Rash of Domestic Military Exercises Beginning to Concern Americans
A rash of military exercises in the US this summer has raised concerns from a number of Americans. In fact, the concerns have grown so much that a Washington Post article, clearly with ties to the White House tried to downplay the increased military activity and tie it into racism and disapproval of Obama.
The biggest of these exercises is Jade Helm 15, which will occur in the Southwest US from July 15 to September 15.
The Washington Post talked to locals in Bastrop, Texas where Jade Helm will be headquartered. “If it were any other president but Obama, it would not be an issue…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. “People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy,” Orr said.”
However, with the growing threat of civil unrest, as has been seen recently in Baltimore and Ferguson, many are wondering if these exercises may be training for the US military to intervene in possible riots. These concerns have grown as several urban exercises (Michigan, Florida, and California) have been held recently that are focused on urban fighting and civil unrest. And, since American cities are drastically different from those in the Middle East, the explanation that they are being used for training prior to deployment sounds suspicious.
And, though many insist that concerns over these exercises are overblown, polls show that many Americans are worried about its meaning.
In response to these concerns, Texas Governor Abbott sent the Texas State Guard to monitor the Jade Helm 15 military exercises. “During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” the governor wrote in his letter to the Guard’s commander at the time.
Despite the criticism from Washington and the governor’s critics, the move proved more popular with Texas voters. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll taken last month showed while a third of the registered voters in the poll had no opinion about the governor’s action, 39 percent agreed with it and 28 percent opposed it, the poll found.
Texas voters’ suspicions about the federal government and its use of the military don’t stop at Jade Helm, the survey found. Asked whether federal military intervention is likely in certain circumstances, large numbers said yes. A majority said military intervention is “very” or “somewhat” likely to arrest political protesters, and 50 percent said it is likely that the feds would send the military to violate citizens’ property rights. Smaller but significant numbers said the military would likely be used to impose martial law (44 percent) and to confiscate firearms from citizens (43 percent).
Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say the government might send troops in those situations, those concerns don’t always obey party lines. Forty percent of Democrats think the federal government would come to break up political protests. Needless to say, Tea Party Republicans were most likely to say the government would use the military inside the United States. The conservatives were more intense about it, but they were hardly alone. “It cuts into everybody’s suspicion,” poll director Daron Shaw said. “Nobody trusts the federal government. About a third of Democrats are concerned about the government going nuts. Among Republicans, it’s between 55 percent and two-thirds.”
Although Texas may not represent the whole US in views, it does show there is considerable concern. The question is why and how valid it is?
The American Aversion to Military Intervention in Domestic Affairs
American’s aversion to military intervention in domestic affairs goes back 240 years to the early days of the American Revolution. As British colonies, the British had used soldiers to enforce the law in America – something Americans hated and were eager to abolish when they won their independence. This led in great part to their reliance on the militia instead of maintaining a large military. It also let to the Posse Comitatus Act that bars the federal government from using military to police domestic America.
The result is that until recently, very few military units were seen outside military reservations. Exercises were held on government land and training sites that were similar to potential theaters of combat like the Middle East, were constructed there.
Many Americans were concerned when post 9-11 laws eliminated some of those Posse Comitatus protections and have given the president more authority to employ the military domestically. Given the civil unrest seen in the last year, which threat has become more real.
The History of Military Exercises in Civilian Areas
Despite the concerns about training in civilian areas, it is not unheard of, especially in Special Forces exercises. In fact, every Green Beret has gone through an exercise called “Robin Sage.”
Robin Sage is the U.S. military’s premiere unconventional warfare exercise and culmination phase of the Special Forces Qualification Course. During the exercise, Special Forces candidates infiltrate the notional country of Pineland, which encompasses 15 counties in North Carolina including Alamance, Anson, Cabarrus, Chatham, Davidson, Guilford, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly and Union counties.
Robin Sage is conducted by the 1st Special Warfare Training Group and is designed to provide realistic training in unconventional warfare tactics and techniques.
It is the final training exercise before candidates earn their Green Berets and has been held for nearly half a century.
US Special Forces also hold exercises around the country – usually in an attempt to sharpen their ability to infiltrate and sabotage critical infrastructure. These aren’t announced to the target and the operators usually only find out that they were a target when they find a sign that says, “This equipment has been blown up” on a critical piece of communications, radar, or electrical power equipment. These exercises help the Special Forces hone their skills, while helping to plug security weaknesses in the American infrastructure network.
