Neil Henry's description of the blown-out buildings, ravenous looting and rotted corpses in Somalia's fallen capital {"War Guts Capital of Somalia," news story, Jan. 30} horrified me. In the 1980s the United States pumped millions of dollars in military aid into Somalia to support a ruthless and uncivilized despot, Mohamed Siad Barre.

Iran, Iraq, Panama, Somalia and other countries suffer from the sad and ill-conceived U.S. policy that provides military support for violent rulers who subsequently go astray.

President Bush did not mention the Somalian policy failure in his State of the Union address. However, he did mention that the United States bears the righteous "burden of leadership." Perhaps the United States could set an example by developing a more intelligent policy for aiding potentially unstable allies.

The millions we have invested in Somalia and other countries are lost. Would it not have been better to lose countries like Somalia after supplying them with tractors, dairies and computers instead of tanks, M-16s and artillery shells? Such an approach would encourage the development of markets for U.S. goods and actually aid, instead of kill, innocent people.

Moreover, such a policy would alert the world's other "righteous" governments that providing human rights violators with huge amounts of weapons is a sin.

JOSEPH M. SANDRI Takoma Park