MUCH HAS BEEN said and published about the current standoff between Iraq and the U.N. arms inspectors. But those criticizing Iraq for suspending its cooperation with the U.N. special commission on arms inspection, better known as Unscom, give no recognition whatsoever to the underlying reasons that led Iraq to adopt this position. It is time to set the record straight.

First, the whole world knows by now that Iraq has lost well over a million people as a direct result of the international sanctions that have been in place for eight years. A former president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, was chillingly correct when he called sanctions "a peaceful, silent, deadly remedy."Secretary of State Madeleine Albright herself characterized them as "the toughest multilateral sanctions in history." Many critics seem to think the government of Iraq is supposed to stand idle while watching a whole generation of its people melt away like snowflakes.

Second, Iraq has complied with all the fundamental requirements of disarmament in Security Council Resolution 687. Unscom itself admitted this reality in its April 11, 1997, report to the Security Council, when it said, "The accumulated effect of the work that has been accomplished over six years since the cease fire went into effect between Iraq and the coalition is such that not much is unknown about Iraq's retained proscribed weapons capabilities."

But the United States and Britain refuse to recognize this fact. Their role in preventing the Security Council from closing the clearly done nuclear file a few weeks ago is a case in point.

The disagreement between Iraq and the inspectors is not on existing weapons. No weapons or sites have been discovered by the Unscom inspectors on their own since 1991; those that have been found have been produced by the Iraqi government itself. Rather, the current dispute involves paper documentation that precedes the gulf war. Those issues can be pursued in the context of the already established ongoing monitoring regime.

Iraq has said all along that there must be a creative way to reconcile the two goals: the need for more documentation and the easing of the suffering of the Iraqi people. Unscom, unfortunately, is insisting on either everything or nothing.

Iraq will never be able to satisfy Unscom because it is being asked to prove the negative: that it does not have any more weapons. There is, of course, no way Iraq can prove that it has nothing if it has nothing.

Third, many American officials have stated that even if Iraq complies with the Security Council's resolutions, the United States will not approve the lifting of sanctions. The declared goal of Washington is to remove the current government of Iraq. We wonder if this goal is in line with the spirit and the letter of international law and the U.N. resolutions.

Iraq continues to believe that the resolutions are used by the United States as a cover for an illegal political agenda. The allocation of money to the Central Intelligence Agency for subversion in Iraq is just a unit in this series. One might wonder why Iraq should continue being part of this futile and endless game.

Fourth, Albright claims that every Iraqi receives a daily ration basket equivalent to the recommended caloric intake of the average American. Perhaps she needs to review the latest reports by the United Nations and other organizations, which state that millions of Iraqi children and women are still suffering and that the oil-for-food program is not adequate.

Finally, many high-ranking American officials keep speaking about Iraq as being a threat to American interests and to the region. We would like to assure these officials, and through them the American people, that Iraq is eager to live in peace with its neighbors and the world. But Iraq will not submit to intimidation, bullying and coercion.

Peace will come only through dialogue based on mutual respect for the principles of independence, sovereignty and the observance of international law.