For most of the summer, a military training exercise called Jade Helm 15 captivated the imaginations of the Right, striking fear into the hearts of Republican presidential candidates, members of Congress and even governors. Latching on to a conspiracy theory that originated in the far-right fringes of the internet, they warned that the training exercise was in fact part of a plot by President Obama to invade Texas, impose martial law and abolish civil liberties.
At one point, one-third of Republican voters and half of all Tea Party supporters feared that the federal government was “trying to take over Texas,” with another 28 percent of GOP voters saying that they were not sure whether or not the plot existed.
Outlets such as WorldNetDaily and InfoWars, far-right sites that also regularly host Republican politicians, led the way in spreading the conspiracy theories. But the theories soon spread beyond the far-right, and suddenly people had to debate whether the government would use secret tunnels, closed Walmart stores and cattle cars as part of an increasingly fantastical plot to eviscerate American freedom.
Unsurprisingly, the people who were pushing conspiracy theories about the military training exercise fell silent when it became clear that none of the scenarios they predicted had materialized. Jade Helm 15 proceeded as planned over the summer officially ended today without a federal takeover of Texas.
However, the exercise didn’t go without incident, as it was the target of violent attacks and a deadly plot from far-right militants who thought “that the federal government intended to use the armed forces to impose martial law in the United States.”
This was far from the first time that right-wing activists had cooked up strange theories about President Obama trying to wage war against the American public. But this time, presidential candidates were fielding questions about the military exercise. Ted Cruz and Rick Perry used the conspiracy theories as a way to criticize Obama, blaming him for the increasing fears about the exercise, while Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, repeatedly suggested that the exercise was designed by the Obama administration to vilify people living in conservative states like Texas.
Perhaps no one furthered the cause of Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theorists more than Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who ordered the Texas State Guard to “monitor Operation Jade Helm 15 ” and give him “regular updates on the progress sand safety of the Operations” to ensure that Texans’ “safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties” would “not be infringed.” Texas State Guard officials viewed the order as a “great opportunity” to find new recruits, but conspiracy theorists used it as an excuse to pounce.
Religious Right broadcaster Rick Wiles emerged as a champion of the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theory, telling viewers that it represented “the preparation for or the actual implementation of a roundup of patriotic men who have the capacity to influence and inspire the citizenry to resist a coup against the republic.” Wiles described Jade Helm 15 as a “two-month-long Night of the Long Knives” in which Obama might launch a nuclear electromagnetic pulse attacks against conservative states. “I believe that they would level the state of Texas, I believe they would use an EMP against Texas,” he said.
When Wiles appeared on “The Jim Bakker Show,” he and Bakker wondered if they would soon end up in jail as a result of the military drill:
Wiles also worried that the exercise would allow President Obama to “ seize power illegally.”
He wasn’t alone in that view.
Matt Barber’s website BarbWire ran a column warning that Jade Helm 15 could be “the final exercise before the Obama-Jarrett team install Martial Law nationwide.” WorldNetDaily even consulted a “Bible prophecy expert” for an article asking if Jade Helm 15 was proof that the government was “preparing for some major future event that will bring chaos to America.”
Paul Vallely, a former Army general turned radical right-wing activist who once volunteered to lead a right-wing coup against Obama, said that the military exercise was giving Obama an opportunity to impose martial law.
“We know full well that Obama would declare martial law at the earliest opportunity if he could,” Vallely said. “I’ve seen the documents, it gives them plenty of latitude to start talking about how do you control the civilian population if they rise up? And that’s part of what Obama is trying to do and the question that came out again, ‘Will the military turn on the American people if Obama decides to do any kind of a martial law activity?’ That’s what the American people are concerned about.”
This fear also found a receptive audience in the Oath Keepers, a militant group that won notoriety when its armed members flocked to the Bundy ranch to stage a a standoff with law enforcement officers. Following the Bundy incident, the organization has been trying to find a new cause, such as Kim Davis, Ferguson, or, of course, Jade Helm 15. The group’s fear of Jade Helm 15 makes perfect sense considering that its entire reason for existing is to tell law enforcement officers that they should defy unconstitutional orders that may be coming down the pike, such as a command to throw Americans into concentration camps.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes said that “Jade Helm is in part conditioning and vetting of the military to see who will and will not go along” with a future plot to repress Americans. “I think they’re figuring out who is loyal and who is not loyal and who is likely to go along, with the town councils and county commissioners as well,” he said.
“I think it is very likely that you’re going to see scenarios shift from supposedly being practicing for overseas, all the sudden it will be, ‘oh, today we are going to take down a compound of skinheads,’ or whatever least favorable people they can name domestically and get the guys to go along with it, see who does and doesn’t go along,” Rhodes said. “I think it’s also conditioning and assessment and vetting of the local politicians. Who raises questions? Who has any serious, meaningful questions about what we’re doing with this exercise? They put their name down. I think they’re figuring out who is loyal and who is not loyal and who is likely to go along, with the town councils and county commissioners as well.”
He claimed that the government was using Jade Helm 15 to send a message to the public, particularly “veterans, gun owners and anyone who is a constitutionalist,” that “resistance is futile” and if you object “Navy Seals and Delta Forces will come get you.”
“Jade Helm is definitely NOT meant to prepare troops for foreign operations,” read one article on the group’s website. “The program is admitted to be a primer for military response to ‘crisis scenarios,’ denoting domestic operation…. And they are training and infiltrating completely American environments, which they would not be doing unless they planned to operate in very similar environments.” Citing the plot of a Chuck Norris movie, the post claimed that the government would present Jade Helm 15 as a way to save the country from ISIS terrorist attacks:
Maybe I am connecting dots that are not dots, but it seems to me that the timing of ISIS warnings, the re-ignition of economic downturn in 2014/2015, the global shift away from the dollar, and Jade Helm are not entirely coincidental. Martial Law is not a scenario that can be generated in a vacuum; it needs a primer, a trigger event, if not multiple trigger events.
If the final trigger event is indeed intended to be a terror campaign on U.S. soil, then questions of the true purpose of Jade Helm will undoubtedly take a back seat to immediate solutions to what amounts to a foreign invasion (at least, that is how it will be painted), and none other than Jade Helm will be presented as that solution.
“ISIS has long been a collaborative creation of the U.S. government and its allies,” the post continued. “So should Americans be forced to relinquish their freedoms in order to combat an enemy that our own government engineered out of thin air?”
Another Oath Keepers post put it this way:
It strikes many people as a portentous government plan, a pre-fabricated and pre-constructed umbrella under which a black op by the Deep State’s compartmentalized agencies could possibly ‘Go Live’ in a fantastic sort of Shock and Awe False Flag psycho-coup to jar the public mind of America through fear into acceptance of some nefarious policy the government desired, such as the establishment of Martial Law and the complete loss of individual liberty and our Constitution. To do that, the public mind must be conditioned first. That is part of what is behind the Special Operation Command’s Jade Helm 15.
Now that Jade Helm 15 is over and literally nothing anyone predicted about a massive military operation intruding on the rights of Americans actually came true, don’t expect this to be a moment for right-wing politicians, activists and media personalities to reconsider their tried-and-true practice of carelessly engaging in baseless conspiracy theories.
If anything, the widespread belief in an imminent invasion of Texas among Republican voters, along with the success in early presidential polls of outspoken conspiracy theorists like Donald Trump and Ben Carson — the former of whom suggested that the 2012 election was a “total sham” and the latter that Obama may cancel the 2016 election — may actually give Republicans more reason to push the most wild conspiracy theories about Obama, no matter how bizarre or dangerous.