Bernard Aronson's Oct. 12 op-ed camouflages partisan advocacy for the Bush administration's failed El Salvador policies with even-handed "bipartisan" rhetoric. Wielding the two-edged sentences typical of State Department wordsmiths, Mr. Aronson bows to his critics' "legitimate concerns" in his second sentence while stabbing them under the table with skewed statistics and selective vignettes designed to justify continued U.S. assistance to the Salvadoran military.

Take Mr. Aronson's observation that President Cristiani's military-reform proposals "would have gotten a Salvadoran leftist killed less than a decade ago." Things haven't changed as much as the author would have us believe. Just last fall, the Salvadoran military killed six moderate Jesuit priests who were considered a threat to the armed forces.

Another example of Mr. Aronson's doublethink is his supposition that FMLN commanders are considering a strategy "to launch a new offensive hoping to provoke abuses and play on U.S. political divisions." Through conjecture, Mr. Aronson subtly shifts our attention to the motives behind the FMLN's November 1989 offensive. He then reduces a complex series of events into a thinly-veiled FMLN effort to provoke the Salvadoran military into killing Jesuits, quietly shifting blame. In Mr. Aronson's mind, FMLN manipulation is the main culprit; "provoked" Salvadoran military commanders and their triggermen are mere pawns. Hindsight has never been so accurate, while sinister cynicism is rarely so glaring.

Most distressing is Mr. Aronson's continued support for U.S. military assistance. Will this path create incentives for both sides to negotiate in good faith? Will it bolster "justice and the rule of law"? Will it "stop abuses of human rights" or strengthen civilian governmental institutions? Will it ultimately lead to "peace with freedom"? I do not think so. Continued military assistance will only strengthen an institution that actively opposes each of these objectives. JOHN D. TOWER Washington