I should be flattered that Jim Hoagland chose to compare my departure from Washington with that of Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin ["Glory vs. Obscurity in the Clinton Era," op-ed, July 8].

However, with respect to the ambassadorship to Brazil, I paid the price not for "lashing out" at the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as Mr. Hoagland suggests, but for successfully defending the Agency for International Development (AID) from Sen. Jesse Helms's efforts to merge it into the State Department. Perhaps it is another reflection of the era Mr. Hoagland describes that when one mounts a vigorous defense of an institution vital to the country, one is portrayed as having "lashed out."

For the record, this was not "a losing rear-guard action." In fact, President Clinton, Secretary Rubin and others strongly opposed Sen. Helms's position. Today, AID is independent and strong, even if vastly underfunded.

My speech at the Overseas Development Council was not designed to point fingers, but if it made some people squirm, so be it. As Mr. Hoagland implies, Washington is not a city that today hears clearly the voices of the poor of the developing world. My central theme was the growing gap between the rich and the poor and the dangers that gap represents for the United States. To close this gap, we need to support development assistance, the United Nations, the World Bank and more creative methods to deepen the development process.

We could improve our effectiveness if AID were given responsibility for the World Bank. That suggestion was not new, nor was it an attack on Mr. Rubin, whose Treasury Department now has that responsibility.

I may have signed on to a "sinking ship," as Mr. Hoagland suggested, but the ship did not sink. I leave for Boston satisfied that I stood my watch and prevented the worst from happening.

Also, contrary to what Geneva Overholser suggests, I am a staunch supporter of Vice President Gore's bid for president ["And Give More Support to Peace," op-ed, July 12]. However, I hope George W. Bush shares his father's views on the importance of international engagement.

J. BRIAN ATWOOD

Administrator

U.S. Agency for International Development

Washington