Although you might have missed it, the federal government re-annexed Texas on Wednesday.
Jade Helm 15, a controversial set of military training exercises being conducted by the US Spec Ops Command in Texas, Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico kicked off this week and will last until September 15. The lead up to the drills has been a veritable media circus, thanks largely to an official US Army slide deck which contained the following rather unfortunate map in which Texas, Utah, and San Diego (which everyone knows is a traditional hotbed for Islamic insurgencies) were designated as “hostile” territories.
While it seemed clear to many observers that the use of the term “hostile” probably did not imply that the US military had abruptly decided to lump Texas in the same category as North Korea, Russia, Iran, and Syria, that message was lost in translation to many Texans and before long, rumors began to circulate in the Lone Star state that Washington was planning to institute martial law.
Efforts to diffuse the tension hit a snag when Texas governor Greg Abbott took the unusual (and, according to one Republican lawmaker, “idiotic“) step of calling upon the Texas state guard to monitor the exercises. Peak absurdity came just days later when “Texas Ranger” Chuck Norris effectively pledged to defend the state against a federal invasion and sent a thinly-veiled threat to the Spec Ops command, saying the drills came “too near to [his] ranch’s backdoor.”
Finally (because the whole fiasco definitely needed to be sensationalized further), The Washington Post declared that the media would be given limited access (at best) to Jade Helm 15, which doesn’t seem all that surprising on its face, but which the Post noted marked a change of policy compared to another, ostensibly similar training exercise conducted on the “battlefields” of North Carolina in 2013.
So here we are, one day into the Texas invasion and the Twitter response has been nothing short of epic. Here are some highlights:
— Dayton Ward (@daytonward) July 15, 2015
— Dayton Ward (@daytonward) July 15, 2015
— Gen JC Xtian patriot (@JC_Christian) July 16, 2015
— Count Dante (@countdante67) July 16, 2015
— Wonky News Nerd (@WonkyNewsNerd) July 15, 2015
There was even a Hieronymus Bosch reference for all the art history lovers out there:
— Vladimir Menin (@Foxmcloud555) July 16, 2015
Here’s a map which shows the specific areas now under “federal control”:
And here’s an annotated version of the map shown above:
Of course not everyone is laughing. Here’s The New York Times with some on-the-ground intelligence from vigilant (and concerned) Texans:
“I’ve been looking,” said Dr. Jack Campbell, 61, who was picking up his mail at the post office.
Scott Degenaer, outside his home in Christoval, Tex. Mr. Degenaer said he understood the paranoia over Jade Helm 15 that led some residents to bury their firearms.
Dr. Campbell said that he had concerns about the exercise, and that he purchased extra ammunition for the weapons he kept in his home. “Just in case,” added Dr. Campbell, an emergency physician in San Angelo, Tex., 20 miles away. “People are just vigilant. Not vigilantes, but vigilant. They don’t want to be caught off guard.”
Another resident said a friend of his, a Vietnam veteran, started burying some of his firearms to hide them. Members of the Christoval Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the community center, signed an agreement with military officials stating — oddly to some, suspiciously to others — that the Army would pay for any damage to the building after it used it.
Sindy Miller, who runs a hair salon on Main Street, said fear of a military takeover had been the talk of Christoval.
“They’re worried that they’re going to come in and take their firearms away,” Ms. Miller said. “Martial law, basically. I try not to listen to all these conspiracy-theory-type people. All they’re worried about is their beer and their guns.”
Residents and local officials — even those who are supportive of Jade Helm — said Army organizers exacerbated the paranoia by releasing few details about the operation and by putting realistic war game activities in civilian areas, no matter how remote. Army coordinators said in statements that they had kept the state and local authorities updated and informed. Governor Abbott will receive regular updates from the Texas State Guard as the exercise proceeds, but a spokesman for him said he had no concerns about it. “The Special Operations Command has assured Texas that this exercise poses no risk to anyone, and the governor sees no reason to worry or doubt them,” said the spokesman, John Wittman.
Mr. Degenaer, a Navy veteran, said that he saw a Black Hawk helicopter flying over Christoval on Sunday and that he understood why some people would bury firearms.
“With Obama being in there,” he said, “with the way he’s already stomped all over the Constitution, pushing his presidential authority to the max, it would only be just the stroke of a pen for him to do away with that. This man is just total anti-U. S.”
Throughout the interview, Mr. Degenaer was skeptical whether the reporter and photographer who spoke with him were members of the news media and wondered if they were part of Jade Helm 15. “Spec Ops grows beards,” he said, referring to the photographer’s facial hair. “Y’all got a military ID?”
More from Texas:
— Bobby Blanchard (@bobbycblanchard) July 15, 2015
— John Boyd (@JohnnyNewsroom) July 15, 2015
And finally, a video recap courtesy of RT:
With that, you are now fully apprised of the situation in Texas. We’ll certainly monitor the ongoing drills closely, but for now, we’ll close with our comments from last week.
Whatever you choose to believe about the Jade Helm, it’s clear that the military is intent on keeping prying eyes away from the exercises. So although a “Texas takeover” and/or martial law are probably not in the cards here, the government’s response to concerned (if misinformed) citizens leaves much to be desired and we’ll leave it to readers to decide what that says about government accountability and transparency.
And to the US Spec Ops Command we say this: just because you’ve kept the media out, doesn’t mean no one is watching…