Has this whole country gone wacko? Since when is it heroic to shred documents needed for a government investigation, to lie to Congress about the National Security Council's activities and to alter official memoranda and chronologies to suit one's own purposes? And what's heroic about helping create a secret foreign policy contrary to our country's publicly stated intentions and laws? And to explain the above actions by saying the big, bad Congress made me do it is the ultimate in rationalizations.

The former NSC staff and Oliver North, in particular, are not above the laws of this land. President Reagan, the NSC staff and the entire administration are accountable to Congress and to the American people. We had better wake up from our fantasy world of macho heroes and start accepting the responsibility of working with the invaluable system of government we have, and that's a government "of the people, by the people and for the people," in case we've forgotten.

There are plenty of fanatics out there who are only too willing to make our decisions for us if we don't exercise and safeguard the precious privilege of self-government.

JOYCE C. McCONNELL

Clifton, Va.

Lt. Col. Oliver North may wax patriotic about supporting democracy in Nicaragua, but it is unabashed hypocrisy to do so while he and his coterie display utter contempt for the democratic process in this country.

To all but the most dogmatic, the spirit of the Boland Amendment was clearly intended to halt direct or indirect financial aid to the contras. Likewise, independent opinion poll after poll (the validity of which was never questioned by the Reagan camp when they predicted a Reagan landslide in '84) has shown no popular support for the administration's policy toward the contras. The only enduring legacy of the Reagan administration will be that democracy is fine as long as you subscribe to President Reagan's brand.

DEAN SCHLEICHER

Rockville

Lt. Col. Oliver L. North exhibits the kind of character I would value in a father, brother, husband and protector. Perhaps the cynics and critics are so politically jaded that they cannot imagine a man of Col. North's caliber. Instead, they look for every opportunity to undermine what he says to be true, to dig for hidden agendas and dissect every single aspect of his now sensationalized personal drama and past.

Obviously, there are certain questions that need to be answered if our nation is to be a credible and effective democracy. Yet, I can't help wondering how many congressmen are sincerely interested in the welfare of our nation and how many have conveniently found this Iran-contra affair to be a grand platform for public posturing.

Do our congressmen feel a twinge of envy for a formerly unknown, decorated military man of non-elected status who came to exercise more behind-the-scenes influence than most of these elected officials will ever realize? If that's the case, perhaps our congressmen can console themselves on payday with their high annual salaries the taxpayers are paying them to interrogate, pontificate and belabor U.S. policy on TV.

If this country found itself at war on our turf, I'd look for the Oliver North camp and distance myself as far as possible from the wishy-washy filibusterers of the U.S. Congress.

DEBRA LASHBROOK

Falls Church

Americans are hard up for heroes nowadays. If it isn't drug-taking athletes and actors, it is a grandstanding Marine with a convenient memory.

Oliver North has admitted to lying, shredding evidence to keep it from the attorney general's staff and to doing business with privateers and revolutionaries. He evidently has no respect for democratic advice and consent. Perhaps it is military training with loyalty only to the commander in chief. But I, for one, don't admire him.

JEAN RIDGELL

Ridge, Md.

As one who has watched Lt. Col. Oliver North's testimony over the past week with horror, I must confess that a major cause of my distress is the reaction of the American people. The rehabilitation of Lt. Col. North says perhaps as much about his vast audience as it does about the shortcomings of the Reagan administration.

Yes, Lt. Col. North certainly has told his story with passion and verve. Yes, Lt. Col North certainly felt that he was serving his country devotedly. Yet if one looks beyond the dashing style, one discovers the same frightening authoritarian elements present during the Watergate era:

1) The paranoid view that only Lt. Col. North and his colleagues could be trusted with American foreign policy and other important issues of state.

2) The notion that a covert action confers upon its agents complete license to lie, destroy information, screen out Congress and avoid all accountability.

3) The astonishing belief that a secret CIA within the CIA, completely hidden from congressional oversight, would be perfectly legal.

4) The collapsing of foreign policy goals into domestic political objectives: The staunch national consensus on not rewarding terrorists was completely overthrown in favor of getting the hostages back in time for the State of the Union.

It seems clear that Lt. Col. North's passionate and sincere commitment to serving the Reagan administration was the driving force behind his actions. What is shocking is that his passions would cause so many Americans to jettison their democratic instincts and applaud him. Sincerity and passion are by no means the touchstones of sound policy.

JEFF ROWAN

Washington

Oliver North should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery over and above the call of duty to his country. Or better still, two. Another for his courage in front of the committee.

ELEANOR FLEMISTER

Silver Spring

When I turned on my TV to watch the hearings last Tuesday, I was under the impression that I would watch a congressional committee investigating a shocking violation of U.S. law and policy. Instead, I've been watching the "Ollie North Show."

Col. North has lectured -- at length -- on a number of subjects, from constitutional law to foreign policy to the misdemeanors of Congress. He is, to say the least, ill-qualified to discuss any of these subjects; his rhetorical style is like that of a high school debater. Unfortunately, a number of people seem to have been positively influenced by this jejune performance, and the media must bear some of the responsibility for Ollie's star status, because of their failure to point out the inconsistencies, non-sequiturs and downright arrogance of this man's statements.

BARBARA MICHAELS

Frederick

Hey, hey! A funny thing happened on the way to the lynching of Lt. Col Oliver North. And those in Congress who were so vigorously pursuing the matter may well be having second thoughts. For, most revealingly, Oliver North comes through as a far more complex and interesting human being than he has formerly been portrayed. One sees no semi-lunatic Rambo-type, but rather an individual of intelligence, force and conviction, whose grasp of English and ability to articulate his actions and his ideas are formidable.

Ah, but there is also much more at work in the hearings. And it is happening in ways that are causing obvious uneasiness among Oliver North's sanctimonious judges both in Congress and in the media. For Oliver North has forced a change in terms of the investigation. He kept rephrasing matters in a larger framework. He conveyed passion. He spoke of war, fighting, of brave men dying for their beliefs, of world struggle and the necessity for the United Staes to contend against the Soviet and Marxist totalitarianism with something other than pious words. He has operated in the trenches of that tough and nasty world. No doubt, he made mistakes in judgment, just as many of his now curiously silent superiors have made their own errors in judgment. But that also goes with trying to get a hard job done.

Beyond the congressional committee room, beyond Washington, I believe millions of Americans listened more to Oliver North's resonances, his palpable belief in something once called old-fashioned patriotism and service, and did not snigger. And the message that came through to the American people was far more vivid and powerful than anything that will ever be discovered among the lines X of page Y of Exhibit Z.

ROBERT H. SMITH

Vienna