Richard L. Fernandez {"A Poor Man's Military? Not at All," op-ed, Dec. 18} would do well to remember former President Reagan's unintended warning at the 1988 Republican National Convention that "facts are stupid things." Fernandez's statistics, while impressive in bulk, did nothing but prove the point he was attempting to disprove -- that the U.S. citizens who would die during any military confrontation with Iraq would be primarily minorities and the poor.

One of Fernandez's most specious comparisons was that in 1980 more than six of 10 recruits came from areas with below-average incomes, while in 1987 the figure was 5.5 out of 10. Despite his claims, this difference is not significant.

He also stated that in 1989, 22 percent of active-duty recruits were African Americans (compared with African Americans comprising 14 percent of enlistment-age youth), while in the buildup in the Persian Gulf, this minority group is under-represented. He does not mention that this under-representation may have to do with the large number of Hispanic Americans and other minorities on active-duty and also with the large number of non-minority officers in "Operation Desert Shield."

If Fernandez had provided charts demonstrating the racial and economic breakdown by force and rank of U.S. troops in the Gulf, we would have seen clearly who will die if we fight Iraq. -- Clifford C. Rohde