I applaud Jackson Diehl's Dec. 16 op-ed column about U.S. government broadcasting to the Middle East and Iran.

The decision to curtail or replace Radio Azadi broadcasts with the Top 40-dominated Radio Farda mirrors a similar decision with regard to the Voice of America's Arabic Service, which was replaced by Radio Sawa. Similar plans are afoot for the VOA Farsi Service.

No matter what spin the Broadcasting Board of Governors puts on these program shifts, they show that the United States has disengaged itself from being involved in credible discussion of critical issues in the Middle East and Iran. Both Sawa and Farda insult the intelligence and cultures of Arabic and Iranian people as well as the sacrifices and risks key groups in these societies are willing to make to change their political landscapes for the better.

American culture is already popular around the world and doesn't need to be sold. The problem that is not being addressed is an explanation of U.S. policies. That discussion has now been cut off. In the case of Sawa and VOA Farsi broadcasts, the VOA charter, which requires the explanation of U.S. policy, is being abandoned or eroded.

It is incomprehensible that U.S. officials would allow taxpayer funds to be spent to abandon or even undermine the articulation of U.S. interests in the Middle East during a period of heightened internal and external tensions, which appear to be leading to war.

GARY A. MARCO

President

American Federation of State, County

and Municipal Employees Local 1418

Voice of America

Washington