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Texas Governor's Plan To Monitor Military Exercises Splits State GOP


The Army, Air Force and Navy are engaging in a massive military exercise this summer covering seven states. It's called Jade Helm 15. A lot of people are unhappy about it, and there are plenty of reasons not to want soldiers playing war games in your backyard. But in Texas, much of the opposition is being fueled by a conspiracy theory which became a national story after Governor Greg Abbott announced he was activating the Texas State National Guard to monitor the exercise. NPR's Wade Goodwyn says the conspiracy theory originated from a website.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Called Infowars - it is owned by conservative talk-show host Alex Jones. They uncovered or found one of the Jade Helm training maps that showed the states that were involved in the training in four different colors. And the two states colored in red - Texas and Utah - were designated as hostile territory. Now, this map was pretend for training purposes, but there are a lot of skeptics - Alex Jones and Chuck Norris among them - who don't believe it's make-believe.

Now, the details of the theory are these. The Jade Helm 15 exercise is actually a cover for American Special Forces to engage ISIS terrorists, ISIS cells across the Texas-Mexico border and set up camp outside of El Paso. And in the process of engaging ISIS, martial law will be declared, and the Navy SEALs and Green Berets will disarm the civilian population. Those who resist will be sent to political prisoner processing centers using train cars equipped with shackles. The shackle-equipped train cars were allegedly witnessed by a colleague of a Texas ranger, and the ranger sent a detailed letter about it to the right-wing survivor website.

RATH: How did this one get to a level there where Gov. Greg Abbott has brought in the state guard to keep an eye on things?

GOODWYN: The governor's action followed this ugly meeting in central Texas with a poor lieutenant colonel who was trying to just brief the local citizens about Jade Helm and the exercises. He was treated pretty poorly, accused of being a liar and grilled about the coming military takeover. And the next day, Gov. Abbott reacted by announcing his plan to use the state guard to monitor the military. And this really has further split the GOP in Texas, which was already divided over several issues, including immigration.

RATH: Well, talk about that split. How has this made it worse?

GOODWYN: Well, the distrust of Jade Helm begins with a deep suspicion and even hatred of President Obama. But the military is something completely different. It's the one part of the federal government that Texas Republicans like and believe in a lot. So any suspicion of President Obama stops at the military's front door. But the further right you go, the less this is true.

And this is where it can get nasty because the more mainstream Republicans are perhaps not as careful as they might be to hide their disgust and condescension toward these Tea Party Republicans for thinking this way about our soldiers and sailors. But after the 2014 election, Texas went from a conservative state to a very conservative state where now the governor feels it's appropriate to say the military needs watching too, but establishment Republicans are appalled.

RATH: NPR's Wade Goodwyn in Dallas. Wade, always good to speak with you. Thanks.

GOODWYN: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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