The military exercise Jade Helm 15 generated enough conspiracy theories this year that it garnered mockery on late-night television, commentary from presidential candidates and reaction from the Texas governor. The basic thrust of the concerns: The military was laying the groundwork for martial law -- if not now, then sometime in the future. The exercise will end quietly Tuesday, however. Carried out in parts of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, it will conclude after two months of operations, said Suzanne Nagl, a spokeswoman for Army Special Operations Command, which oversaw it.
Congratulations, America, you managed to avoid a military takeover of the United States and the dictatorial imposition of martial law.
The Washington Post's report added that Nagl does not yet have details on the lessons of the training exercise, but she added that officials at the Army Special Operations Command "believe the exercise overall was a success."
Remarkably, "success" in this case did not mean the confiscation of Americans' guns, as part of some kind of military takeover.
If you were away over the summer, you may not know what I'm talking about, so let's recap. From July 15 to today, the military organized some training exercises for about 1,200 people in areas spanning from Texas to California. Somehow, right-wing activists got it in their heads that the exercises, labeled "Jade Helm 15," were part of an elaborate conspiracy theory involving the Obama administration, the U.S. military, Walmart, and some “secret underground tunnels.”
It sounded ridiculous because it was ridiculous.
Nevertheless, as far-right hysteria grew louder, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) felt the need to order the Texas Guard to “monitor” the military exercises – just in case. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stoked the same fires, and even Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) arranged a meeting with Pentagon officials and a three-star Air Force general, just to make sure American officials weren’t planning a takeover of America, or something.
As recently as mid-May – just four months ago – Public Policy Polling found that one-third of Republicans believed the conspiracy theory that “the government is trying to take over Texas.”
I suppose technically, the Jade Helm 15 exercises won't end until later today, so far-right activists still have a few more hours to worry about the end of American freedom as we know it, but I'm reasonably optimistic that their hysteria was misplaced.
Postscript: As we talked about in July, it's tempting to think the conspiracy theorists are going to look pretty foolish now that Jade Helm is wrapping up without incident, but right-wing politics usually doesn't work this way. On the contrary, we're likely to hear that Obama administration would have hatched its dastardly scheme, but conservatives prevented the crisis by raising a fuss.