Salon's Joan Walsh got into a dispute over a tweet from a defender of President Obama arguing, in Walsh's words, "that 'selective outrage' over the targeted killing issue, not merely concern about it, could reflect 'white privilege.'"
I'm white, but I've seen arguments of this kind being made on Twitter and elsewhere, and I have to admit I find myself nodding in some agreement. I understand the outrage at the Obama administration's drone program -- but I think if targeted killings of U.S. citizens seem vastly more horrifying to you than the pursuit of war in general, then you have expectations that would be laughable in the exclusively non-European countries where we've fought all our wars (and "police actions" and whatnot) since World War II ended. A lot of people have died in those wars, and more have been injured or displaced, and no individual non-combatant victim in those countries was ever indicted by a grand jury or convicted in a court of law. But now it's happening to U.S. citizens overseas and the reaction seems to be: Hey, that could be me!
Walsh writes about what she calls American privilege:
On the question of targeting U.S. citizens: I'm proud of the extraordinary rights we enjoy as Americans, and I don't know why so many people shrug at the notion that the president can abrogate those rights if he decides, based on evidence (which he doesn't have to share) that you're a terrorist....But if you're especially outraged at targeted killings of American citizens, if you think they're more horrifying than everything else that's been done in the wars we've fought, that strikes me as a sense of non-combatant privilege. Many of us -- maybe only many white Americans? -- not only assume we're entitled to due process, we expect never to be on a battlefield. In other words, we expect never to be in a situation in which due process doesn't apply.
I think almost all of us born here enjoy American privilege, and we should examine it when we look at the way our government protects our privilege globally. Obama's most ardent defenders continue to insist that being concerned about targeted killing abroad somehow reflects insufficient concern for the rights of Americans neglected right here at home; I say it's the job of people of conscience to care about all of it.
To me that's a sense of privilege. So I see what's wrong with the drone program, but it's a subset of what's wrong with war. Some Americans expect to be shielded from this sort of suffering at all times, and are shocked that a few Americans aren't.