. Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, meanwhile, seems to be upset that the maps for Jade Helm label Texas as part of what would be considered “hostile” territory for purposes of the exercise. Meanwhile, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who seems to be putting together another run for the Republican Presidential nomination, appears to be trying to calm concerns among his fellow Texans by saying that, while it is good for people to question their government, there’s no reason to believe what’s being said about these military exercises, and the Texas Republican who heads the House Armed Services Committee calls the concerns “silly.”
The Pentagon, of course, is denying that there’s anything remotely resembling the truth to these conspiracy theories:
The Pentagon wants to make it clear: No one is messing with you, Texas.
Defense officials are swatting down Internet-fueled rumors about a training exercise planned for this summer in the Southwest U.S. involving four branches of the military. According to the Pentagon, the exercise — called Operation Jade Helm 15— is meant to simulate covert military operations in “hostile” territory in Texas, Utah and part of southern California.
On Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said the military is coordinating with state and local officials but according to CNN, the military took exception to that part of Abbott’s letter, adding that the operation “poses no threat to any American’s civil liberties.”
“Operation Jade Helm is being conducted by Americans – by, specifically, American special forces personnel,” Army Col. Steve Warren said.
WalMart is also denying that there is anything nefarious about its decision to suddenly close five stories in the general area where the exercise is taking place.
Of course, these denials won’t mean much of anything to the people who find truth in these types of conspiracy theories and, if anything, they are likely to reinforce their belief that there is a conspiracy. To a large degree, those people are beyond help and not worthy of consideration. What is bizarre, and somewhat troublesome, though, is the extent to which elected officials like Governor Abbott and others seem to be willing to pander to this kind of paranoid nonsense. Surely, the people who believe things like that cannot represent a majority of the people who voted for him last November, so why he feels it necessary to even give their paranoia momentary consideration is somewhat puzzling.