The PJ Tatler

Fever Swamps Go Mainstream in Texas

000.1Governor Greg Abbott has ordered the state’s National Guard to “monitor” federal military exercises that will take place in Texas and four other states beginning July 15.  In so doing, Abbott is feeding the wild paranoia that has gripped some residents in his state who think that the special-ops exercise, dubbed “Jade Helm 15,” is a precursor to a declaration of martial law, or a crackdown on conservative groups.

And the paranoia is not limited to Texans. Thanks to radio host, 9/11 truther, and conspiracy nut Alex Jones, the temperature in the fever swamps on the right is rising precipitously. Jones has singlehandedly whipped up fear and outrage over what every responsible military expert says is a routine training exercise for our special-operations forces.

Abbott may be trying to douse the flames with his announcement that the Guard will monitor the exercise. But by acknowledging people’s paranoia, he gives it prominence and legitimacy.

The Dallas Morning News:

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor federal military exercises in the state, responding to citizen fears, stoked by online conspiracy theories, that the maneuvers are a ruse to impose martial law.

Operation Jade Helm 15 is a large-scale training operation scheduled for elite military forces, such as the Navy SEALS and Green Berets. The operation will involve about 1,200 personnel operating in Southwestern states including Texas from July 15 to Sept. 15.

Fears about the exercise have roiled for weeks online. Several websites, videos and Twitter users have argued that it is really a federal takeover of hostile states, including the confiscation of guns.

To address those concerns, Abbott instructed Maj. Gen. Gerald “Jake” Betty, commander of the Texas State Guard, to keep a watch over the exercises and help keep local law enforcement agencies and their citizens informed.

“During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott told Betty in a letter Tuesday.

A U.S. military spokeswoman said “we cannot speculate on the public response to this exercise,” and declined to react to Abbott’s use of the state guard. “The Texas State Guard stands ready to serve the state and governor when called upon,” she said.

The Texas Democratic Party questioned the judgment of Abbott, a Republican, for giving countenance to questions about the military’s integrity and credence to “the most extreme right” aspects of his party.

“If the governor truly respects the men and women of our armed forces, both national and Texan, he shouldn’t make public policy and operational decisions on the basis of tea party Internet chatter or the rants of conspiracy theorists,” said party spokesman Manny Garcia.

The Guard will not deploy, nor, as far as I can tell, do much of anything about the exercises. The governor’s announcement is window dressing, nothing more.

Why and how did this routine military exercise become a plot to deprive Americans of their constitutional rights? Elizabeth Price Foley, posting about the governor’s announcement on Instapundit, put it this way:

A healthy dose of suspicion is warranted, especially with this Administration.

“Warranted” suspicion of exactly what? Martial law? Gun grabbing? Occupation? There’s even been an attempt to connect the sudden closing of five Walmart stores with the exercise, as some nutcases are claiming they will be used to house political prisoners.

I’m a skeptic by nature but this is bat guano crazy stuff. It’s not that it could never happen here. It’s that the Obama administration wouldn’t use a measly 1200 special-operations forces to conquer the state of Texas. Nor would they announce the operation six months in advance.

Thinking critically of these paranoid scenarios for 30 seconds would show them to be the imaginings of troubled minds. The scenarios debunk themselves.

So what is Jade Helm 15? Justin King, whose blog The Fifth Column is hardly a bastion of reason and restraint, fleshes out some of the details:

To start out it may be best to clarify what Jade Helm is not. It is not a precursor to martial law. It is not an operation designed to round up American citizens for FEMA camps. It is not a UN ordered invasion. The truth behind Jade Helm is much less conspiratorial, but much more interesting.

After speaking to several former and active duty soldiers, The Fifth Column can say with almost certainty that Jade Helm is a massive Field Training Exercise (FTX) to enhance the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) capabilities of American special operations troops.

The uproar of Jade Helm was triggered by a map that surfaced on the internet labeling some areas of the United States as “hostile.”  Had the sites that cast this as some plan for martial law researched the acronyms on the map, they would have quickly realized it was a large scale training exercise involving some of America’s most secretive units. It should have also been immediately evident that there is currently no “insurgent pocket” in Southern California.

Why hold the exercise in the U.S.?

“That notion was proposed by a few individuals who are unfamiliar with how and why USASOC conducts training exercises,” he said in an email. “This exercise is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for Army Special Operations Forces because they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.”

He said the only thing unique about this particular exercise, which is slated to take place between July 15 and Sept. 15, is “the use of new challenging terrain” which was chosen because it is similar to conditions special operations forces operate in overseas.

Almost all of the exercises will take place on private land where the owner has granted permission for our special operators to train.

According to the Statesman, Lastoria attempted to assuage residents’ concerns, saying the operation in Bastrop County will take place almost entirely on private land leased to the Army by the owner. And participants won’t be trying to sneak through the population undetected — everyone involved will wear uniforms or orange armbands signaling that they are part of the exercise, he said.

That’s hardly a recipe for a coup d’etat.

Governor Abbott has done what he thought he had to do to get some of his more excitable citizens to relax. The last thing the army or the governor wants is for an armed confrontation to take place between some paranoid nuts who believe the military is after them and lethal special forces warriors who don’t have much of a sense of humor about conspiracy theories.

In that sense, Abbott is acting responsibly. But by mainstreaming the concerns of the fringe, he risks making this a political issue that could harm him and the Republicans in Texas.