I find it difficult to believe that Rowland Evans and Robert Novak find it "difficult to believe that {Salvadoran Col. Benavides'} military academy classmates who run the armed forces" had ordered the murder of the Jesuits and their two companions, and then left Col. Benavides to take the blame for the atrocity. {"Murdered Jesuits: Who Gave the Order?" op-ed, May 9}.

Messers. Evans and Novak admit that Col. Benavides was "an unimaginative officer." This suggests that he would not have acted on his own. The impugned Moakley Task Force reported that Col. Benavides, "unlike several other senior officers," did not have a history of "departing from the chain of command in carrying out his military responsibilities."

The columnists admit, and the task force found, that Col. Benavides had "no record of human rights abuse." This separates him from the rest of the high command and made him the most expendable in a situation when everything points to military involvement.

Finally, they acknowledge that Col. Benavides had "no strong political convictions." This would have set him apart from the rest of the high command and threatened a united front in the face of growing criticism when the "political" justification for the military's human rights abuses is growing weaker and less credible with every passing day. PATRICK J. CONROY, S.J. Washington