Despite Richard Harwood's contention {Ombudsman, Sept. 30}, faulty protocol, botched and unfinished studies and outright lying have characterized the government's handling of the Agent Orange issue. Veterans only want the truth that they have been denied for 20 years. Veterans are victims of the greatest coverup since Watergate.

The research effort by the Centers for Disease Control was not comprehensive and has never been validated; the CDC Agent Orange study was even canceled. For a journalist to draw medical conclusions was bad enough, but to draw them from incomplete data was unforgivable, if not unethical.

Fortunately for the veteran community, legislators such as Douglas Applegate, Lane Evans and Tom Daschle are outraged by the behavior of the government and its handling of the Agent Orange issue. Legislation (H.R. 5326) that would compensate some Agent Orange victims is pending but will probably die in committee when the 101st Congress adjourns.

If Harwood thinks Agent Orange is a myth, he should talk to retired admiral Elmo Zumwalt -- he ordered the spraying, and I'm sure he regrets it.

-- John M. Murto Raisin' Sand

" Many might say it is his just dessert," wrote Jay H. Feldman {Free for All, Sept. 22}. In the Sept. 23 Book World, Jonathan Yardley wrote, "something close to his or her just desserts."

It's a campaign to whet the appetite, and it deserves to bear fruit -- even if it means a pie in the face. Or are you afraid that printing "desert" will evoke only sand and camels and the jamboree in the Middle East?

Meanwhile we grunts face a dilemma: Do we defend or surrender our standards when your editorial safeguards "just dessert" their Post? -- Peter Brodie German Geography

Michael Kinsley's understanding of German geography needs some updating. In his Sept. 27 op-ed "The Great Berlin-Bonn Debate," he wrote "the supreme court is located in a small suburb of Stuttgart called Karlsruhe, where the justices socialize with the local burghers rather than with members of the Bundestag."

As a native son of Karlsruhe, I can attest that this "small suburb" is an independent city of 282,000 inhabitants located about 50 miles northwest of Stuttgart, the capital of the state of Baden-Wuerttenberg. -- Mark M. Pando Atrocious Taste

The front-page headline "Germans 'Invade' Poland to Buy Cheaper Goods" {Sept. 29} was a poor attempt at humor. The offense was compounded by a statement in the story that "the regular Saturday morning invasion was at full roar." Although I am not one of them, there are people who know all too well about the German invasion of Poland in 1939. The article heading was clearly an attempt to reflect on that atrocity.

You don't need flashy headlines to sell copy. Rely on good journalism, and leave the poor humor to the rags. -- Jonathan Kurlander

Below AverageIt is remarkable that a quiz designed to test logical decision-making power, ability to compute percentages and determine interest rates {"A Telling Quiz," Style Plus, Sept. 28} could be so far off when coming up with an "average" score.

If, as was noted, those questioned answered correctly 44 percent of the time to the 25 questions posed, then the average number of correct answers was 11. However, it was also noted that anyone with a score of 15 or less was in the "below average" range. Can I get bonus points for pointing this out? -- Alan T. Bennett Once More Again

Can we leave the debate about that oxymoron (contradiction; pointed foolishness) "false fact" {Free for All, Sept. 22} and turn to equally serious matters? Has anyone received a free gift recently? -- Philip Trezise Law-Abiding Citizen?I was appalled to read in one of your articles that "even Adolf Hitler, who was gassed as a soldier during World War I, abided by international conventions against gas warfare" {"Ethical Questions Arise From Gulf Strategy," Sept. 23}. This ludicrous statement ignored Hitler's use of gas to exterminate millions of Jews, prisoners of war, Gypsies and other groups.

Perhaps the systematic use of gas against innocent civilians on the basis of religious belief, ethnic background or genetic heritage was not explicitly prohibited by the international conventions drawn up after World War I. But as the Nuremberg trials proved, this does not diminish the moral culpability or the legal responsibility of those who committed such atrocities.

It was perverse to credit Hitler with following international law.

-- Dan M. Berkovitz