In his Feb. 10 op-ed column, "A Case for Powell, but Not War," William Raspberry conceded that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations convinced him that Saddam Hussein has concealed and is producing nasty weapons. But Mr. Raspberry is not convinced that the threat posed by these weapons is imminent or that it will directly affect the United States.

Saddam Hussein has made evident through his war with Iran and his attack on Kuwait that he wants to control the Persian Gulf's oil. Like it or not, oil is vital to the United States and cannot be dismissed simply as a source of profits for "big oil."

Mr. Raspberry said Mr. Powell's presentation indicated that we would know in advance of any planned attack by Saddam Hussein.

To fight wars successfully -- and to minimize deaths -- a large military force must be moved to the theater of battle. That was necessary in the Persian Gulf War and took several months. It was needed again in Afghanistan.

A similar force has now been moved to the gulf region and cannot be sustained for long. Saddam Hussein continues to manipulate world leaders to his benefit. If solidarity had been forged and maintained in the United Nations, he might have been removed by now or made powerless. Instead, many of our so-called allies continue to make efforts to preserve him.

EARL SAGER

Centreville

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E.J. Dionne Jr. ["But Which War?" op-ed, Jan. 31] writes: "We don't know if this war is primarily about (1) taking weapons of mass destruction out of Saddam Hussein's hands, or (2) removing Hussein from power, or (3) bringing democracy to Iraq and revolutionizing the politics of the Middle East."

I would add: (4) stopping Saddam Hussein's agents from distributing some $35 million to families of Palestinian suicide bombers and Palestinians killed or injured by Israelis, as reported in the Israeli press.

Until the Palestinian situation is resolved, the Middle East will see a U.S. invasion of Iraq only as performing an errand for Israel while it grinds down the Palestinian people.

GEORGE HAEH

Toronto

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Reading what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said about and to our French and German allies ["NATO Allies Trade Barbs Over Iraq," front page, Feb. 9; In the Loop, Feb. 7] reminded me of articles about how not to argue in a marriage.

Mr. Rumsfeld has resorted to guilt by association (Cuba, Germany and Libya are the only nations determined not to help us attack Iraq), blame (opposition to war is undermining NATO), threats (the United States will turn to an ad hoc coalition for help if necessary) and name-calling (the United Nations is on a "path of ridicule").

This is not the way to deal with allies or spouses.

ALAN P. MAYER-SOMMER

Potomac

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I was amused by the choice of words in the headline "Blair Acknowledges Flaws in Iraq Dossier" [news story, Feb. 8] regarding three instances of plagiarism. "Flaw" suggests a problem in the flow or logic of the argument, not a fundamental problem such as copying from a graduate student's 12-year-old paper.

I am a college instructor, and if one of my students turned in a term paper with three instances of plagiarism, I would consider it more than a "flaw." It would cause me to question every other piece of that student's work, and a failing grade would likely follow.

This is another example of the administration's misinformation. We should give it the grade it deserves.

JAMES NOON

Frederick

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Patrick Thibodeau [letters, Feb. 7] argued that the United States shouldn't use force against Iraq because it likely would spur Saddam Hussein to use biological weapons against us. He's right that such an attack is possible, but then again, such an attack certainly would speak volumes about how valuable the U.N. inspections process had been.

ROB RANDHAVA

Washington