The Republican National Committee has mailed form letters supporting the Persian Gulf War and criticizing anti-war protesters to 500,000 of its contributors, urging them to send them on to local newspapers for publication as letters to the editor.

A GOP spokesman said the effort is designed to demonstrate grass-roots support for President Bush's war policy. A cover letter signed by Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) decries media coverage of protest demonstrations and urges the contributors to "close ranks, and send a clear message to the world that we stand together, as Americans behind our president, our Congress and, most especially, our fine troops."

Enclosed with the letters is a coupon headlined "Stand With Our Troops" that solicits contributions to defray costs of the letter writing campaign. Communications director B.J. Cooper estimated the mailing will cost about $250,000.

Cooper said it is the largest such letter-to-the-editor campaign the RNC has ever undertaken and that it is a "call to action" for RNC members.

A Simpson aide said the senator signed the cover letter prior to his controversial remarks criticizing CNN correspondent Peter Arnett's reports from Baghdad. But the letter's tone was similar. The news media, it said, are "giving greater attention, and more and more coverage, to scattered anti-war protests and demonstrations. . . . It seems that every time a few protesters pick up their signs, the cameras swarm around them, and they end up on the news," the letter reads in part.

"Many of these letters to the editor are likely to be printed," Simpson wrote. "They will help to demonstrate, in the eyes of the world, America's strong, unyielding resolve." The form letter, complete with a "P.S." notation for a personal message, can be addressed to local newspapers and signed by the sender.

The RNC first acknowledged its letter writing campaign after a reporter from the Thomson newspaper chain called to inquire about several letters received by The Daily News of Lebanon, Pa., an afternoon daily with a circulation of about 25,000.

Managing editor Jim Burchik said he had prepared one letter for publication when he received an identical one in the mail. He has now collected five but published none, in keeping with the paper's policy against running form letters.

"If you look at this thing, it just looks like a nicely written, well thought out letter," said Burchik, who assigned a reporter to trace the RNC connection and published an article about it yesterday.

The RNC said it has received about 1,000 responses so far.