WASHINGTON — As recently as three years ago, the idea — let alone the implementation — of the deployment of active U.S. troops inside the continental U.S. would have sent some elements of the political spectrum into frantic, panic and react mode.
Now, for the moment, the massive deployment of U.S. active troops into the southwest United States has not drawn the ire of the so-called “black helicopter” crowd or fears of “seven days in November.” Some are even sending private militias to support the cause.
To Tea Party members and many conservatives, the deployment of U.S. troops on U.S. soil was viewed as the first step to a crackdown on their liberties and their freedoms. It was long expected and they had proof it was going to occur — most recently in 2015.
The plan, according to these individuals, is that active troops would move into the southwest, set up what would be called temporary bases, collect intelligence and be ready to declare martial law. They would use Walmarts as internment camps, news accounts said then.
The trigger in 2015 was an exercise the Pentagon called Jade Helm 15. It was designed to give special forces training in terrain similar to what they would likely face in foreign missions. It took place in seven states, with most action in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.
About 1,200 troops participated in the two-month exercise. Some conservatives pointed to an Army training map that identified Texas and Utah as “hostile” for the purposes of the simulation as proof of the plot, according to news accounts at that time.
Among those convinced of the military plot: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who ordered the Texas State Guard to bird-dog the exercise in case the military moved to seize Texans’ guns and impose martial law, according to news accounts.
Abbott is up for reelection today for a second term. He was a strong, early supporter of sending National Guard troops to the border with Mexico this spring. Texas is the largest hub for the more than 7,200 active-duty troops going to the border with Mexico this week.
The element of the conservative movement suspicious of a military plot pointed to the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as proof to their suspicions.
Timothy McVeigh, who was behind the bombing, said he was motivated to strike back at the federal government because of the 1993 Waco siege and the 1992 Ruby Ridge shootout — examples of the federal government attacking civilians, he and others maintained.
When McVeigh was identified as the bomber, scores of federal agents spread out through the southwest to probe his former lairs and hideaways — going into the very areas where anti-government individuals had fled to avoid such intrusion.
There is one more element often pointed to by those suspicious of a coup. In the 1964 film “Seven Days in May” — about a military coup being planned in the United States — the secret base set up by the military is in Texas, very near Fort Bliss.
Fort Bliss is one of the main operating bases for the current deployment.