Behind the Jade Helm 15 Conspiracy Theories

Why would people not want a military training exercise in their community? Well...


Jade Helm 15 is a special forces training exercise scheduled to take place in seven southwestern states this summer. It has inspired a lot of opposition, and that opposition in turn has inspired a lot of mockery.

I have an article about the debate in the Los Angeles Times today. Here's an excerpt:

There are perfectly good reasons not to want a military training operation in your community. People are worried about noise. People are worried about road damage. People are worried about safety.

In 2011, Bastrop County was hit by the most devastating wildfire in Texas history, with nearly 1,700 homes destroyed. Some residents are understandably anxious that soldiers might accidentally set off another blaze. "Many of us, our neighbors here, went through a very traumatic experience with the fires," one man pointed out at the Bastrop meeting [to ask a military representative questions about the exercise]. "Several of us are still not over that psychologically, and we know our neighbors are not over that. Why would we want to subject us to this level of anxiety on the heels of that kind of catastrophic event?"

Sounds reasonable. So why all the mockery? Well…

Not every argument raised by the opposition is that well-grounded. I've seen speculation, for instance, that Jade Helm might be part of a plot to give Texas and other border states back to Mexico. A more common rumor—certainly the one that came up most often at the Bastrop meeting—is that the Pentagon is plotting to impose martial law. For the record: If a cabal of fascists ever does suspend the Constitution, it probably won't precede the coup by going around asking county governments for permission to bring soldiers into the area.

I go on to explore those conspiracy stories, discussing what they represent and looking at how they resemble earlier rumors. In particular, I talk about the very valid fears of militarized policing that run through some of the less-than-valid Jade Helm theories. Read the whole thing here.

By the way: This was too obscure an aside to put it in the piece, but some Reason readers might find it entertaining. To the extent that the movement against Jade Helm has an ideological cast, it feels pretty right-wing. But the left hasn't been entirely absent. Amid the ranchers and others at the Bastrop meeting, one woman asking a question identified herself as "Voltairine de Cleyre." While I suppose it's possible that she just happens to have the same name as a 19th-century anarchist and feminist, I think it's pretty safe to guess that she was nodding to an ideological inspiration.