Conspiracy fears about the Army's Jade Helm 15 training exercise are getting out of hand.
The US Army is up to something. It's teaming up with all branches of the armed forces for a plan called Jade Helm 15 that, for secret military reasons, will happen this summer all over the Southwest United States.
The fact that the military keeps secrets is not, in and of itself, a secret. But as VICE News pointed out last month, this particular exercise triggered a wildfire of paranoia after part of the plan for Jade Helm 15 leaked online. The scary-looking map (above) marks Texas, Utah, and a sliver of Southern California as "hostile," and some of the media's more unconventional thinkers have taken that to mean there's some kind of plan to impose martial law.
Paranoid questions about Jade Helm 15 finally reached the White House Wednesday, forcing Obama's press secretary Josh Earnest to come up with something to say that would allay fears that the Southwest United States is about to be plunged into martial law.
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The fragments of the plan that have been declassified have—understandably—left questions unanswered: "What are the troops doing?" "Why?" "What are the military's specific goals for this exercise?" "Is the military really being trained, or is the population being exposed to a military presence in order to prepare us for the onset of totalitarianism by Obama's liberal government, which has been driven mad with power thanks to the efforts of those of us who have seen behind the curtain, and aren't willing to be cowed into complicity?"
The Army tried to answer these questions. It issued a statement back in March, explaining that this is about maintaining readiness, that the exercises were happening in the Southwest because that's the kind of terrain troops might encounter abroad, and that since it would all be carried out on private property the Army is being permitted to use, no one's Third Amendment rights are being violated. They also tried to spin it as a good thing:
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.
But prominent alarmists like Alex Jones's Info Wars and TeaParty.org, continued to allude to the ominous nature of the exercise. The entertaining Austrian economics blog ZeroHedge included accounts of beefed-up military presences around the areas marked in red on the map, and also embedded videos by citizen journalists, including a scary-looking clip of troops marching down a residential street in Southern California, ostensibly to give the viewer a sense of just what Obama's martial law is going to look like. However, the timing of the video doesn't seem to line up with Jade Helm 15, since it's timestamped November. November of 2073!
But things started to get out of hand earlier this week when Army Lieutenant Colonel Mark Lastoria stood for questions at a meeting in Bastrop County, Texas, in the hopes of extinguishing fears by explaining the exercise to attendees. It backfired, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Lastoria had to endure a two hour bombardment of questions from frightened Texans about whether Obama was bringing ISIS fighters to Texas, and planning to confiscate their guns. Apparently, he wasn't able to reassure them that these ideas were off base.
So now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has taken matters into his own hands, indicating in a letter that members of the Texas State Guard will be ordered to monitor the United States military as they carry out the Jade Helm 15, scheduled to run from July through September.
That was weird news for the Obama administration. In a news conference, Obama's press secretary Josh Earnest had to address Abbot's decision. "I have no idea what he's thinking," Earnest told reporters. "[I]n no way will the constitutional rights or civil liberties of any American citizen be infringed upon while this exercise is being conducted," he added.
So, if you're in the American Southwest from July 15 through September 15, the army's official position is that you might notice an "increased military presence," and that might include some noise. They say if you see any soldiers, they might just be toting guns loaded with blanks.
At this time, only Texas can expect the additional beefed-up presence of State Guard troops, making sure the citizenry's "safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed." It remains unclear what the Texas State Guard plans to do if the US military really does start pushing people around. We talked to some Texas secessionists last month who probably have a few ideas, though.
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