[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]
The U.S. military’s plan to conduct a training exercise this summer across seven states has become the latest hot-button topic for antigovernment conspiracy mongers who are advancing a plethora of wild-eyed theories.
The exercise, called “Jade Helm,” is tantamount to martial law, they say, where special operations forces from four branches of the U.S. military will secretly train and further militarize local police, blending in with local populations and gearing up for an eventual battle to disarm Americans.
“They’re training to attack and beat and arrest and shoot and kill Patriots,” conspiracy theorist Alex Jones recently said on his television show. “This is what a slow-motion martial law scenario looks like!”
The U.S. Army’s Special Operations command has dismissed those conspiracy theories, saying Jade Helm is nothing more than “routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for (special forces) since they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.”
Without naming InfoWars, Jones or other antigovernment conspiracists, Army spokesman Mark Lastoria said “the concerns expressed center around misinterpretations.”
“Unofficial sources providing inaccurate information on Jade Helm want people to believe that it’s something other than a training exercise,” Lastoria told the Houston Chronicle last month.
Between July 15 and Sept. 15, elite special forces from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force will “develop tactics, techniques and procedures for emerging concepts in Special Operations warfare,” the U.S. Army Special Operations Command said in a formal announcement.
“While multi-state training exercises such as these are not unique to the military, the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart,” the announcement says.
The exercise will take place across seven states, with participants wearing special identifying armbands. Actual on-the-ground training, however, will only occur in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
The military “intends to conduct the exercise safely and courteously while providing the best possible training available for the nation’s Army Special Operations Forces. State and local officials are being informed of the scope of Jade Helm and will continue to be updated as the exercise progresses.”
Jade Helm has replaced last year’s InfoWars conspiracy worries about a fake city built by the Army in Virginia and got the attention last week of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who says he will have his state’s national guard “monitor” federal troops involved in the exercise. The topic even came up at a White House press briefing.
“In no way will the constitutional rights or civil liberties of any American citizen be infringed upon while this exercise is being conducted,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, Bloomberg News reported.
Earnest “also tried to dispel some of the misinformation reported by Jones,” including claims that Jade Helm participants will be wearing special armbands akin to Nazi SS troops wearing Swastika armbands.
The Special Operations Command has sent officers to speak with citizens caught up in the conspiracy-hype, including a group that gathered last month in Bastrop County, Texas.
“We’re truly invested in everybody’s personal rights and their privacy,” a Special Operations command colonel told a hostile crowd in Bastrop County. The U.S. military “simply wants to train its Special Operations force for future operations overseas,” the colonel calmly explained to the crowd.
“When we have a federal government that cannot tell the truth, how we know that what you’re saying is true?” one man shouted, to the cheers of the audience.
Someone then told the colonel that Jade Helm appears to be nothing more than “a preparation for martial law.”
“It is not a preparation for martial law,” the colonel responded.
“That’s what you say,” the audience member said as the crowd cheered.