People are freaking out over a bizarre conspiracy theory that the US military is planning to enact martial law this summer under the guise of a Special Operations exercise called Jade Helm 15.
Concerns over the theory — which has no apparent basis in reality — are boiling over in Texas, where many people fear that the government will soon start rounding up political dissidents and detaining them in shuttered Wal-Mart stores, Matt Viser at The Boston Globe reports.
Jade Helm is a real military exercise involving more than 1,000 Special Operation troops who are preparing to deploy overseas. It is taking place between July 15 and September 15 across seven states.
While this is a normal military exercise, Viser says conspiracy theorists think Jade Helm 15 “is a takeover plot hatched in the nation’s capital by the White House and the Pentagon.”
Military exercises on domestic territory are pretty common. But this one sparked suspicion after a military map was leaked that showed certain US territories marked as “hostile.”
“Not long after Jones began raising alarm bells about Jade Helm, officials in Bastrop [a town in Texas] began hearing from concerned residents,” Viser writes. “Phones began ringing in the county commissioners’ offices. Sceptical messages popped up on Facebook, and people began approaching community leaders at church gatherings. They were worried about the government coming to take their guns. There was a sense that President Obama would be willing to do anything to crush dissent.”
But the language on the map was only for the purposes of the exercise, The Washington Post reports.
“The military has routinely launched exercises in the past in which regions of the United States are identified as hostile for the purpose of training,” The Post’s Dan Lomothe writes.
The Navy, for example, hosts a similar exercise every year called Bold Alligator, in which thousands of Marines and sailors practice amphibious fighting tactics, Lomothe notes. The most recent Bold Alligator exercise was held last fall on the East Coast.
Jade Helm is primarily taking place in Texas because it requires “large areas of undeveloped land as well as access to towns” that are similar to territories that troops might encounter overseas, according to ABC News.
The Pentagon has said that the exercise wouldn’t affect citizens’ daily lives, though they might notice more military vehicles on the roads.
Critics of the exercises don’t believe what the Pentagon or the media is telling them about the exercises, however.
And the abrupt closure last month of five Wal-Mart stores raised a new suspicion: That the country’s biggest retailer is in on the plan to hatch martial law.
A video supporting this theory has been watched nearly a million times. The footage shows police cars outside the store’s loading docks and says the store has covered its windows with black tarp.
“Something sinister is going on at Wal-Mart and there’s a big reason for them to be hiding what that is,” writes the blog All News Pipeline, which posted the video. “Could these monstrous buildings with underground tunnels be transformed into something out of our worst dreams?”
Wal-Mart says the closures have nothing to do with Jade Helm, which is a real military exercise taking place between July 15 and September 15 across seven states.
“There’s no truth to the rumours,” Wal-Mart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez told Business Insider last month.
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