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.

Jade Helm MapJade Helm Map

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.

FILED UNDER: US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rafer Janders says:

    Texas Republicans seem to be in the grips of a bizarre conspiracy theory

    Stop right there.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Surely, the people who believe things like that cannot represent a majority of the people who voted for him last November,

    Oh, sure they can. Texas Republicans who believe in Capitalist Jesus, Gay Satan and Muslim Obama? What kind of mental architecture do you imagine people like that have? There’s literally nothing too stupid for a Texas Republican to believe.

  3. Scott says:

    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.

    This is exactly right. Is it too much to expect our elected officials to be grownups? As far as I’m concerned, any pandering to these people disqualifies our officials for office. Our junior Senator sinks lower and lower. And he expects to be President. I don’t think so.

  4. Mikey says:

    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.

    The morons may not be a majority, but it’s obvious there are enough of them to make a difference or these politicians wouldn’t be paying attention.

    To the larger point of this exercise: the military conducts Jade Helm and similar training events in the Southwest because the climate and terrain are similar to areas of the world within which we might be expected to conduct actual operations, but the Southwest is much less expensive to get to, logistically simpler, and a whole lot safer.

  5. Rafer Janders says:

    Surely, the people who believe things like that cannot represent a majority of the people who voted for him last November,

    First, they certainly can (and certainly in the case of primary as opposed to general election voters). Second, don’t call me Surely.

    so why he feels it necessary to even give their paranoia momentary consideration is somewhat puzzling.

    Why? Because they’re riding the tiger. The GOP, and the Texas GOP in particular, has spent the last 30-40 years indulging the most paranoid, mean-spirited and delusional wing of their voters, to the point where these people are now largely the base of their party. Why is it puzzling that a politician feels it necessary to indulge the paranoid if the paranoid are those who keep him in power?

  6. Jim Henley says:

    Now I’m curious which dissidents were rounded up in Jade Helms 1 through 14.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Jim Henley:
    All the sane people?

  8. DrDaveT says:

    Jeez, don’t these people know that the real Top Seekrit federal plot is to cut Texas loose so that it can stop sucking down funds from the rest of the US and become a buffer zone between America and Mexico —

    Oops. I’ve said too much…

  9. @michael reynolds:

    Then what does that say for the rest of us?

  10. Tony W says:

    Six months from now when everything is still normal and these nutjobs are proven wrong, I guarantee that they will say it’s because of their vigilance that we’re still here.

    It’s like going on a tiger hunt in downtown Los Angeles. “Wait, that’s stupid, there are no tigers roaming the streets of Los Angeles!”

  11. Modulo Myself says:

    @Jim Henley:

    Jade Helms 1-14 will be done later. They’re prequels. All of the fans are going to hate them.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    It’s really easy to laugh at this. I have been for days.
    But the sad truth is that these people…Gohmert, Cruz, Rand Paul…are actually involved in our Government. And others like Alex Jones and Chuck Norris and Ron Paul are influencing the opinions of Republicans and the Tea Baggers.
    I promise you a troll will be along any minute to claim this is all true.
    Not funny.

  13. Outgroup says:

    Is there really much news here? As a Washington Post article explains, Abbott merely sent the State Guard (not the National Guard) to observe the military maneuvers.

    The Washington Post story also explains why, for safety reasons, it’s a good idea for state officials to know about and keep tabs on these exercises:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/04/29/as-conspiracy-theories-persist-governor-asks-texas-state-guard-to-monitor-militarys-operation-jade-helm-15/

    Properly handled, the exercises might be an economic boon to some communities.

  14. Blue Galangal says:

    If Obama really wanted to troll Texas hard, he could start making noises about closing the 15 federal installations in Texas and moving them elsewhere. That would be kind of hilarious, except for the absolute lack of self awareness the right wing displays these days. (E.g., “Federal spending is bad… except on military bases in our state!)

