In the opinion-page column ``Whose Hand in El Salvador?'' on Nov. 17, John Hughes blames Cuba and Nicaragua for the guerrilla offense in El Salvador. We should be far past the point of looking for some outside scapegoat to blame for El Salvador's revolutionary movement. The simple fact is that there are revolutionaries in El Salvador. They are Salvadorans who see themselves as the generation that will finally bring to an end the semifeudal political and economic system that condemns the vast majority to dire poverty.
Some of these revolutionaries have taken up arms. Many of them did so only after years of government repression against their peaceful protests. And despite unceasing repression, there is still a strong popular movement pushing for change in a nonviolent way. In the confusion of the latest fighting, schools, churches, and popular organizations that have taken the side of the poor have been raided by the security forces. Their leaders have been arrested, and some murdered - as in the case of the Jesuit priests.
It is a tragic irony that at the same time the United States applauds the democratic opening in Eastern Europe, Congress and the Bush administration continue to approve aid to one of the most antidemocratic regimes in this hemisphere. That aid is used not only to fight the armed rebels but also to repress those who seek nonviolent change.
Congress recently approved $85 million in aid for a military which bombs civilian neighborhoods in its own capital and in several provincial cities. It is time that the US cut off all military aid to El Salvador. It is time for the US to use its considerable influence to press for true negotiations in El Salvador. And finally, it is time for the US media to take a moral stand on the shameful support for El Salvador's terrifying brutal military.
Despite this war, Salvadorans are a wonderful and giving people. I lived in their country and am convinced that they are quite capable of deciding their own future. Garth David Cheff, San Antonio
Questioning Soviet emigration policy The article ``Bush, Congress Work to Give Favored Trade Status to Soviets,'' Nov. 16, predicts that the US could extend a suspension to the Kremlin of the Jackson-Vanik amendment ``before the end of the year.''
The amendment links US trade benefits for communist nations with a freer process of emigration. Suspension would be a complete contradiction of a major foreign policy statement by President Bush last May - echoed by Attorney General Richard Thornburgh in October and by Secretary of State James Baker - that a waiver requires both codification and successful implementation of a new Soviet emigration law.
Moreover, the draft of the law, which has yet to be published in the Soviet Union, retains the right to bar emigration for five years or more on undefined grounds of ``state secrecy,'' or to refuse exit for unspecified monetary obligations.
Further, it fails to indicate if the secrecy clause will be used to further delay exit of thousands of refuseniks trapped in Russia. It provides an inadequate appeals process for refusals. It states that exit applications are to be examined within a month, but not when a reply must be given.
There are certainly hopeful developments for emigration occurring now in the USSR. But it's not time to eliminate the pressure that made them happen. Glenn Richter, New York, National Coordinator, Center for Russian Jewry
The charm of Arab self-expression The book review ``Arab Novellas Reflect Changing Mideast Social Milieu,'' Nov. 21, opens with the confident remark: ``In the Arab world, autobiography and fiction have always gone hand in hand, largely because of the irresistible urge of Arabs to embroider events that they have lived through personally.''
I cannot think of any other part of the world where writers of fiction do not draw heavily upon their personal experiences, or where autobiographers do not tend to indulge in embroidery of the facts about their lives. I suspect this ``irresistible urge'' is shared by almost everyone who writes.
What disturbs me most about this review's opening statement is its reinforcement of a powerful and unjust stereotype often accepted as fact: that Arabs, as a race, are fundamentally, if not charmingly, dishonest.
To open the review with this statement suggests that Arabs are somehow unreliable witnesses to their own human experiences. Katherine J. Sullivan, Arlington, Va.