Is the U.S. military about to mess with Texas? To hear some politicians in the Lone Star State tell it, that idea is not all that far-fetched.
For the past two weeks, Operation Jade Helm 15, a month-long, seven-state military training exercise, has preoccupied conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, frightened many local residents, and, now, elicited sympathy from some notable Texas Republicans. Despite a flurry of denials from military representatives and White House press secretary Josh Earnest that the exercise is any different than those conducted in the past, the rumors of an imminent military take-over have proven difficult to extinguish. In part, that may be because some elected officials, both past and present, have seemed to give the theories credence.
Here’s a handy list of the Texas Republicans who have not exactly distanced themselves from the conspiracy story.
Texas Governor Jim Abbott
On April 28, Abbott gave credence to the conspiracy by writing a letter to the commander of the Texas State Guard, Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty, telling him to “monitor Operation 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 in the letter. “By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.”
Texas Representative Louis Gohmert
In a statement released Tuesday, Gohmert framed the fear over Jade Helm 15 as wholly justifiable.
“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 wrote. “We have seen people working in this administration use their government positions to persecute people with conservative beliefs in God, country, and notions such as honor and self-reliance. Because of the contempt and antipathy for the true patriots or even Christian saints persecuted for their Christian beliefs, it is no surprise that those who have experienced or noticed such persecution are legitimately suspicious.
Moreover, Gohmert argued that clues to what some have argued is a plot to install martial law can be found in the military’s own training operation maps.
“Once I observed the map depicting ‘hostile,’ ‘permissive,’ and ‘uncertain’ states and locations, I was rather appalled that the hostile areas amazingly have a Republican majority, ‘cling to their guns and religion,’ and believe in the sanctity of the United States Constitution. When the federal government begins, even in practice, games or exercises, to consider any U.S. city or state in ‘hostile’ control and trying to retake it, the message becomes extremely calloused and suspicious,” Gohmert wrote.
While less convinced that the feds are plotting a nefarious takeover of Texas, Cruz felt concerned enough to inquire about the rumors with the Pentagon.
“My office has reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about this exercise,” Cruz, a Texas senator, told Bloomberg at the South Carolina Republican Party’s annual convention. “We are assured it is a military training exercise. I have no reason to doubt those assurances, but I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don’t trust what it is saying.”
Abbott’s predecessor may not agree that the U.S. military is capable of such an act against the citizens of Texas, but he might not put it past their civilian leadership.
“I think it’s OK to question your government—I do it on a pretty regular basis,” Perry told reporters in Dallas on Tuesday, the Texas Tribune reported. “The military’s something else.”
“You know, I think our military is quite trustworthy,” Perry added. “Civilian leadership—you can always question that, but not the men and women in uniform.”