Some of the so-called sophisticates around the country are having second thoughts about the wisdom of the decision that sent American troops to the Persian Gulf.

To hear these critics tell it, U.S. forces are in Saudi Arabia not to protect our friends but just to keep Americans supplied with cheap oil and ought to be withdrawn.But just try telling that to the refugees from Kuwait who have been testifying before Congress this week about the ghastly depredations of Iraqi invaders - depredations that could befall the Saudis without outside help from the U.S. and else-where.

The story those refugees tell is one of arbitrary arrests, mass executions, rapes, torture and looting by Iraqi soldiers.

Those brief words, however, do not convey the full horror of the situation. Consider just a few grisly details of what the Iraqi invaders are doing: a pregnant woman bayoneted through the stomach, pinning her to a hospital wall. Young boys sodomized with broken bottles. Small children shot to death in front of their parents. Newborn infants tossed out of hospital incubators and left to die on a cold hospital floor. Patients removed from life-support systems and prevented from receiving needed blood transfusions. Burning cigarettes put out in the eyes of Kuwaiti teenagers. Young girls raped and Kuwaiti men castrated. Torture methods that include the use of electric shock, beatings on sensitive parts of the body, breaking of limbs and the extraction of finger nails and toe nails.

Though war is always brutal, the conduct of Iraq cannot be excused. This is not just war. It is mindless savagery. It is evil run amok. And it must be actively resisted by civilized people.

True, the United States can't correct every wrong, can't protect every potential victim, can't single-handedly police the entire world. But to insist that American forces are in the Persian Gulf just for selfish reasons is to unjustly sully an honorable undertaking and to insult the public's intelligence. Please, let's hear no more of this arrogant nonsense.