The Nov. 26 front-page article "I'll Never Go Back" noted that "virtually every government official and many educated Saudis recite like a mantra the conclusion that Osama bin Laden . . . deliberately stocked the Sept. 11 team with Saudis to drive a wedge between the kingdom and the United States."

If only the rest of the Saudi population and the Arab world believed that theory. Instead, both independent and state-run Arabic-language media throughout the Middle East have been reciting a different mantra since 9/11: that the hijackers were Israeli agents who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon after warning Jews to stay away.

That denial of responsibility, and not American immigration and security precautions, is the chief cause of the U.S.-Saudi rift.

GREGORY SHILL

Washington

I know just how "embittered" the young Saudi college student felt about being questioned by U.S. law enforcement officials simply because his former roommate may have had connections with the worst act of terrorism ever committed. When I visited his country, I too was subjected to questioning by police -- simply because I was a woman who tried to check into a hotel alone.

Saudi Arabia has long been a state sponsor of hatred and intolerance, a country whose customs officials rip up the family Bibles of arriving U.S. defense workers, whose government-controlled media spew "reports" on Jewish plots to infect Muslim infants with HIV, whose clerics denigrate the Islam practiced by its own Shiite minority and applaud the public harassment of women.

With friends like these . . .

GERALDINE BROOKS

Waterford, Va.