Gov. Rick Perry ordered National Guard troops to the border to watch out for Mexican immigrants.
But this week Gov. Greg Abbott went him one better.
He ordered the National Guard to watch out for invading U.S. troops.
The order came in preparation for war-game exercises being planned by a number of U.S. military units for later this summer.
Called Operation Jade Helm 15, the exercises will involve 1,200 members of the military and take place across Texas and six other Western states.
The military says it is to “practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies.”
But some radio talk show hosts have been warning that the operation really will be in preparation for taking over the states and imposing martial law.
The Internet is lighting up with conspiracy theories, including statements that Walmart stores across the country are being renovated complete with interconnected tunnels for use by special forces for federal takeover.
On Monday more than 150 people turned out for a presentation by Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria of the U.S. Army Special Command to the Bastrop County Commissioners Court.
The crowd was not completely mollified.
“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany,” the Austin American-Statesman quoted resident Bob Wells as saying.
“You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police. They’re gathering intelligence … and moving logistics in place for martial law.”
Others carried signs such as “No Gestapo in Bastrop.”
Wednesday, Gov. Abbott issued a letter to the National Guard commander directing the Guard to monitor the federal military exercises so that “Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights, and civil liberties will not be infringed.”
This is not the first time exotic military exercises have met with resistance in Texas.
Seventeen years ago a black helicopter exercise that would drop special forces onto urban buildings was blocked by a mayor and police chief in – of all places – Military City USA.
That’s right, in 1998 San Antonio Mayor Howard Peak, with the backing of City Council and Police Chief Al Philippus, nixed a Delta Force exercise that would have had black helicopters flying low over East and West Side neighborhoods, dropping about 100 black-clad commandos onto selected rooftops.
One was to be the old Friedrich Building on the East Side.
The commandos would use explosives to enter buildings and possibly fire ceramic bullets as part of the exercise.
Peak was quoted in the Express-News as expressing concern for citizen safety.
“They ought to go out and look for a set in Hollywood or something,” he said.
The opposition wasn’t based on conspiracy theories.
An Express-News editorial summed it up, citing earlier exercises:
“Staging this urban counterterrorist training in heavily populated areas is insane. It's also dangerous, as reflected in $100,000 worth of property damage caused by an explosion in a similar training exercise in New Orleans and the stray bullet that found its way into an all-night restaurant in Miami.”
The editorial made another point:
“And why the East and West sides of town? That the Army would choose minority communities for such dangerous maneuvers is shameful at best and racist at worst. A certainty is that neither Alamo Heights nor the Greater Northwest were ever considered.”
Such rhetoric sounds almost quaint in these days of talk radio and internet paranoia.
But let the record show: San Antonio stood up to the Feds well before Abbott started suing them or ordering the National Guard to stand guard against them.