American soldiers, thousands of whom have AIDS and are addicted to drugs, are importing 5,000 Egyptian prostitutes to Saudi Arabia, shooting Saudis who protest the U.S. military presence, dumping nuclear waste in the desert and obtaining Iraqi oil while denying it to the rest of the world.

That, at least, is the picture that emerges from what U.S. officials charge is an Iraqi disinformation campaign that begins in the Baghdad press and is then picked up by media outlets in other countries.

"They're making up lies," said Todd Leventhal, a U.S. Information Agency (USIA) expert on disinformation. "They're in a fix, they're in a pickle and they're pulling out all the punches."

The Iraqi Embassy here said that stories in the Baghdad media are true and that Iraq is not linked to anti-American reports in the foreign press. "We are not involved," spokesman Abdul Rahman Jamil said.

But USIA officials contend that many of the reports are the result of an Iraqi propaganda effort aimed at deep-seated fears in the Moslem and Third worlds of Western secularism, decadence and Zionist conspiracy. Many of the stories start in the official Iraqi press and appear later in other media outlets, ranging from Jordan's Sawt Al-Sha'b to the Times of India, giving greater validity to the reports, Leventhal said. These news stories link U.S. actions in the Persian Gulf to Israel, detail purported violations of Islamic law and generally portray U.S. troops as vile and vulgar.

The Iraqi press, for example, reported after the invasion of Kuwait that Israeli pilots have painted their planes like U.S. aircraft and have been given U.S. identity cards to keep Iraq from responding to an Israeli attack.

Such opinion-molding efforts are an extreme form of propaganda campaigns that all governments turn to in wartime, according to academic experts.

"It would be remarkable for a state under siege not to resort to this," said Roy Godson, a Georgetown University government professor and intelligence expert.

Godson said there is a vast difference between the "crude disinformation" attributed to Iraq and more fine-honed "misinformation" that governments such as the United States may use during wartime, but has not used yet in this conflict.

"The truth is more powerful than falsehoods," he said. "Traditionally, democracies have a habit of {lying} to save life when they go into war. That's when you expect it."

Much of the Iraqi propaganda effort is aimed at lowering U.S. resolve, and includes "Tokyo Rose"-type broadcasts beamed at U.S. military personnel. "Remember what the petrol emirs are doing with the American girls," one said. "Do you want to defend them?" Warned another, "The American soldiers captured are still lost in Vietnam, after they had been eaten by worms."

Other threats to U.S. forces have been less subtle. "If their planes are shot down over Iraqi territory perhaps our people will go and eat the pilots," the Iraqi information minister told a French journalist last week. "They will not live."

Leventhal said U.S. policy is to deny some of the more credible-sounding stories and ignore the wild ones. "Sometimes these things are widely believed, no matter how absurd," he said. "When you sling mud, some of it's going to stick."