The article "How Saddam Built His War Machine" {front page, Sept. 17} shows clearly that the main culprit of the Middle East crisis is not the ruler of Iraq but the governments of the Soviet Union, China, France, West Germany, Britain, the United States and other nations that either directly provided all sort of weapons and technology with military applications to Saddam Hussein or allowed independent weapons dealers operating in their countries to sell to Iraq.

If those nations had not assisted Saddam Hussein in gathering his huge arsenal, Iraq could have not become a threat to its neighbors, and it could have never attempted to invade any of them. It's somewhat ironic that the governments of several of those nations are now engaged in a variety of efforts to eliminate or control the menace that they helped create.

Instead of learning a lesson from this situation, the nations that armed Iraq are providing weapons to other countries in the Gulf region, and nobody can guarantee that in a few years the government of one of those Gulf countries will not fall into the hands of a new ruler similar to Saddam Hussein. The temptation to acquire territories and more political power with those weapons may prove to be too strong to resist, and American troops will again have to be sent, and American tax payers will have to shoulder the cost.

The peoples of Third World countries need food, education, health services, housing, etc. They do not need weapons, which will never feed a single human being or build a school or a home. It is a criminal act to push those countries into more debts in order to purchase armaments.

At a time when the two superpowers are reaching wider agreements on disarming themselves, isn't it about time for the world, under the auspices of the United Nations, to discuss agreements to prohibit the sale of heavy and sophisticated weaponry to the Third World and to persuade countries that have already established their own weapons industry to scale down production? International disputes should be solved through negotiations with participation of the United Nations, and the absurd defense budgets should be redirected to address the dire needs of hundreds of millions of human beings. RENE ESPINOSA McLean