Submitted by: Doris Parker
Some Texans fear Obama-led military invasion
Texas — The office of the Bastrop County Republican Party is in an old
lumber mill on Main Street, with peeling brown paint and a sign out
front that captures the party’s feelings about the Obama administration:
“WISE UP AMERICA!”
Inside, county Chairman Albert Ellison pulled out
a yellow legal pad on which he had handwritten page after page of
reasons why many Texans distrust President Obama, including the fact
that, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by
So it should come as no surprise, Ellison said, that
as the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training
exercises in history later this month, many Bastrop residents might
suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and
ultimately establish martial law in one of America’s proudly free
They are not “nuts and wackos. They are
concerned citizens, and they are patriots,” Ellison said of his
suspicious neighbors. “Obama has really painted a portrait in the minds
of many conservatives that he is capable of this sort of thing.”
town at the Bastrop County Courthouse, such talk elicits a weary sigh
from County Judge Paul Pape, the chief official in this county of 78,000
people. Pape said he has tried to explain to folks that the exercise,
known as Jade Helm 15, is a routine training mission that poses no
threat to anyone.
Pape chaired a public meeting this spring and
invited a U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesman to answer
questions about Jade Helm. The meeting drew more than 150 people
carrying signs that read “No Gestapo in Bastropo,” “Keep America Free”
and “Dissent is Not a Conspiracy Theory.” Some asked whether the Army
was bringing in Islamic State fighters, if the United Nations would be
involved, and whether the military was planning to relieve local gun
owners of their firearms.
“I’m sensitive to the fact that some of
our Bastrop residents are concerned, and I’m confident that they are
very sincere about their concerns,” Pape said. “But how did we get to
this point in our country?”
Race and economic anxiety
in the soft, green farmlands east of Austin, some say the answer is
simple: “The truth is, this stems a fair amount from the fact that we
have a black president,” said Terry Orr, who was Bastrop’s mayor from
2008 to 2014.
Orr said he strongly disagrees with those views, and he
supports Jade Helm. But he said a significant number of people in town
distrust Obama because they think he is primarily concerned with the
welfare of blacks and “illegal aliens.”
“People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy,” Orr said.
current Bastrop mayor, Kenneth Kesselus, who also supports Jade Helm,
agrees. Kesselus said the distrust is due in part to a sense that
“things aren’t as good as they used to be,” especially economically.
“The middle class is getting squeezed and they’ve got to take it out on
somebody, and Obama is a great target.”
Dock Jackson, 62, an African
American who has been on the Bastrop City Council for 24 years, grew up
when the town was still segregated, literally by railroad tracks.
Today, Bastrop is 34 percent Hispanic and 8 percent black, and a
wonderful place to live, he said, a place where the races generally get
But the Jade Helm backlash has been a “red flag” that our
county “still has a lot of things they need to come to terms with,”
Jackson said, including the anger and disrespect being directed at the
At a recent family reunion at a Bastrop community center,
Mark Peterson, who is black, said he has been “shocked” by what he views
as racist undertones in much of the objection to Jade Helm.
hate to hear most is, ‘We want to take our country back.’ This is still
your country. Where did it go?” said Peterson, 42, a technology manager
for a financial firm in Austin. “If it were any other president but
Obama, it would not be an issue.”
‘What are they doing it here for?’
Helm’s troubles started with a map, released by the military, which
depicted the area of operations. It showed seven southwestern states
colored red for “hostile” (including Texas) and blue for “permissive”
(including California). The map sent the conspiracy-minded into
At the public hearing this spring, military spokesman Lt.
Col. Mark Lastoria explained that those designations are part of a
fictional scenario: Jade Helm is intended to simulate U.S. Special
Forces helping resistance fighters restore democracy in an imaginary
country. The operation’s logo, which features a Dutch wooden shoe, is
meant to represent anti-Nazi resistance in World War II Europe.
patiently answered questions for nearly three hours, explaining that
while Jade Helm would involve 1,200 troops across seven states, no more
than 60 would be training in Bastrop County. Moreover, the Texas
operation would be confined to military bases — including Camp Swift, a
large Army National Guard base in Bastrop — as well as private property
where the military had secured the landowners’ permission.
service members take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of
the United States, and we put our lives on the line every day to uphold
that oath,” he said. “So for people to come up with irrational ideas and
try to associate them with the United States military, it does our
troops a disservice.”
The hearing failed to tamp down the paranoia, however. Ellison, the GOP chairman, said “the fear factor is justified.”
“doesn’t take national threats seriously enough,” Ellison said, ticking
off Obama’s policies toward Russia, Iran, Cuba and the Islamic State,
as well as illegal immigration across the U.S. southern border and the
deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya.
“What he views as alarming instead
is conservatism,” Ellison said, alleging that the Obama administration
has used the Internal Revenue Service to attack the Tea Party and other
conservative groups, been hostile to gun owners, issued what
conservatives consider an illegal executive order to avoid deporting
illegal immigrants, and “been complicit in stirring riots” in racially
charged situations in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore.
administration has a history of attacking Texas,” on issues from
education standards to environmental regulations to Obamacare, he said.
“It’s not that much of a leap to believe that he would try to employ the
military like he does the IRS.”
Others suspect Obama wants to
establish martial law to cancel the 2016 presidential elections and
extend his term in office. Terry Wareham, head of the Bastrop County Tea
Party, said she fears that the Obama administration might deliberately
instigate violence between soldiers and Texans as a pretext for
establishing martial law.
“We’re not against the military. This
community is very supportive of the military,” Wareham said. “But who’s
the commander in chief of the military?”
A ‘toxic’ politics
in Bastrop dismiss the talk of martial law as the delusional rantings
of saucer-eyed loons. But others see it as the logical outcome of the
Texas political climate, where they say the state’s Republican leaders
have eagerly stoked distrust of the federal government, and especially
“They are trying to convince people the federal government
is coming after them,” said state Sen. Kirk Watson, a Democrat who
represents Bastrop County.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has ordered the
Texas State Guard to “monitor” Jade Helm 15. And Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas,
a Republican presidential hopeful, has said he understands “the reason
for concern and uncertainty, because . . . the federal government has
not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration.”
say the government is coming after you,” Watson said, “so why would you
be surprised if the government shows up with guns?”
Schumacher, a Bastrop artist whose property backs up onto Camp Swift,
laughed when asked about the Jade Helm conspiracy theorists.
“I think those people are crazy,” she said. “I’m more worried about them taking over.”