The June 17 editorial "An Iraq Sideshow" observed that some have seized perhaps too lustily on the Sept. 11 committee's conclusion about the absence of a substantive link between Iraq and al Qaeda -- a point well taken.

But the reason critics of this administration seem desperate for conclusive proof that there was no "collaborative relationship" is that the president continues to assert that Saddam Hussein's terrorist connections heightened the threat to the United States to the extent that it merited the invasion and rebuilding of Iraq.

Let's make a deal: When the administration acknowledges that it exaggerated Iraq's immediate threat to this country, Mr. Bush's critics can cease to challenge his case for war.

MARK BURFORD

New York

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The most fascinating fact to emerge from the Sept. 11 commission staff reports last week is that al Qaeda spent a mere $400,000 to $500,000 to bring off the attacks [front page, June 17].

The United States has spent more than $118 billion to date on the war in Iraq and billions more on other aspects of our response to the attacks.

No one would argue against spending money on an effective program to battle terrorism and deal with its causes. But with the commission staff finding that Iraq had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and American businessmen, tourists and diplomats around the world less secure than ever, we can rightly wonder whether the Bush administration is spending our dollars wisely or well.

Contrary to what the administration says, there were alternatives to the way the "war on terrorism" has been carried out, especially when the war in Iraq is considered to be a part of it (as the administration insists it is).

Voters should hold the administration accountable for the cost-effectiveness of the choices it has made.

THEODORE C. JONAS

Washington