The one difference between those exercises and what is occurring today is visibility. Few are even aware of a Special Forces exercise, while many military exercises today leave a large visible footprint.
For instance, the largest military convoy since World War 2 took place in Colorado in May. The exercise was called “Raider Focus,” and it involved the 1st Brigade combat team, which consisted of more than 4,000 soldiers and more than 300 Stryker armored vehicles and other support vehicles from Fort Carson. Given the fact that the US isn’t involved in a war of WW II magnitude and the Army is much smaller today, skeptics ask why the maneuver took place. Others note that the local geography is unlike potential warzones like Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan.
Civil Unrest Concerns
Although few think the Jade Helm exercise is an invasion of Texas, as some conspiracy theorists think, many more think there is more to these exercises than the Pentagon is willing to admit. Veterans admit that what the DoD says about exercises often is designed to circumvent the real reason for the event – either for political or tactical considerations.
There is also the lack of candor by the DoD on these operations. Congress has failed in its attempts to investigate U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the division in charge of Jade Helm, and very little is known about the scope and purpose of the SOCOM operations, given the extreme secrecy that often shrouds them.”
This lack of transparency was highlighted when SOCOM refused to allow the Washington Post to go along on Jade Helm, even though they had allowed journalists along on other exercises. The Washington Post argued that allowing journalists was the best way to address concerns about the operation.
Such secrecy bothers many journalists, even those on the left side of the political spectrum. “Whom does this exercise serve: the American public? Special Forces soldiers training for some current or future mission? Defense contractors peddling new weapons for wars that are increasingly being fought by remote control?” asked Justin Peters in Slate (hardly a conservative conspiracy publication) in May.
The Pentagon does have plans to respond to civil unrest with military tactics, as national security scholar and investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed revealed last year in a report for The Guardian.
In 2008, the Department of Defense first funded the “Minerva Research Initiative,” an effort that continues today. Minerva’s efforts included examining “social contagions” in order to understand how protest movements grow, with researchers studying Twitter posts by participants in the Arab Spring and other revolutionary movements.
Ahmed criticized the work funded by Minerva for failing to differentiate between constitutionally-protected protest and armed insurrection, citing a recent project that “conflates peaceful activists with ‘supporters of political violence’ who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on ‘armed militancy’ themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists.”
The idea that this research might be linked to exercises like Jade Helm 15 or used against domestic groups is not unrealistic, either. Ahmed interviewed David Price, a St. Martin’s University anthropologist, who cited examples of Pentagon exercises designed to quell protest and free speech. Ahmed reported: “One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club.”
“Security agencies have no qualms about painting the rest of us as potential terrorists,” concluded Ahmed, underscoring that it’s only through the outcry of journalists and regular citizens that we can protect our essential freedoms from military control.
These concerns are heightened by the motto of Jade Helm, “Mastering the Human Domain.” The concept of Human Domain refers to the tactic of discovering your enemies and friends in an unsettled area based on their lifestyle characteristics and their interrelationship with the social media.
It goes without saying that Americans use the social media more than either Afghans or Iraqis, which indicates that the US is gearing up for more domestic civil unrest.
Future Israeli Air Superiority Fighter losses to Older F-16
In news that has shaken up many, the F-35, which is America’s future air superiority fighter and also the choice of Israel’s air force lost in a dog fight against the much older F-16 (Block 40).
Information has been leaked that says that the F-35 can’t beat its predecessor in a dogfight, suggesting that the advanced new fighter might put lives at risk during close battles.
The news comes from a five-page brief that an F-35 pilot wrote after a war exercise against the F-16. The problem with the F-35 appears to be related to maneuverability, as the plane isn’t able to get the upper hand in combat against an older fighter.
More troubling is the fact that during this particular test, the F-35 should have been superior to the F-16 not only because of its more aerodynamic design but also because the old fighter was carrying extra fuel tanks. Still, the F-35 was not able to shoot down the F-16 or evade the attack, even though it should have been significantly nimbler than its opponent.
“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage,” the pilot wrote, revealing he couldn’t target the F-16 with the F-35’s 25mm canon. Meanwhile, when having to escape the old fighter’s aim, the F-35 wasn’t able to do that either.
Cockpit space is also a problem. Apparently, the cockpit was so cramped that it was hard for the pilot to move his head, which allowed the F-16 to sneak up on him.
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