In a letter published Aug. 15, Arthur E. Rowse of Chevy Chase requested elucidation of "the difference between what Saddam Hussein has done to Kuwait and what our sanctimonious nation has done to Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua and Libya." I write in an effort to ease his confusion.

Grenada: American action was taken to defend American students on Grenada and, at the request of Grenadians, to defeat a Communist coup.

Panama: American action was taken to overthrow a tyrant repudiated by his own country in elections subverted by him. The legally constituted government of Panama requested intervention. American interests in keeping the Panama Canal in friendly hands also justified this action.

Nicaragua: The United States supported democratic opposition to a Marxist regime that allowed no domestic opposition, free speech or trade. The Sandinista regime threatened the fledgling democracies of Central America and the overall strategic balance. The United States did not conquer Nicaragua. It did work for free and fair elections. As the results of February's elections in Nicaragua show, the contra opposition was supported by a majority of Nicaraguans.

Libya: Presumably Mr. Rowse was referring to the American bombing of military targets in Tripoli. This action was taken in response to Libyan-sponsored terrorism against American civilians and military personnel.

Kuwait, far from threatening Iraq, was Iraq's prime financier for Iraq's war against Iran. Kuwait's government was (and is, while in exile) responsible, enlightened and in keeping with the history, experience and desire of its people. Perhaps the most significant measure of this harmony between government and people is Saddam Hussein's inability to find a single Kuwaiti willing to establish a puppet government.

American action in Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua and Libya has been justifiable on the dual grounds of principle and interest. Iraq's action violates both international principles and the interests of the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein's pride and ambition use his country as a tool for realizing his vainglorious dreams of conquest. He seeks to divert his people's attention from the misery and brutality of their lives by sending them to war again.

HANNAH E. SCHECHTER Gaithersburg

Arthur E. Rowse wanted to know the difference between what Iraq has done to Kuwait and what the United States has done to Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua and Libya. For starters, we have not annexed them, seized their natural resources, looted their banks, robbed and raped civilians, declared their currencies worthless, subjected their people to a ruthless military/secret police dictatorship and held tens of thousands of neutral citizens as "detainees." All this, Saddam Hussein has done in Kuwait.

ALEXANDER STOLZBERG Kensington

Arthur E. Rowse asked someone to tell him the difference between what Saddam Hussein has done to Kuwait and what the United States has done to Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua and Libya. I'd like to tell him.

Saddam Hussein has invaded and annexed Kuwait. If he has his way, that annexation will be permanent. The United States did not annex Grenada. Nor did it invade or annex Libya. It hasn't recently invaded Nicaragua either. In Panama, the United States removed from office a dictator who refused to let a freely elected government take power.

So Mr. Rowse, the essential difference is this -- Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua and Libya are governed by Grenadians, Panamians, Nicaraguans and Libyans. Because of U.S. actions, these nations (except Libya) now enjoy some form of democratic government, imperfect as those governments may be. Kuwait has been taken by force and is now governed by an Iraqi. Get it?

EDWARD DUNN Arlington