By KAY MATTHEWS
Earlier this week the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart satirized the great state of Texas for its interpretation of the proposed military maneuvers scheduled there this summer as a “federal takeover.” While I, too, love to poke fun at the state’s reactionary paranoids and whacko politicians, I wish this time Stewart, and those who have joined in the fun over the Internet, would have expanded the coverage to talk about who’s really taking over not just Texas but the entire country’s public lands and airways: the military industrial complex. As Carol Miller, of the Peaceful Skies Coalition, wrote in a January 8 La Jicarita article: “There are three key elements of US [military] base expansions: 1) new and expanded land bases, airspace and seaspace; 2) base and military activities on public lands, tribal lands, culturally important indigenous sites; and 3) “encroachment” planning, the least publicized and understood category where the military basically dictates what activities can happen around military bases even on public and private land.”
This summer’s proposed military activity is called Request to Conduct Realistic Military Training (RMT) JADE HELM 15. Because the operations will be conducted outside of federally owned property, the request is to get local authorities on board: law enforcement, mayors, county commissioners, etc. This eight-week “Unconventional Warfare” is planned for New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado from July 15 to September 1
The map that is included in the publicly released PDF outlining the exercise is what has set off the Internet firestorm and conspiracy theorists. It shows the specific sites in each state where the exercises are proposed: in New Mexico, it’s Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis and Ore Grande, near El Paso. What has everyone’s attention is the labeling—and bright coloring—of the legend that lays out which states support the operations and which don’t. Texas is labeled a “Hostile” state. Joining Texas in that category is Utah; Nevada, Colorado, and California are “Permissive”; New Mexico is “Uncertain (Leaning Hostile)”; and Arizona is “Uncertain (Leaning Friendly)”. There’s also a “Hostile” colored “Insurgent Pocket” in the very southern tip of California. Although Texas gets the “Hostile” label, which is not surprising after this week’s media circus, there’s a page in the proposal dedicated to Texas, which refers to the state as being “historically supportive of efforts to our soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors to fight the enemies of the United States.” New Mexico’s labeling as “Uncertain (Leaning Hostile)” seems counter intuitive, considering that the proposed exercise areas—Cannon Air Force Base and Ore Grande (El Paso is home to Fort Bliss)—are strong military areas in the state. And I’d really like to know exactly what and where the “Insurgent Pocket” is.
I e-mailed and phoned all of the contact people on the proposal to find out answers to these questions; not surprisingly, no one returned my calls or e-mails. If any La Jicarita readers can help answer these questions, please let us know.
The project proposes to send Army Green Berets, Navy Seals, Marine and Air Force Special Operations, and Marine Expeditionary Units out to these state locations to “hone advanced skills” in areas of low population density and undeveloped land. On it’s “What to Expect” page JADE HELM 15 tells us to watch out for increased aircraft at night, increased noise, 60 to 65 people walking around with weapons with blank ammo, and “suspicious activities.” The caveat, though, is that local elected officials will be “fully aware of the exercise.”
This is just the latest expansion of military presence in New Mexico, across the country, and around the world. The Peaceful Skies Coalition came together in 2010 to protest Cannon Air Force Base’s Low Altitude Training Area (LATA) across the skies of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The proposal was withdrawn in 2012 due to the huge public outcry and the failure of the Pentagon to correctly follow National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedure. As Carol Miller describes in the La Jicarita article mentioned above, when the military gets push back from citizens against these LATA proposals, they just reframe the proposals: “At the same time the LATA EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] was delayed, the Air Force hired Marstell-Day, a defense contractor, to conduct encroachment planning for Cannon AFB. This was the alternate route Cannon has taken to try to circumvent the people who had united to oppose becoming a LATA. The cooptation process is formally referred to as Joint Land Use Studies (JLUS). These activities encompass a process where federal, state, and local governments, the private sector and the military agree how the land around existing bases can be developed or undeveloped now and into the future. Many deals are cut during this process as the military extorts money and promises.”
Folks in southern Colorado have been fighting against the expansion of Fort Carson into Piñon Canyon for years. The first expansion, in 1983, was into a 95,500-hectare training area in southeastern Colorado called the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. In 2006 the Army proposed to expand the site by 169,000 hectares, making it the largest Army training ground in the U.S. This prospect galvanized a diverse coalition of rural residents to oppose the Piñon Canyon expansion, which includes Not 1 More Acre!
The plan was temporarily put on hold, but in March of 2015 the Army released its Final Environmental Impact Statement, which would increase training to include explosives, drones, and full brigade sized exercises. The document says the Army will no longer consider aviation rocket and flare training. The comment period ended on April 19. (La Jicarita friend and contributor Eric Perramond, Colorado College professor of Environmental Science and Southwest Studies, along with Professor of Geography David Havlick, have spent seven years tracking the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site and published an article called “Militarized spaces and open range: Piñon Canyon and (counter)cartographies of rural resistance,” in February of 2015: “Our research critically considers how the principal actors in this case—the US Army and a rural citizen opposition coalition—mobilized different narrative and political strategies based substantially upon contrasting cartographic representations to shape the debate and construct contested geographies of this space as military training ground versus open range.” Unfortunately, the article is limited by an academic journal embargo and the above link goes only to the Abstract.)
While the left wing is busy debunking the right wing conspiracy theorists, the military industrial complex continues to colonize the country, particularly the southwest, with it’s air force bases, nuclear weapons labs, waste disposal sites, industrial arms corporations, national forest takeovers and militarization of police departments. Thanks to the vigilance of groups like Peaceful Skies and Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, we’re stalling the occupation.