Critics and scholars of U.S. media have long observed that reporters often rely on ideological and racial or ethnic stereotypes in their coverage of faraway parts of the world. But the use of such stereotypes is rarely so explicit as in Stuart Auerbach's article "Experts: Iraq Faces Blocked Route in Iran" {Aug. 17}. Auerbach wrote:

"But in a part of the world where the bizarre defines the prevailing mentality ... Saddam did something unprecedented. ... "

Those who seek to describe international politics by resorting to subjective characterizations should either have expertise in the region in question or should be confined to the op-ed page.

Incidentally, Auerbach's substantive point in the cited paragraph -- that Hussein agreed to almost all of Iran's terms for ending the war "without signaling that he wanted anything in return" -- is not sustained by even a superficial reading of Hussein's letter. As transcribed by Reuter, the letter explicitly suggests a quid pro quo that may or may not be realized:

"All that is left is to publicize the documents so that we together look from an honorable position toward a new life in which cooperation prevails under the shadow of Islamic principles and that each of us respects the rights of the other and keeps away those fishing in muddy waters on your shores. Perhaps we could cooperate in preserving the Gulf as a lake of peace and stability, free from foreign fleets and power which are lurking, in addition to other fields of life."

-- James Lobe