“All we want to do is be sure our guys are trained for combat overseas. That’s it.” — Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria
“Friends, when it comes to freedom, we must question, verify and vet everyone and everything. We must never check our brains or blindly trust, especially the government.” — Chuck Norris, actor, author, and activist
Are you scared?
First, what is “Jade Helm 15” (aka “”Operation Jade Helm”)? It’s the codename for a huge military exercise — or series of exercises — to be carried out across the nation under the purview of U.S. Special Operations Command. Beginning June 15, 1200 troops from the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, the 82nd Airborne, and possibly others will conduct counterinsurgency training in relatively-isolated areas within at least nine (originally seven) states ostensibly chosen for their terrain — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. A statement from the Pentagon stated that locals “can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of the exercise will be conducted in remote areas. The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and associated noise.” Also, there should be a brief economic boost for businesses serving the visiting troops until exercises end September 15.
This has some people concerned that the exercise will be either the beginnings of martial law or, at least, training and/or conditioning for imposing it in the near future. Since Jade Helm was announced on March 24, and with subsequent sightings of long convoys of military vehicles snaking their way to the areas in question over the past several weeks, dire conspiracy theories have made their way into the public conversation. Chief among the propagators is paranoid nutcase and radio host of “Infowars”, Alex Jones. Rasmussen polls in mid-May had nearly half (45%) of likely voters “concerned that the government will use U.S. military training operations to impose greater control over some states.” Also, “Among voters who oppose military exercises in their state, 82% are concerned that the federal government has greater control in mind.”
Initially, due to his own concerns and those of many of his constituents, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called for the National Guard — well, technically, the Texas State Guard — to keep an eye on the visiting troops and make sure the rights of Texans were not infringed. Personally, I don’t blame him (and neither does Chuck Norris), but his predecessor, Rick Perry, disagreed with the decision and the message he felt it sent. By the time the above-mentioned poll results were released, however, Abbott was singing a new tune:
“[M]y office has been in communication with military at multiple levels, and we have the greatest assurances that these are normal military operations and they’re going to work out just fine.”
Oh, I feel so much better! /sarc/ All along, the federal powers-that-be have attempted to reassure everyone that nothing sinister was underway.
“These are among the most patriotic, courageous, independent-thinking people I have ever been around. They are not robots that are going to go door to door confiscating people’s guns, or rounding people up into vacant Wal-Marts. That’s not going to happen.” — Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services, speaking with the Wichita Falls Times Record News
“In no way will the constitutional rights or civil liberties of any American citizen be infringed upon while this exercise is being conducted.” — Josh Earnest, White House press secretary
Of course, if something sinister was being planned, they wouldn’t exactly admit it, would they? In fact, they would probably issue statements, well, like those above.
Some have indicated that it is an insult to question the motives of the maneuvers. Former Gov. Rick Perry, who I like a lot, said as much to the Dallas Morning News:
“It’s OK to question your government. I do it on a regular basis. But the military is something else. Our military is quite trustworthy. The civilian leadership, you can always question that, but not the men and women in uniform.”
But, see, the enlisted men and women in uniform follow orders and aren’t always aware of the big picture or the motives of their superiors. It is precisely those superiors — i.e., President Obama and some of the generals (after he purged many from the ranks) — whose motives I and many others (e.g., Norris, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul) question. As Norris put it,
“[W]hat’s under question are those who are pulling the strings at the top of Jade Helm 15 back in Washington. The U.S. government says, ‘it’s just a training exercise.’ But I’m not sure the term ‘just’ has any reference to reality when the government uses it. It’s pretty sad and bad when major military ops are ordered in a large, fiery state like Texas and not even the governor or its senators know the specifics. 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.'”
After being misquoted by some in the press, Norris later clarified:
“I never ever said that that seven-state U.S. military operation intended to take over Texas…. I do believe, in addition to the largest domestic military training, it is also a display of power (near the southern border) intended for deterrence of enemies like ISIS and other terrorists, who the FBI have already said are present in all 50 states…. And I will reiterate again that the White House and the Pentagon could have easily avoided any controversy about Jade Helm 15 if its primary Washington leaders would have called for a confidential informative meeting with the respected governors of the seven states in which it is being held this summer.
They also would have been very wise not to place on Jade Helm’s official operation map that Texas and Utah were ‘hostile states.’ When will they learn? Don’t mess with Texas!”
All kidding aside, Norris makes a great point that the communications efforts have been rather deficient and contributed to suspicions. Regarding the “hostile states” matter, given what sort of training Jade Helm is to be, it makes sense that certain areas on the map would be designated as being held by the “enemy”. I mean, these are essentially “war games”, right?
Back to the matter of communications, it now appears that more than just the seven states listed above are hosting unusual military maneuvers. For example, just the other day there were reports of similar training operations up north.
“[T]he U.S. Army is also conducting military exercises in Flint, Mich., where residents say they were caught off-guard when explosions rocked portions of the city. A spokesman for Flint city government says the blasts were part of a training program to help prepare the military for combat in urban environments.”
Hmmm. Michigan is known to have large numbers of Muslims — possibly the most of any state in the union –, including many in Flint. Norris said he thought Jade Helm served as “a display of power… intended for deterrence of enemies like ISIS.” So, maybe this is a not so subtle way of letting the more radical elements know that the Army is nearby and what it can do? Still, why couldn’t City Hall have given local residents a heads-up beforehand?
As for Jade Helm, when it comes right down to it, I am of two minds on the matter. I don’t want to give credence to alarmist, conspiracy-minded rantings. I don’t want to believe that so blatant a move to control the populace would be made by even this administration, let alone with the cooperation of the Pentagon and members of Congress. On the other hand, there are misguided people everywhere, and given the way things are going in this nation, I wouldn’t put it past Obama et al. to attempt something this extreme. Does that make me paranoid? Better to be cautious than to assume the government is entirely benevolent. I think Franklin and the rest of the Founding Fathers would agree.
What do I make of Jade Helm 15? Honestly, I just… don’t… know.