Jade Helm 15, a large-scale military operation conducted by U.S. Army Special Operations Command and service members from the military’s four branches, scheduled to take place in several states between July 15 and September 15, 2015, has elicited a firestorm of criticism. Many have gone so far as to claim the exercises are a prelude to the imposition of martial law, especially in Texas, one of the states designated as “hostile” territory. However, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) puts the issue in the proper perspective, noting why it’s reasonable that Americans would be concerned about the operation.
Gohmert first reveals his office “has been inundated with calls” regarding the mission, and acknowledges that this “military practice has some concerned that the U.S. Army is preparing for modern-day martial law.” “Certainly, I can understand these concerns,” he writes. “When leaders within the current administration believe that major threats to the country include those who support the Constitution, are military veterans, or even ‘cling to guns or religion,’ patriotic Americans have reason to be concerned.”
Gohmert is spot on. In February, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence assessment focused on the threat posed by right-wing, sovereign citizen extremist groups. As reported by the Washington Times, some law enforcement officials believe the threat posed by these groups “is equal to, and occasionally greater than, the threat from Islamic extremist groups.”
It’s not the first time DHS has made such a delusional assessment. In 2009 the agency was worried about the possible recruitment of military veterans into such groups, eliciting blowback from rightly offended veterans. Adding to the absurdity (and hypocrisy as well) the February report was released while Obama was conducting his Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, during which the president took great pains to separate such extremism from all things Islamic.
That would be the same president who demonstrated no similar reticence whatsoever with regard to Christianity. At the National Prayer Breakfast that same month, Obama was more than willing to remind Americans “that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.” In over six years in office there hasn’t been a single occasion when Obama referred to any of the innumerable depredations committed by Muslim extremists as being perpetrated “in the name of Mohammed.”
Thus, when Gohmert addresses “the contempt and antipathy for the true patriots or even Christian saints persecuted for their Christian beliefs,” demonstrated by this administration, he correctly asserts “it is no surprise that those who have experienced or noticed such persecution are legitimately suspicious.”
The Congressman acknowledges the need for training and that part of it requires Special Forces to move unobserved among civilian populations absent their discovery, as well as the need to handle various threat scenarios. However, like many of his constituents, he is appalled by the idea that portions of the country have been deemed “hostile,” adding that designation has never been employed before. Citing his own experience in military science classes and active duty, Gohmert explained the military would “use fictitious names before we would do such a thing.” Moreover, he can’t help noticing “the hostile areas amazingly have a Republican majority and believe in the sanctity of the United States Constitution,” he states sarcastically.
He also believes such labeling raises suspicions among people regarding “whether their big brother government anticipates certain states may start another civil war or be overtaken by foreign radical Islamist elements which have been reported to be just across our border,” and that it “is an affront to the residents of that particular state considered as hostile, as if the government is trying to provoke a fight with them.”
Indeed, the Obama administration has demonstrated an undue level of antipathy towards the Lone Star State on a number of occasions. In 2011, the Department of Justice threatened a complete suspension of air travel in and out of Texas if the state Senate approved HB 1937. That bill would have banned “intrusive touching of persons seeking access to public buildings and transportation,” aimed at derailing the TSA’s intimate pat-downs absent the probable cause guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. The bill was ultimately shelved. In August of 2013, the administration sued the state because it passed a voter ID law. The suit was in complete defiance of a Supreme Court decision the previous June striking down portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Acts that had required states to “preclear” any changes to their voting laws. And when the border surge of illegals crossing into Texas occurred last year, and then-Gov. Rick Perry sent Texas National Guard troops there to deal with the onslaught, Obama made it clear he would not take unilateral action to stem the tide.
On April 27, the military sent Army Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, a spokesman for Army Special Operations Command, to Bastrop, TX on April 27 in an effort to address local concerns. He explained that Jade Helm 15 is a routine, but necessary endeavor, because modern warfare requires soldiers to maneuver through civilian populations rather than fight on a battlefield. He further insisted Texas provided the ideal terrain for such an exercise, and noted that soldiers will wear either uniforms or orange arm bands to show that they are part of it, and there will be no attempt to move through the population undetected.
Newly-elected Texas Governor Greg Abbott nonetheless expressed concerns. He has sent a letter to Maj. Gen. Gerald Betty, commander of the Texas State Guard, directing the Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15. “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 wrote. “By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communication between my office and commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.”
Gohmert has another idea that might assuage a number of concerns. “The map of the exercise needs to change, the names on the map need to change, and the tone of the exercise needs to be completely revamped so the federal government is not intentionally practicing war against its own states,” he declared.
While some of the concern over Jade Helm might be misguided, none of it has occurred in a vacuum. It arises from more than six years of an administration that has demonstrated an overt willingness to squander the trust of millions of Americans in pursuit of its agenda—by any means necessary. Americans would much prefer to see the military training to defend the homeland against ISIS rather than engage in insulting exercises against the “hostile” heartland of liberty.
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