Within moments of the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad's Firdaus Square, the criticism began: An American military vehicle assisted the crowd in the demolition. An American flag was briefly draped over the statue's head (although it was soon replaced by an Iraqi one). The scene played well for the American TV audience, but some said the world would view us as insensitive cowboys.

How sad that reality television and armchair warfare have robbed some of us of our empathy. Yes, a scriptwriter would have called for the two flags to be displayed side by side. Yes, a director would have brought in extras to fill out the crowd and make U.S. armor less of a focal point. But what flag would the widow of a U.S. soldier want first on that statue? Would an American POW in an Iraqi cell worry about worldwide sensibilities?

A nation's thanks should go out to Marine Cpl. Edward Chin, his sergeant, their tank crew and their commanding officer for the courage, patriotism and initiative they showed in Firdaus Square. U.S. Marines don't do television, and they don't do diplomacy. They do one thing: Move the enemy. I, too, was moved.

JOHN B. HUME

Takoma Park