Esprit de Coup

IN HIS review of In the Time of the Tyrants: Panama, 1968-1990 by R.M. Koster and Guillermo Sanchez (Book World, Oct. 28), James Polk quotes the authors as describing the United States' expansion of the Cold War to Latin America as "stupid" and as saying "so were those who made" this policy. Polk adds, "thus indicting all American presidents since Eisenhower."

In this Polk makes two errors. He should have said beginning with Eisenhower and he should have recognized the changes in John F. Kennedy's policies beginning with the end of the Cuba missile crisis.

Whether one evaluates JFK's "Alliance for Progress" as a gesture or as a meaningful effort to change our Latin American policies, it is a fact that shortly before he was assassinated, when the U.S.-supported Dominican military overthrew the country's first democratically elected government, Kennedy stated a new U.S. policy -- not to recognize military dictatorships that overthrew democratically elected governments.

Polk errs also in not noting that there have been exceptions to the authors' condemnations of all the Latin American military as "at best drones, at worst cancers." My friend, Gen. Guillermo Murdoch, when he was Uruguayan military attache in Washington and, later, chief of staff of the Uruguayan army, was an authentic, practicing democrat. Pinochet had to have Chile's chief of staff, Gen. Rene Schneider, assassinated before he could fix his Cold War totalitarian dictatorship on that country.

During World War II it was part of the Paraguayan army that revolted against the dictatorship of Hector Morinigo, which was inherited by Stroessner. And in Brazil it was Lt. Luis Carlos Prestes who led elements of the Brazilian army in a revolt against the dictatorship of Getullio Vargas.

There are other exceptions to the general truth about the Latin American military, that it was, to a large degree, the United States' creature. HAROLD WEISBERG Frederick, Md.

Clarification

WHILE I would disagree with many parts of Stanley Karnow's review of Pat Choate's Agents of Influence (Book World, Oct. 14), I write to correct two of Karnow's assertions, which I can only ascribe to his failure to check out unfounded gossip.

Knopf did not, as he avers, "promptly" increase the first printing of Choate's book after he was separated from TRW. Our original first printing, as announced at the May sales conference was 20,000; this was subsequently raised in late May to 40,000 and to 50,000 in August, as the import of his book became more and more clear. The last decision took place before the TRW controversy had been publicized.

We have never, as Karnow infers, tried to take advantage of Choate's dismissal from his position. In truth, during the weeks when his leaving TRW was under discussion, Choate and I conversed several times about the fact that we were not going to publicize or comment upon the matter, believing that it would distract from the message of the book. ASHBEL GREEN Vice President and Senior Editor Alfred A. Knopf Inc. New York, N.Y.

Tough Jews

BY NOW you have heard from the usual suspects more than you ever wanted to about the choice of Edward W. Said to review Tough Jews: Political Fantasies and the Moral Dilemma of American Jewry by Paul Breines (Book World, Sept. 23). You generously published four letters from readers critical of Said's objectivity and allowed him a rebuttal. What was missing, however, was an explanation from the person responsible for selecting Said, a professor of English (irony intended) at Columbia who has an obvious Palestinian bias, to review a book concerning any aspect of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Why not Benjamin Netanyahu? Or better, why not both?

This lack of an explanation from The Post is troubling. As a matter of policy, The Post should not have offered him the assignment, certainly not without identifying him more fully. I'm still waiting to hear what The Post has to say about its policy. KEN GOLDSTEIN Washington

I WAS amazed that Edward Said was given the opportunity to to comment on the three letters critic of his review of the book Tough Jews (Book World, Oct. 14). It seems to me that the editor of Book World who was responsible for selecting so biased a reviewer should have been the one to respond to the letters, not Edward Said who only further betrays his bias. EDWIN A. MORGENSTERN Silver Spring

Book World editor Nina King responds:

Book World's reviewers are deliberately selected to represent a wide range of views, sometimes controversial ones. In this case, Edward W. Said stated his pro-Palestinian position explicitly within the review. He also clearly described the book's thesis. Readers were free to agree or disagree and were given adequate information to form their own judgments.

Authors' Queries

FOR A book on AIDS, published author seeks photographs of demonstrations, sufferers, their families, friends, lovers and caregivers. MICHAEL GARLOCK c/o Claudia Menza Literary Agency 1170 Broadway/Room 807

FOR A biography of Gen. Fox Conner (1874-1951), I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has information, letters, diaries, photographs, anecdotes and reminiscences related to him. DAVID S. GORDON 51 Ridge Road Newport, R.I. 02840

I'D APPRECIATE hearing from anyone with information on Charles White Whittlesey, commander of the so-called "Lost Battalion" in World War I. I am particularly interested in any letters, diaries, journals or personal remembrances of the man. Thank you. MICHAEL NORMAN 123 Wildwood Ave. Upper Montclair, N.J.