Texas has the rare distinction among U.S. states of having been, for a decade in the 19th century, its own nation. That history of independence, that lingering pride of sovereignty, has never really left the state, and every so often it arouses a certain suspicion of outside forces—be it Mexicans, ISIS fighters, or most frequently, the federal government. So when the U.S. military announced plans to hold an eight-week joint exercise it called Operation Jade Helm 15 in Texas and five other western states this summer, the people of Bastrop County quickly—and with the help of radio host Alex Jones and Infowars.com—saw it for what it really was: a preparation for the military to impose martial law in the Lone Star State.
Those fears grew over the course of a month, fed in part by the Army Special Operations Command's release of a map for the exercise that labeled Texas as "hostile territory."
It got to the point where the Army sent Lieutenant Colonel Mark Lastoria to brief residents of Bastrop—which is about 30 miles east of Austin—at a community meeting last month. The briefing did not go well. "We just want to hone our skills," Lastoria told the citizens, according to a clip of the meeting posted by the Austin American-Statesman. "We just need to get back to the basics and make sure we review on soldiers, our special operators, in all of their core tasks, and this exercise will help do that." He said the military was "invested in everybody's personal rights and their privacy." When one Bastrop resident spoke up to oppose the exercise and referred to it as "a martial-law program," the packed room cheered.