Operation Jade Helm
Jade Helm was a military exercise and six other states and it involved 1,200 personnel from about five branches of the US Military. The military training exercise took place in the summer of 2015. It was meant to equip soldiers with modern warfare skills in several overseas combat environments. It was actually the largest exercise of such kind to be undertaken by the US military. However, the announcements of the exercise raised a lot of concerns and speculations from blogs and conspiracy theorists.
Jade Helm was the US military joint exercise that involved several military groups such as the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), Joint Special Operations Command (JSCO) as well as other US military groups in various states including Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Mississippi and Louisiana. The exercise was organized to improve and equip the soldiers with modern combat skills. it involved approximately 1,200 troops, who were mainly Army Green Berets and a small group of Navy SEALS as well as Air Force special operations. These troops assume the roles of either occupying or resistance forces. Among the participants, some could wear civilian attire and drive civilian vehicles as well. The exercise had a map where it would take place in various areas of the US including Colorado and California. According to USSOCOM, this was the largest military exercise of its kind. There were about 60 soldiers who took part in Bastrop. Also, the exercise would happen on the private land that was offered by residents, but they would not receive any payments for the land or receive a tax break. Another thing to note is that journalists were not allowed to be in the operation. The exercise was actually monitored by the Texas State Guard and the civilian group Counter Jade.
There are reasons why there are conspiracy theories around the exercise. First, the map for the exercise as shown by the US Army Special Operations Command showed the region that was divided into four colours. The region was divided into two hostile states, two permissive states, two states in the middle, and then California divided. Another conspiracy theory was that operation Jade Helm was also a plan to take control of Texas. 200 people in rural Bastrop County actually attended a standard public briefing by the Army. Many people questioned Lt. Col Lastoria about the plans by the government to confiscate guns or implement Martial Law. Jim Shea wrote that the conspiracy theories included getting people to be used to the troops on the street, the appearance of the uniformed troops as well as the militarization of the police. This would make people no realize when an invasion would take place. This conspiracy theory was likened to what happened in Nazi Germany. The theory stated that the military on the streets was actually there to gather intelligence. Conspiracy theories also stated that the exercise was indeed an international operation that was aimed to confiscate guns from people. During the time, the Walmarts had recently closed, and it was believed by the conspiracy theorists that it was used by the military to stockpile supplies which would be used by the Chinese troops who would be arriving to disarm Americans. Moreover, the exercise was thought to be a military plan to remove any political dissidents and key political figures, who may be opposing the imposition of martial law. It was believed that the military was removing logistics in place for martial law. Additionally, there concerns about the name of the exercise. “Jade” was through to be possibly referring to China or may be an acronym for artificial intelligence developed by the US military. Also, according to another conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, “Helm” was an acronym for Homeland Eradication of Local Militants.
Response from Polticians
The military exercise was believed to be a grave threat to Texas, and that’s why Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation. He stated that during the training exercise, it was important that Texans stay aware of their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and their civil liberties would not be infringed upon. He also stated that by the monitoring of the operation, the State Guard would facilitate communications between his office and the commanders of the operation to ensure that adequate measures were implemented to protect Texans. Additionally, on May 2, 2015, Texas Senator Ted Cruz stated in the South Carolina Republican Party’s annual convention, that his office had reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about the military exercise. U.S Representative of Louie Gohmert talked about the hardships Christians face in America. He was alluding to a remark that was made by Barack Obama, who claimed that Pennsylvanians cling to guns or religion and that they were bitter. Still, in this statement, he asserted that there was a need to change the map of the exercise, the names on the map and the tone of the exercise as well. These changes would make the federal government not appear to be intentionally practising war against its own states.
A survey of Republicans by Public Policy Polling found that 32% of 685 Republican primary voters believed the government was trying to take over Texas, 40% believed the government was not trying to take over Texas and 28% were unsure.
Most reactions came after the plans and maps of the exercise were made public. In fact, the Austin American-Statesman noted that immediately after they were made public, there was a huge outrage on social media, because the map labelled Texas, Utah and the Southern tip of California as hostile areas.
Russian Disinformation Campaign
The former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, said that there was some Russian effort that was involved in the spreading of the misinformation about the military exercise. He stated the Russians wanted to dominate the information space and that the Russian bots were used to spread the misinformation. The Texas Democratic Party highlighted Hayden’s comments thereafter and criticized Gov. Greg Abbott describing him as a Russian pawn and a useful idiot for the Russian efforts to instil fear and distrust in the American institutions.