In War Games, Navy SEALs Normalize Treating U.S. Citizens as Enemy
United States Navy SEALs planned war games in the state of Washington for mid-January, where they would encroach upon residential areas, state parks, national parks, etc, without the consent of the public. The war games treat citizens as pawns because SEALs were trained to react to citizens as potential terrorists.
One of the most alarming aspects of the war games, which were reported on by Truthout journalist Dahr Jamail, is how it normalizes the idea that U.S. citizens can be enemies. The war games suggest a future where many more military exercises run roughshod over public spaces and soldiers simulate how citizens could pose a danger to them.
Now, the weekly podcast, “Unauthorized Disclosure,” returns for a third season. Our guest this week is Jamail, who talks about documents he obtained from a source within the Navy. He describes how the Navy circumvented the process so the public would not be able to object to plans. It excluded clandestine trainings from regulations requiring environmental impact statements. “Peace parks” in Washington would be violated by the military. Jamail also talks about some of his other extensive reporting on climate disruption, including the melting of the Arctic.
In the discussion portion, hosts Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek recap the past few weeks of 2016 and talk about Guantanamo, Obama’s State of the Union speech, and U.S. government raids and deportations against refugees from Central America.
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Below is a partial transcript of the interview with Dahr Jamail.
GOSZTOLA: Let’s get into it. Basically what you describe are these clandestine military exercises that the Navy SEALs are going to run in the Puget Sound and coastal areas of Washington state. So, get into what you uncovered here.
JAMAIL: Basically, what I found through a source—actually within the Navy—I came across a couple of the Navy’s own documents, and these were documents that they’re not classified but the Navy had effectively hidden them from public accessibility by calling them something else. They basically made up their own designation for these documents in such a way as to make it to where they would not be available. If someone wanted to file a Freedom of Information Act request to try to get this kind of information, they basically made it so these documents would not come up in those searches but that they would not be breaking the law by hiding them in the way that they did.
And so, the source that I had was able to provide these documents to me, which essentially outlined an ongoing Navy SEALs training regime that was slated to start right now literally—yesterday to be specific, January 14—and be ongoing for the next two years, where they would essentially have access to basically the entirety coastline of Washington state, including most of the Puget Sound area, the coast going out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the west coast that is right there on the Pacific Ocean.
They would have access to coastlines, state parks, private areas, to where Navy SEALs would be launched onto the beach areas carrying “simulated weapons” in areas that include 68 beach and state park areas in everywhere that I just mentioned, and they would be able to access the beach areas, residential areas, private lands, state parks, and go anytime, day or night, for exercises starting yesterday for the next two years without any public notification whatsoever. They hadn’t any of the relevant state, federal, or local government officials—So, things like police departments, things like U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, etc. Nobody had been notified. Even the governor’s office in Washington state had not been notified.
Needless to say, when we published these documents on Monday, it has basically created outrage across the better part of Washington state. And it has fortunately forced most of the local media outlets, including a lot of the bigger TV and newspaper outlets in Seattle and the surrounding area, to start covering the story. So, people are really, really upset about this and rightly so.
KHALEK: So many aspects of this story are really stunning, but one thing in particular was the fact that this wasn’t even cleared with the federal government agencies, the federal government land that would be used for this. It violated all kinds of federal laws and state laws. It’s like nobody has any control over what Navy SEALs can train and do. The federal government doesn’t have control. That’s so bizarre to me.
JAMAIL: That’s exactly right. One example is the Washington State Historic Preservation Officer. This person on the state level wasn’t even consulted. The Navy used a really slimy method of excluding contact with these people that by law, by federal law, they were supposed to be in contact with to consult with, to do environmental impact statements, and then have public notifications and public comment periods, etc. The Navy bypassed doing any of this, and one of the ways, one of the chief means they used of doing it was they used an exemption process called a categorical exclusion. CATEX is their acronym.
They used it as a way to sidestep federal regulations that could have actually been preventative of them doing these type of Navy SEAL war gaming along the coast of Washington. And so, by using these categorical exclusions, they basically use this as a way to not have to do an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement, which would be required on these types of exercises. I have emails that documented this, where the Navy literally not just tried to not do these environmental impact statements and the things they are regulated by federal law to do but literally actively sought this way to bypass regulations by using CATEXes and other things like this.
It’s really, really troubling. Not only are they just disregarding the federal law. They basically are actively finding ways to completely subvert it, and then that would allow them to do what they were poised to do, which is conduct what they call realistic military trainings where—And this is why I say in the title of the piece the Navy uses U.S. citizens as pawns in domestic war games.
I mean that quite literally because by the Navy’s own documents that we published—and they’re online right now for folks to check out—they talk about using U.S. citizens as a way of training their soldiers to say, hey, these could be terrorists. We don’t know the people you might run into during these war game exercises. So, they’re literally using U.S. citizens as pawns to train their soldiers how to react in certain ways.
They’re not carrying weapons with live ammunition in them, but nevertheless, this is a very, very disconcerting step, where they are actively using U.S. citizens in their war games without our consent, without even our knowledge, and certainly without any advanced notification of what they are going to be doing. And then this sets up a situation, where literally you will have Navy SEALs swimming in teams through marinas where people are living on boats. They’re not going to know what’s happening. They’re not going to know who these people are.
You’re going to have Navy SEALs going through residential neighborhoods potentially in the middle of the night with simulated weapons, going through state park and hiking trails at night during the day with simulated weapons, some time even carrying out active war gaming exercises. Needless to say, you don’t have to use a lot of imagination to see the potential for disaster, for someone being shot, for someone else getting afraid and pulling a gun on these people, since we live in such a heavily weaponized country that the potential for accidents is very high—not even to speak of just basic civil rights and civil liberties that are going to be infringed upon by these exercises.
