Friday, February 08, 2013


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....

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.
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.

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.


aimai said...

I think she's right in the sense that "white American privilige" extends to a complete ignorance of the reality of the rest of the world's suffering, both through poverty and war and also an ignorance of the state of war that non white Americans experience, thanks to the drug war and the immigration war. Joan Walsh (and I) have never had our doors kicked down by the DEA or by the ICE. We weren't with Fred Hampton when he was gunned down.

I think that she is also right that, to a certain extent, casual indifference to the drone war is the result of a generalized indifference to all wars fought somewhere else and indifference to Al AWaki's fate is certainly tied up with the fact that his name is so very "unamerican" and foreign, as was his person non white.

But that being said it is still the case that the ddrone war is no worse than the real wars we engage in and, at least in terms of numbers of dead much better.

I'm not afraid that the drone strike on a guy in Yemen "means" that American's lack privilige--I'd be ashamed of myself if that were my first instinct. I'm concerned because all wars and war like events are being moved off books--started with Blackwater and is moving that way because the US as an imperialist country wants what it wants to keep white privilige going (computers, rare earths, oil) and still prefers not to count the cost in other people's lives.

Victor said...


Too many Americans don't give a sh*t if a drone bombs a village full of Muslim and/or brown people.

But, let that target be an American, and they get their knickers in knots.
Even if that American citizen 'over there' is of the Muslim faith, and a non-white.
I bet some American are thinking,
"There but for the grace of believing in the right God, go I."

I wonder how people in America would feel if those drones were used on other Christian - especially if they're white Christians?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if shouldn't matter if these drones were being used by Bush, or are being used by Obama.

Executions without trials, especially in some "war" against a philosophy, intead of a country, are, imo, still wrong.

But I do understand the point that, to capture said target might result in the loss of American lives, and, less importantly, equipment, and that using a drone helps to prevent those losses from happening.

War is hell, no matter whether it's fought on land, at sea, or through the air.

And I look for far smarter people than me, to lead the way, regarding the future use of drones.

The only positive that I can see, if the testimony I heard yesterday is to be believed, is that Brennan wants all control of drones to be taken away from the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and into the hands of the military, where there's greater oversight (theoretically, at least) by Congress, and so, the people.

No matter how you paint it, war sucks!
And that we as a country have lived way too long in a state of perpetual war.
"There's profits in them thar wars!"
And at this point, I can't help but wonder if these perpetual wars aren't being waged for, and by, profiteers, for the benefit of no one but themselves.

And that that's why I keep hearing that Iran is such a threat.
"There's a profit in that thar war, too!"

Victor said...

Don't forget the coming war(s) over potable water, to keep that precious comodity a white privilege, too.

Anonymous said...

I think it has to do with legal precedent as well. And frankly I'm getting tired of the fact that when anybody criticizes Obama from the left the charge of white privilege gets tossed out and we are promptly told that we can't criticize him. It's been truly facinating to watch.

Many of the people who were outspoken on the issue of execution by drone also spoke out against the folly of the Iraq War, GITMO, Bush, and the slew of other abuses committed by our government in the post 9/11 era. However we seem to be a shrinking minority.

The real change Obama brought is that many Democrats are suddenly OK with these practices now that one of ours is in office and will vigorously defend things they once found horrid out of loyalty to the president. And many Republican hawks are now uncomfortable with executive abuse of power now that they are out of power.

And let's be honest about it, it wasn't the killing of Alwaki that triggered the outrage. He was a bad actor. It was the slaying of his 16 year old child (who wasn't white i should point out) and the utter lack of transparency about it that caused the outrage.

For me personally, I was in the military and am a member of the VFW. For a part of my life I could have been targeted by someone. I have no illusions about what war actually entails.

Ten Bears said...

Be it Bush's torture or Obama's drones my take never changed, it would be best if we made War no more.

'Course, I have some experience with that sort of thing.

No fear...

Anonymous said...


It's not just about profit, it's about the petro dollar which under writes our entire way of life and Americas power.

In a nut shell, the entire reason we did so well post WW2 and have any sort of quality of life is that all oil in the market is traded in dollars. Were that to change (either by moving to a different energy source or by oil being traded in another currency) everything would come crashing down. The modern way of American life would be over in an instant.

This is why every time some country starts trading oil in a secondary market outside of the petro dollar we unleash holy hell on them.

Is there a profit motive, yeah sure for those involved there often is. But nationally, modern American and our quality of life cannot exist without a strong petro dollar. When that era ends we end.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Relatively speaking, drones are a much more discriminating weapon than many, many others.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Btw, we killed an awful lot of white people all over Europe in WW1 and WW2.

So did the European nations involved.

Most of them were civilians, all told.

Privilege, huh?

Steve M. said...

But in the nearly 70 years since then, how many? And how many Asians and Latin Americans?

Victor said...

Thanks, yes I'm aware of that.

And I also remember reading that one of the under-reported reasons for going after Saddam Hussein, was that he was looking to trade Iraqi oil in something other than dollars.

And the dollar, now that Europe is deep in austerity, is still the most stable, and hence, popular, monetary source.

Now, maybe sometime in the future, China's currency may come to dominate, but that time is probably not in the very near future.

Especially if we can find some ways to be energy independent, so that we don't keep wasting our soldiers and trillions of dollars, in the Middle East.

And yes, oil was what allowed our economy to boom.
But continued reliance upon it, will cause our economy to eventually bust.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Well, if it would take a fresh European war to make you get off the racist attacks on American whites, I guess the attacks will go on.

aimai said...

We bombed some serbians. And we threatened to bomb the hell out of the Russians. I think our willingness to murder whites is indisputable. If Serbia were sitting on vast oil reserves? We'd be occupying them right now.

Anonymous said...


Both Iraq and Iran have proposed trading oil without the petro dollar. And other nations have floated using Chinese currency off and on. Part of the reason for our massive support of Saudi Arabia is they back the current petro dollar situation to the hilt.

Steve M. said...

Yeah, Philo, I'm a white guy who says nasty things about white people. I'm an auto-racist.

Examinator said...

Auto-racist? haven't heard that one before.
Personally, I'm well balanced on two grounds
1. I dispise all race equally.... think about it.
2. I have a chip on both shoulders ;-)

Philo Vaihinger said...


Sounds like somebody who drives for NASCAR, doesn't it?


I really like that.

Philo Vaihinger said...

It is not a privilege not to be a victim.

This is not something you need to apologize for or feel guilty for.

It is not wicked, nor proof of wickedness.

The concept is malevolent and vicious.

If someone wrongs you and you respond by maligning his race it is you who are the racist.

How is this not obvious?

Philo Vaihinger said...

Obama's war policy critics include Barbara Lee, by the way.

Ten Bears said...

There is only one race: the human race. I'm pretty solid proof the color of one's skin, the bend their nose or kink of their doesn't preclude the ability to breed. And we have reached a point in our evolution where if we don't set aside these adolescent squabble ore who has the bigger dick we - the human race - may very well not survive at all.

Those that survive will not necessarily be "the strong"; the well to do, or the well armed. Think afrenses. A.afresis, omnivore.

No fear...