In "U.S. Air Raids on Iraq Become an Almost Daily Ritual" [news story, Aug. 30], it is asserted that "more than a year has passed since Iraq shut down the U.N. weapons inspection program that President Clinton so often proclaimed as "essential to keeping the peace." This is inaccurate. The weapons inspection program was shut down when its head, Richard Butler, withdrew the inspectors in December 1998 following the release of a self-contradictory report.

On Dec. 14, The Post reported, "Clinton administration officials played a direct role in shaping Butler's text during multiple conversations with him . . . at secure facilities in the U.S. mission to the U.N." The next day, Mr. Butler released the report, which stated that "the majority of the inspections of facilities and sites under the continuing monitoring system were carried out with Iraq's cooperation" -- yet concluded that "the commission is not able to conduct the substantive disarmament work mandated to it." With this tangled rationale, Mr. Butler withdrew the weapons inspectors from Iraq. On Dec. 16 (the eve of President Clinton's scheduled impeachment vote) the United States began the bombing campaign "Desert Fox."

As for the weapons inspections being "essential to keep the peace," why did the U.S. government undermine them by using them for espionage against Iraq? Further, why did the administration (contrary to U.N. Security Council resolutions) state that the devastating economic sanctions would stay in place even if Iraq complied with the weapons inspectors? These are hardly the policies one would expect if weapons of mass destruction were a pivotal concern for the administration.

SAM HUSSEINI

Communications Director

Institute for Public Accuracy

Washington