On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren told CNN that the federal government had no plans to impose martial law in Texas.
“We are not taking over anything,” he said.
And why was the Pentagon telling Texas that it had no desire to make Texans submit to its will?
It all began in late March with the announcement of Jade Helm 15, a multi-state training operation that U.S. Special Operations Forces will conduct this summer. A map of the military’s plan, which will involve 1,200 service members, labels Texas and part of California as hostile territory, for the purposes of the drill. Those planning the exercise thought that noise complaints from residents unfamiliar with the noise associated with military vehicles and an influx of people would be their biggest worry, and took pains to mention the economic benefits that might come along with welcoming soldiers. For a minority of Texans, this paragraph ended after the part about the federal government labeling their state “hostile,” even if for entirely imaginary purposes. Being able to even imagine such a blasphemous thing has rendered the U.S. military, usually not on Texas’s list of un-American traitorous things, into a monster.
At a meeting in Bastrop last week, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Lastoria, who was told he could not be trusted by the 150 people who had come out to share their conspiracy theories with him for two hours, listened to the many reasons why Jade Helm was a sign that Texans’ rights were about to be obliterated. He already knew most of the complaints well; his office had already fielded many phone calls about the training exercises.
“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany,” Bob Wells explained. “You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police. They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.’”
Governor Greg Abbott responded to the martial law worries not by immediately telling his constituents they needed to chill out, but by asking the Texas State Guard to monitor the Jade Helm exercises. When one former Republican state representative accused him of “pandering to idiots,” Abbott said, “We are playing a pivotal role of government and that is to provide information to people who have questions. It’s clear that people in Bastrop had questions.” Other questions include, ”Is Jade Helm cover for ISIS false flag?” and “Is the Jade Helm exercise a rehearsal for FEMA camp incarcerations?”
Chuck Norris wrote about Jade Helm in his latest column.
It’s neither over-reactionary nor conspiratorial to call into question or ask for transparency about Jade Helm 15 or any other government activity. To those who merely think we should check our brains at the door of the White House and trust what the government does, I would reiterate to you the words of one of our government’s primary founders, Benjamin Franklin, who said, “Distrust and caution are the parents of security.” Again, he also said, “Security without liberty is called prison.” But then again, I’m sure some today would accuse Franklin of being conspiratorial, too!
A few federal legislators have also spoken about the fears. Representative Louie Gohmert released a statement noting his own interpretation of the military’s map: “Once I observed the map depicting ‘hostile,’ ‘permissive,’ and ‘uncertain’ states and locations, I was rather appalled that the hostile areas amazingly have a Republican majority, ‘cling to their guns and religion,’ and believe in the sanctity of the United States Constitution.” Senator Ted Cruz said he didn’t believe anything sinister was happening but that he understood the worries. “When the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don’t trust what it is saying.”
The Walmart closures only made things worse. The retail company temporarily closed five locations owing to plumbing issues, and many Jade Helm fanfic writers theorized that the empty buildings would “house the headquarters of invading troops from China, here to disarm Americans one by one” or that there was a system of underground tunnels under the stores that would make it easier for soldiers to move undetected. Walmart’s spokesperson told TPM, “There’s no truth to the rumors.”
Former lieutenant governor David Dewhurst wrote an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News last week proclaiming, “This must stop.” “Instead of viewing our hard-working troops with suspicion or greeting them with insults,” he added, “let’s increase our prayers for them and their families as we send a message of welcome and encouragement.”
The Pentagon’s response today stressed similar themes, reminding Texans that these exercises involved the soldiers that the state was usually eager to defend. “Operation Jade Helm is being conducted by Americans — by, specifically, American special forces personnel.” Or, as Lastoria, a man who clearly is not familiar with the internet’s ability to weave giant, dubious narratives out of seemingly inconsequential details, summed it up, “It’s a training exercise. Just a regular training exercise.”