  15. Scott says:

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas National Guard

    BTW, this is not exactly true. The Governor ordered the State Guard to monitor the situation. Different organization from the Texas Air and Army National Guard. The National Guards can be Federalized and deployed but the State Guard is an organized state militia and operates only within Texas.

    I don’t know much about the State Guard’s reputation but what I have heard, it is not positive. As in, they shouldn’t run with scissors.

  16. appleannie says:

    A poster that I spar with infrequently on another site (because of his sources) links exclusively to conspiracy sites like Infowars and Prison Planet. He believes everything there that he reads. He’s a retired Texas schoolteacher. Happily for me as a native, I know a lot more teachers who are sane…

  17. al-Ameda says:

    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.

    Three observations:

    (1) It’s not “somewhat puzzling” at all, it’s business as usual in the Republican Party since Obama was inaugurated in January 2009.

    (2) Apparently, “wisdom of the people” notwithstanding, America is in fact poised to turn the entire Federal Government over to these (Republican Party) people.

    (3) Operation “Jade Helm 15”? Sounds like the name of a stripper who has been hired to run the hospitality table at the 2016 Republican Convention.

  18. Mu says:

    It’s a trap! Really, this exercise is set up to get Texas to secede and call for Mexican troops to help. Which will then be used as a pretext to conquer Mexico and absorb its northern states. They’re clever, these Illuminati.

  19. Tyrell says:

    When this first started getting a lot of talk and attention back in March, I admit that I was intrigued and interested. But then a lot of the stuff people were saying got weirder and weirder. And it is not like it is any secret: the information is right there on the military websites. These exercises have carried out before, but this one seems to be much larger. And a few years ago there was the incidents of helicopter landings and black helicopters flying over. In those cases the officials and residents had not been informed. But with J H 15 everyone knows about it. As one official put it, if the people actually notice anything going on, then they aren’t doing their mission right.
    They have done these sort of exercises before in North Carolina and a few other states with no problem.
    I will be disappointed if I don’t get to see some black ops choppers and some men in black roaming around.
    Check out You Tube: tons of talk on there about it.

  20. stonetools says:

    Once you embrace the crazy, you have to embrace the crazy all the way.All the good work William F Buckley did to disentangle the conservative movement from the right wing crazy has been undone, and Texas merely the clearest example that the conservative and right wing crazy have re-merged.

  21. Pete S says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Seriously, it suggests that there are not enough of you to pander to….

  22. Michael says:

    I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in Texas and it occurred to me that we should give Governor Abbott the benefit of doubt. His biggest fear is that a jeep full of Army soldiers is going to be driving through some West Texas town and somebody is going to start shooting at them.

  23. stonetools says:

    Given the continued tilt of the most important state Republican party to the crazy and extreme, we might have to reconsider the conventional inside the Beltway wisdom that the establishment candidate (JEB Bush) will inevitably win the Presidential nomination. I think we have to start considering seriously the possibility that the candidates who we consider are only in it for the grift (like Ted Cruz) just might win.

    That might present our “moderates” and “independents” here with a stark choice. Can they really risk a President Ted Cruz? Or will they vote for the sane Democratic Party candidate? It might come to that

  24. Nikki says:

    @Michael:

    His biggest fear is that a jeep full of Army soldiers is going to be driving through some West Texas town and somebody is going to start shooting at them.

    If that were true, then wouldn’t it have behooved him to shut all that crazy talk down instead of actively encouraging it?

  25. Nikki says:

    @stonetools: From your lips to dog’s ears!

  26. J-Dub says:

    I just got off the phone with a friend of mine at FEMA. They have been steadily increasing the flouride in the drinking supply in Texas in the leadup to JH15. I personally witnessed transport planes and fighter jets flying over my house in what appeared to be the direction of TX. Believe it people, the day of reckoning is upon us. Dig your bunker, stock up on canned goods, and order your AR-15 now before its too late!

  27. Pete S says:

    The funny part is that any other time Walmart shut 5 stores to screw over the employees you would expect Texas GOP voters to think it was a good thing. But even that is now part of the conspiracy!

