WE CALL YOUR attention to an Associated Press story that appeared on page A44 of Friday's paper. It revealed an arresting fact: "The CIA distributed some of its controversial Nicaraguan rebel manuals earlier this year by attaching them to balloons and floating them into the leftist-ruled country, administration and congressional officials said yesterday." The copies of the manual thus lofted -- "fewer than a hundred," the story said -- were "coated with plastic to make them water-resistant."

The CIA thinks of everything. If this is not enough to make you believe it, then we remind you of the nature of some of the material included in that much argued-about and investigated document. A great deal of attention has been paid the meaning of the term "neutralize" as used by the manual's authors. Far too little has been paid the fact that page after page of this extraordinary instruction book is given over to lessons in classical rhetoric, presumably the better to win over the population. We are going to quote at some length here, because that is the only way to convey the nature of the material, and besides you wouldn't believe us otherwise. For instance:

"Among the figures of speech most used in oratory are: Comparison or simile, which sets the relationship of similarity between two or more beings or things. . . . Antithesis, is the counterposition of words, ideas, or phrases of an opposite meaning. . . . Among the logic figures are the following: . . . Prolepsis is an anticipated refutation . . . . Preterition is an artifice, pretending discretion, and something is said with total clarity and indiscretion. . . . Litotes is a form of meaning a lot by saying little. For example, 'The nine commanders have stolen little, just the whole country.' . . . The most usual plaintive figures of speech are: . . . Imprecation or threat, expressing a sentiment in view of the unjust or hopeless. . . . Commination, similar to the previous one, presents a bad wish for the rest. . . . The apostrophe consists of addressing oneself towards something supernatural or inanimate as if it were a living being. For example, 'Mountains of Nicaragua, make the seed of freedom grow.'

Have you got the idea? Okay, now multiply the mere wisp of this material that we have quoted by many pages, coat the whole thing in plastic, attach it to a balloon and float it into Nicaragua. Hope it doesn't get caught in a passing litotes, and wait for the Sandinista government to fall. AP quotes one official as suggesting that this effort "was meant to scare" the Sandinistas. More probably it made them think we were crazy.