News of the Army’s operation Jade Helm stirred up widespread fears and deep mistrust of the American government in a sizable bloc of the public. Thousands of tweets, dozens of online publications and plenty of Chron.com commenters sounded the alarm of an impending military takeover.
Now the virtual world of alternative news has added a new twist to the tale: Walmart is in on it, and there are secret underground tunnels.
Multiple websites drew links between the suspiciously swift and simultaneous closure of a half dozen Walmarts nationwide and the military training drill that will have some of America’s most elite units–Green Berets and Navy SEALS among them–trying to blend in to the civilian population in Texas and the Southwestern states.
It may seem crazy, but the fearful aren’t a totally marginal crowd. Online outcry over the original plans to hold the so-called realistic military training in American cities drew an official response from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Stars and Stripes, the news publication of the U.S. military, ran an article titled “Army Special Operations Command pushes back against alarmist claims about upcoming exercise,” The Washington Post wrote “Why Operation Jade Helm 15 is freaking out the Internet—and why it shouldn’t be” and VICE News reported “conspiracy theorists think an army training exercise will bring martial law to the US this summer.”
A talk radio host even raised the issue in a conversation with Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul.
Now Walmart is in the picture. The world’s largest retailer raised eyebrows last week when it simultaneously shuttered five stores—two in Texas, one in California, Oklahoma and Florida—and laid off 2,200 workers with only several hours’ notice. The stores claimed plumbing problems prompted closures.
But bloggers have different ideas. The website Intellihub, the “Civilian Intelligence Agency,” suggested the Walmarts are being converted into giant entrance facilities for a network of underground tunnels the military will use to transport troops across the country.
Another website, All News Pipeline, poses the question: “will these massive stores soon be used as ‘food distribution centers’ and to house the headquarters of invading troops from China, here to disarm Americans…?”
Another website, Before It’s News, ran a post titled “JADE HELM: Explosive new information! Underground government tunnels beneath closing Walmarts, missile platforms, facial recognition, bundy ranch and Walmart tied to DHS! They are all connected!”
Multiple websites cite video showing police surrounding one of the recently closed Walmarts in California, and the empty shelving inside arranged strangely in an arch around loading bay doors. Allegations of secret cross-country tunnels and so-called “deep underground military bases” (DUMBs for short), are based on a 2004 online forum for Paulding County, Georgia, in which local residents discuss the construction effort underway in their area.
“The tunneling project is a joint venture involving the National Security Agency, CIA, FBI, MiB, Homeland Security & a few other groups,” one user posted. (It’s unknown if the “MiB” refers to shadowy, fictitious “Men in Black” agents made famous by the Will Smith movies)
He continued: “The addition of new Walmart facilities in northwest Georgia gives spur hubs and depots easy access to large areas that can be partitioned off for moving of very large equipment and large numbers of people in case of national emergency.”
Websites also post an apparently hand-drawn map of a nationwide underground tunnel system dated 1978. Now they fear that the closed superstores and alleged tunnels underneath will be used to advance diabolical military plans to disarm and imprison Americans during the upcoming Jade Helm.
But the military calls the operation a drill in realistic warfare. County officials who spoke with army command said they’d been notified that troops would be operating undercover amongcivilians, testing their abilities to blend in. Military specialists have interpreted acronyms on an Army document and inferred that small groups of elite soldiers would stage a long-distance escape from simulated hostile territory. The Washington Post reports numerous past military drills have simulated activities inside hostile territories in the United States before.
Yet many Americans apparently still believe they are the enemies the military is preparing to fight. It mirrors a national trend of extreme skepticism—a CNN poll last year showed trust in the government was at an all-time low, with only 13 percent saying the trust the government most of the time. Moreover, a 2012 report documented a dramatic rise in Americans rejecting the legitimacy of their government outright, and a 2015 Department of Homeland Security report warned of danger from right-wing groups resentful of military and police.
Jade Helm will take place in 17 Texas cities from July to September 2015. County officials have been advised of military plans and should be able to answer citizen questions about road closures or simulated violence near residential areas.
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