    Any Texas politician who is too cowardly to tell the morons who believe this nonsense to sleep it off needs to be voted out at the earliest opportunity. Low turnout is no excuse – the intelligence of a voter who allows these cowards to be re-elected through their own apathy needs to be questioned as well.

  28. J-Dub says:

    @Pete S:

    Yeah, it seems the truth could be that the workers at those stores were fighting for better working conditions so Wal-Mart shut them down.

    http://fortune.com/2015/04/20/walmart-store-closings-plumbing/

  29. Tillman says:

    @Nikki: Considering he got voted governor there, I’m going to assume he knows his voting public better than we do. “Mollifying the crazy with symbolic gestures” is probably more effective in his estimation than “tell the crazy they’re wrong.” Especially when most of those crazy have guns.

  30. grumpy realist says:

    @stonetools: What surprises me is that we aren’t seeing equivalent nuttiness on the left. The right has the “black helicopter crowd/the Illuminati have planted radio receivers in my teeth”; the left has….?

    Unless we’re talking about the complete stoners who do nothing put play guitar, blow smoke rings with whatever they’re smoking, and stare at mandalas all day.

    Maybe PETA? Or the Occupy crowd?

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Get over it Texas. Nobody wants you to begin with.

  32. J-Dub says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The left has anti-vaxxers.

  33. Mikey says:

    @Pete S:

    The funny part is that any other time Walmart shut 5 stores to screw over the employees you would expect Texas GOP voters to think it was a good thing. But even that is now part of the conspiracy!

    The REALLY funny part is how many of them think it should take some form of trickery to get a bunch of Texans into a Walmart to begin with.

  34. Franklin says:

    @J-Dub: Anti-vax is a nonpartisan issue. This has been discussed here before. But it might be true that left anti-vaxxers (yuck – chemicals!) and right anti-vaxxers (yuck – communism!) have different reasons for their paranoia.

    EDIT: https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/the-anti-vaccination-thing/

  35. Rafer Janders says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Maybe PETA? Or the Occupy crowd?

    The key difference, of course, is that the loonies on the right are catered to and courted by their most prominent poliicians, including sitting governors, senators and congressmen. The loonies on the left are largel ignored and marginalized.

  36. Rafer Janders says:

    @J-Dub:

    The left has anti-vaxxers.

    Well, first, anti-vaccination occurs both on the left and the rigt. Second, there are no prominent Democratic anti-vaccination politicians — in fact, most prominent Democrats are solidly and louldy pro-vaccination.

  37. Hal_10000 says:

    Military exercises have frequently provoked this kind of response. This is nothing new.

    (I just read Walker’s book about conspiracy theories, which was quite good. Conspiracy theories and paranoia have been basically been part of American politics since forever. See, for example, the current hysteria about trafficking.)

  38. grumpy realist says:

    @J-Dub: True, true. The “Pharmaceutical companies make up all those lies to try to scare us!”

    And I guess the anti-GMO activists.

  39. dennis says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Military exercises have frequently provoked this kind of response. This is nothing new.

    Oh, Hal; but the comments! Geezus, Joey … I no longer read the comments sections [of such sites] just to gather another opinion; I read them to remind me just how f*****g stupid people really are.

  40. Matt says:

    @Michael: You’ve never been to a major city in Texas then. Pretty much every single major city in Texas has at least one fort/military base. The entire economy down here is propped up by federal spending to a decent degree.

    I found the whole thing absolutely hilarious because it’s like the people don’t even realize there are tons of military equipment and personal already here.

  41. bill says:

    actually, npr got a story going about the gov. ordering the national guard to jump in and do something…..that wasn’t near the truth so they tried to double down and make it into something else.
    like the state was trying to intervene or something stupid- but go ahead and believe it……….y’all got nothing better to do i guess! the people who live here know the deal- and it’s not what npr tried to feed you.

  42. JohnMcC says:

    @bill: Not the ‘National Guard’. You obviously have not been paying attention past listening to NPR. Try the magic google machine and look up “Texas State Guard”.