KHALEK: There’s two point theres. First, when we say war games, war games sounds almost like something fun. But these are Navy SEALs that typically operate in kill teams basically. That’s what they do when they go abroad so I imagine that’s the kind of training being conducted as well. Then, you mentioned they are using the U.S. population as pawns. At some point, could these kinds of exercises being used against U.S. citizens, like domestically on U.S. soil if that’s where they are practicing it? These parts of the west coast do not exactly look like and operate like parts of the world where the U.S. military is conducting operations like this.
JAMAIL: Yeah, those are both two really good points. Let me just start by using the Navy’s own exact language for their plans because that’s why, I think, one reason why this story is so explosive is it’s extremely alarming and disconcerting information. And it’s not being made up. I am quoting directly from the Navy itself, and the Navy was, of course, forced to confirm that, yes, these indeed are our documents.
Their plans include what they call special reconnaissance teams conducting patrols, which are then authorized to go on simulated “direct action missions.” Their definition of a “direct action mission” is “short duration strikes and other small-scale offensive actions conducted as a special operation in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments and which employ specialized military capabilities to seize, destroy, capture, exploit, recover, or damage designated targets.”
That’s their own lingo. Then, I include a lot of different links that discuss, you know, hey, this is the domestic military expansionism going on across the entire country. Operation Jade Helm from last year was one example of this. This is basically a mini version of Operation Jade Helm. I say mini. It involves the entire coastline of Washington state but compared to Jade Helm that is still small. And this is happening all over, and it does come on the back of several instances of extremely abusive unlawful behavior by naval SEALs overseas—detainee killings and abuse—documented in even mainstream sources, like the New York Times. So, it is very disconcerting.
To the second question you pose, why is this training happening and what are the future implications? Again, I like to cite the military’s own documents because if I just say this, someone might say, well, he’s sounding a bit like a conspiracy theorist. According to the Quadrennial Defense Review report from the Pentagon, these types of trainings are for two purposes. One, it is to prepare for future wars against countries that would have coastlines like this. I think it’s, again, quoting that document, we talk about China. We talk about Russia. We look at future resource wars.
Secondly, again, according to the quadrennial defense review report, we look at the military preparing for two potentialities: one, domestic unrest caused by climate change exacerbated situations—so, unrest due to lack of food and water in big urban environments or even on the outskirts of those environments. Two, economic unrest—I think they’re tied together, but the quadrennial defense review report addresses them as two separate things.
You know, domestic unrest caused by upheaval from lack of food and water availability climate change-related or another giant economic crash, like say post-2008 economic crash but even worse, where again you would have riots happening in urban centers or sometimes in outlying areas if there’s not enough money and the economy basically hits a point of criticality, where people literally can’t find enough food and water. The military is actively preparing for both of those two potentialities, and that’s fact. That’s according to the Pentagon’s own words.
GOSZTOLA: I want to emphasize that some of these operations would be happening in peace parks in Washington, and maybe you could spend some time talking about how these places have been designated as such by citizens in Washington.
JAMAIL: That’s right. It’s actually nearby the town where I live in Port Townsend, Washington. It’s on the northeast tip of the Olympic peninsula. There is a park there that is well known around the area as a peace park because it’s essentially an old military base that was there when there were gun emplacements there. Back in the turn of the century, there was actually a fort there, where the military was prepared in case there was some sort of a naval invasion coming in the strait. But there’s a place, it’s now called Fort Worden State Park. And it’s essentially been turned away.
It’s not even thought of by locals as a military base or a former military base. It’s essentially been turned into an area for art, where there’s artist residencies there. There’s a big art entity, Centrum, that hosts regular artist workshops, music fests, all through the summer. Also, on top of the area nearby the area that overlooks the strait—it’s a very beautiful area—there’s a place called Memory’s Vault, which is a place where people can go and sit in and contemplate. That area, particularly, is called a peace park. If you look at the Navy’s own documents, they have that whole area mapped out. You can pull up a specific slide and look. It shows exactly where they intend to land on the beaches and then the areas they would go up in to Fort Worden State Park and conduct paintball war gaming exercises against each other.
GOSZTOLA: In isolation, it’s alarming. To what extent is this an expansion? You said this is expansionism, but how would you contextualize this? Because they’ve done military exercises in parts of the country. It’s probably been happening for decades now at this point. Is what’s alarming that they’re specifically singling out people as pawns and part of the exercise?
JAMAIL: That is a very good point because that is a very recent shift, and to my eyes, probably the most disconcerting thing. The military’s always carried out large exercises around the country off the coast, even on land. They have millions and millions of acres of federal land that is designated specifically and only for military exercise training. In all fifty states, you can find land like this. That is not new.
What is new is this encroachment onto state parks, national parks, and now, more recently, as we saw in Jade Helm and as we’re seeing now in Pacific Northwest, their intentional use of going into private residential areas and literally having training exercises specifically setup to go do that with the expectations that they will run into citizens and then train their soldiers how to prepare for that; to treat these citizens as potential enemy combatants, as potential terrorists, as potential troublemakers, etc.
And so, it’s not necessarily they’re going to go out and start detaining people and drag them into their war games. But literally they are starting to train their soldiers to prepare for that as a possibility in the future. You might go into a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of this tiny little town in the Pacific Northwest called Port Townsend, which is basically known as an art town, and run into someone on their urban organic farm. You might say, hey, this could be a potential terrorist so how are we going to behave? So, bringing people into their exercises as pawns.
That is a new thing. I’ve not run across this so far except in the last year. And Jade Helm is really the first most egregious example, and then now this one, where literally it is in their own documentation that we want to bring citizens into these war games so we can start mentally preparing our soldiers for this eventuality in the future.
Listen to the full interview with Dahr Jamail here.