Texas Governor Backtracks After Pentagon Denies Takeover Plot
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Let's turn now to the state of Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott has been in the news recently after he ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor U.S. military exercises there. Rumors have been flying in some corners of the Internet that those training exercises scheduled for this summer are actually a cover for a military takeover and the imposition of martial law. Now the governor is backtracking a bit now. We want to get filled in on what's happening. NPR's Wade Goodwyn is on the line. Good morning, Wade.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: So walk us through this, if you can. And I don't want you to forget giving us the connection to Chuck Norris here.
GOODWYN: Well, I think this is a testament to the organizing power of the Internet and how compelling, for some political groups, conspiracy theories can be. Jade Helm 15 is the code name for a joint training exercise with the Army, Navy and Air Force's elite soldiers. They're special forces. It's going to take place in seven states so they can mimic a wide variety of terrains. And the scope of the operation is one of the things that's considered suspicious. I think it was all started when a website called Infowars got a hold of a training map that had a few of the states labeled enemy, including Texas. And from there, the conspiracy theories about martial law and an impending military takeover grew so elaborate that the details themselves became evidence it must be true.
GREENE: Must be true, meaning that the U.S. military was not just doing exercises but actually going to try and take over a state like Texas or something like that. I mean, how elaborate are these exercises that made people react in this way?
GOODWYN: Well, there's the Wal-Mart factor. Several Wal-Marts, including one in Midland in West Texas and others, closed temporarily for renovation. But the takeover folks think that explanation is a ruse, that these Wal-Marts closed because the military is going to turn them into forward operation bases and political prisoner processing centers. A Texas Ranger officer wrote into one of the survivor websites that a colleague of his had seen train cars equipped with shackles, and they were going to be utilized for dissident roundups. And even "Walker, Texas Ranger" got into the act. Chuck Norris recently wrote on the website WorldNetDaily that what's under question is those who were pulling the strings at the top of Jade Helm 15 back in Washington. The thinking is, is that President Obama will declare martial law in Texas and then use special forces to disarm the civilian population and arrest anyone who resists.
GREENE: OK, so Chuck Norris, a famous name in the entertainment industry - but still, probably this wouldn't rise to real public consciousness had it not been for Governor Greg Abbott actually ordering the state guard to monitor this. Why did he do that?
GOODWYN: Well, it happened after a public briefing last week by the Army in Bastrop. It really turned ugly. A Lieutenant Colonel Mark Lastoria went there and tried to explain that there was nothing more to this than the country's best soldiers trying to hone their skills. But that went over like a lead balloon. He was called a liar and grilled about the real plan to implement martial law and take over Texas - a lot of angry people, a lot of signs. And then the next day, the governor decided to act and to assure the state citizens that he would protect them by monitoring our soldiers, sailors and airmen.
GREENE: Now, wait. The governor has faced some criticism for this. I mean, some have complained that he's embarrassing himself, embarrassing the state of Texas. And on Monday, the governor seemed to try to walk this back a little bit. Let's hear what he had to say here.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT: We have been provided assurances by the special operations forces that there is nothing for the public to worry about.
GREENE: So does that mean he's calling off the State Guard?
GOODWYN: No, it doesn't. And I think we'll all be resting easier here in Texas knowing our tax dollars are being well spent on the State Guard so they can keep a sharp eye on the military - our military - so they can't get up to any shenanigans.
GREENE: Interesting story from the state of Texas. That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn from Dallas. Wade, thanks a lot.
GOODWYN: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.