Who are you not calling a petro bully?

I cannot understand why Michael Ross ignored the very best evidence for his contention that the "link between oil riches and bad international behavior is even deeper than it appears." He never mentions President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney, nor the United States' invasion of Iraq.

In his recent Op-Ed, "Myanmar, the latest petro bully," Ross neglects the United States' long history of actively supporting unpopular, repressive monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia's, that protect American access to their oil fields. Instead, he glosses such positive support as mere acquiescence expressed through statements of friendship, such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's warm comments directed at Equatorial Guinea.

Nor does he mention the United States' long history of overthrowing or threatening to overthrow more popular governments that moved toward nationalizing their oil industries, such as the Mossadegh government of Iran, which was overthrown in a CIA directed coup in 1953; the boycott of Mexican oil after Lázaro Cárdenas del Río nationalized the industry in 1937; and the United States' recent threats to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, not to mention the invasion of Iraq and the contemporary rise of threats against Iran (where alleged nuclear weapons programs and ties to terrorists are seen — in contrast to Pakistan's nuclear weapons proliferation and comfort to Al Qaeda — as a threat justifying war).

I also cannot understand why Ross, who proposes that support for U.N. peacekeeping missions and participation in international treaties should be counted as measures of good global citizenship, did not consider the Bush administration's periodic campaigns against the U.N. and its refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocols as prime examples of petro-bullying. The United States is one of the world's biggest producers of petroleum, but more importantly it is by far the world's biggest consumer and processor of petroleum products. Partly for that reason, the United States has bullied and bombed for decades.

Whether one likes the governments of Iran, Mexico, or Venezuela that nationalized their countries' oil industries, those countries, unlike the United States, have no history in recent centuries of sending their armies off to invade other countries. The U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and the U.N.'s director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, tried to tell us there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq and that the administration's supposed evidence of Saddam Hussein's deals for yellowcake uranium from Niger and aluminum tubes for centrifuges were fraudulent.

Even Sudan and Myanmar, governed by regimes that are completely dismissive of human rights, have engaged in little "bad international behavior." They have neither invaded nor bombed other countries, unlike the United States. Sudan's and Myanmar's major crimes of genocide, massacre and terror have all been domestic. It is the United States that is the international petro bully.

Michael Salman is an associate professor of American and Southeast Asian history at UCLA.

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