Recently the military announced that it would not be putting on military exercises this summer that it had planned for a number of central and eastern Utah Counties.
The idea was to simulate a situation where unconventional and irregular warfare was going on, with the military having to deal with many guerrilla forces in the areas where the exercise was going on.
The plan would have involved special forces and in some cases locals were being asked to act as "partisans" and resist the forces.
But officially, for lack of funds, it was decided that it would not happen this summer. Whether this is due to the sequestration debacle or not, I am not sure, but lack of money in the military when they want to really do something seldom seems to hold them back. Officially it was announced that was part of it anyway.
When this exercise was first announced a number of people in our community told me about it, some of them ex-military themselves, and they seemed genuinely excited about the prospect.
However the reaction was a little different on the other side of the hill.
According to the March 13 issue of the Sanpete Messenger, there were citizens who were really concerned about such a thing going on in their community, particularly people in Manti.
The paper reported that some thought that the military might come in as an exercise, and then impose martial law on Manti. If you read between the lines some thought that this exercise was a ploy to take over the central Utah town for the federal government.
In fact the paper said one resident stated that "special forces may frighten children, or much worse, turn on the community and invoke martial law."
The paper also reported that "some voiced fears that the federal government was already in Manti, driving unmarked cars through town, already spying on citizens, or preparing to."
Other towns in the areas that would have been affected seemed to have no problem with the military coming in. In fact most welcomed them.
Statements from those opposed seem to center on the government, not the military. Most said they like the military, but that the government is using that force wrongly and that they could change the mission of the forces while they were in the area.
The reporter at the Messenger who did the story did a great job. He got quotes and information from everyone. That is what makes this so sad;.There are actually people out there that believe these kinds of conspiracy theories and they can get a lot of citizens who never would have thought anything about it, stirred up.
In a discussion in our newsroom with others about this, we just all shook our heads. There are some real holes in the theories these people have and you can see that those opposed, for the most part, are either very geo-centric or paranoid.
Why would the government want to take over Manti? In what way is it strategic or important? I am not saying any town is not important, but you have to look at it from the military kind of mind set. It has no major highway running through it (you can't count Highway 89) and it has no rail line, no major airport and no defense industry. It has no energy supplies or other important strategic materials. What would be the reason?
Purveyors of this theory say that it is not the military, but the government behind this. Then why select Manti or for that matter any other town that would have had the exercises near them? Is it because those who believe this think because Manti is in the bluest part of the bluest state in the union is up for attack? Is it the fear of Democrats coming to get them that is driving this?
The fact is that as good as social media and the world wide web is for many things, it is easy to get people into a tizzy over things because it is so easy to put out things that are just crazy.
Everyone thinks where they live is important, but in the overall view of things how really important is Manti, or Price or even Salt Lake City in the realm of the world? Let none of us make ourselves or where we live more important than we are.
I think the part of this I was most amused by was the government spy cars that were spying on people or "preparing to."
First I think you are either spying or you are not. Why would anyone be preparing to spy by driving around town? Wouldn't you just spy?
But maybe they are right. Maybe there are cars driving around spying on them, but it's not the feds.
It is the water users from Carbon County looking to see if Sanpete really does need the water it would get from the Gooseberry Project.
Let's add that to the paranoid cup of tea, drink it and see what happens.