by Richard Karsmakers
The Eve of the War
As I woke up it was about half past one at night. My waking up
was caused by a car hooting irregularly. At certain intervals,
the hooting stopped and the amplified sound of a female's voice
could be heard, echoing through the empty streets against the
silent houses of Gütersloh, Germany.
"Warning! Warning!..." I could hear when I strained my ears.
The rest of whatever she must have said got lost somewhere on
the way. The hooting of the car, slowly disappearing in the
night, indicated that I would probably not be getting a chance
at hearing it again.
I got out of bed. It was very cold, but my shivering was
primarily caused by something entirely different: A sense of
foreboding, a subconscious feeling that something was happening
or about to happen. Something bad.
I recalled a television program that had been on two days
before; a program in which a German journalist had interviewed
Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein, who refused to tell anything
about whether he did or did not have any nuclear weapons at his
disposal. A documentary earlier that evening had elaborated
about possible global consequences of a war in the Gulf. "Once
the Kuwaitian oil wells are ablaze," its narrator had told, "it
will take about 1 year to put out their fires, which are lit by
billions and billions of tons of raw oil. The result of the
smoke of this blaze will be 20 years of global darkness, and
highly acid rain all over the world."
In other words, it would get to be pretty damn cold.
I had never before thought of 'war' as something I could be the
victim of; 'war' was something that happened in Vietnam, Central
America or Israel, which couldn't possibly cause any problems to
me personally, nor to anyone I was likely to know. Everything
was simply too far away.
Now, I suddenly found 'war' something one could almost feel,
despite its enormous distance. The world suddenly turned out to
be much too small after all.
I went over to Thorsten, one of three of my Thalion colleagues
that live in the same house as me during the week. There was
still light in his room, and he turned out to have returned not
long ago from some extra work at the company. On his radio, the
British Forces Broadcasting Service was softly playing typical
mid-night moody music, and when I told Thorsten what I suspected
he said he had not heard any cars hooting. There hadn't been any
newsflashes on the radio, either.
So I went back to bed, only to be stirred mere minutes later by
drumming noises from outside.
Dark thoughts flashed through my head as I put on some clothes
and went onto the balcony, shivering, trying to find out what was
Something was happening. That was certain. But what? And,
should it be something really bad, would I ever see my loved one
again? Why was there no air-raid alarm? I was surprised at the
fact that I already thought all these things. After all, the
Gulf was very far away and there would most probably be no
reason for concern whatsoever.
A crowd of two or three dozen people walked through the streets
up to the market square, which I could see from the balcony.
They were carrying pots and pans, which they constantly beat on
with assorted cutlery. Their faces were grim. They didn't speak.
The car I had heard earlier now also came driving through the
street. The hooting was still repeated now and again, but the
female's voice was now replaced by what seemed to be a radio
It spoke of bombing raids on Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. It
spoke of American B-52 bombers and Flak. It sounded exactly like
the kind of broadcastings actors listen to in WW II movies when
they hear that the allied nations have just declared war upon
The Gulf War had begun.
Thorsten now also came. He was only wearing pyjamas, so he was
shivering even more. Michael, another colleague, also came out.
He looked very sleepy, and was mostly swearing about the noise.
Unlike me, he appeared not to be even the slightest bit
concerned. Thorsten's worries seemed to be somewhere between
Michael's and mine.
A police car had now appeared on the square, soon accompanied
by another. Some police officers started to talk or discuss with
the people on the square. The beating sounds had ceased.
We went into the living room and turned on the television. On
two German stations, direct reports about the Gulf War could be
received. Two American journalists (who'll probably get the
Pullitzer prize for this - if they get out alive) were
broadcasting from a hotel in the centre of Baghdad. They spoke
of "enormous explosions" towards the south, and of a "shuddering
sound we have heard before only during the launch of a Space
As it turned out, the "liberation of Kuwait" had begun at some
minutes past midnight CET as B-52 bombers started to unload
their hardware on specific targets in and around Baghdad.
Codename: Operation Desert Storm. It sounded like a Microprose
simulation game, but this was one that had a bit too much of a
I was somewhat relieved to hear that the Iraqis had not yet
really defended themselves - so at least there were no nuclear
missiles heading anywhere, and the oil wells were not yet ablaze.
I headed back for bed again. Although my sleep was restless, I
arose from my bed the next morning, refreshed.
The first day of Operation Desert Storm. January 17th 1991.
I turned on the television again. Just like I had thought and
anticipated, it still featured continuous covering of the Gulf
War. There had been little allied casualties, and indeed only 2
of 1500 planes seemed to have been shot down - one English and
one American. Complete information was lacking, however, so
basically anything could have happened.
Iraq was thought to have launched rockets, but apart from the
fact that a Saoudi Arabian oil tanker and a couple of oil riggs
in the Gulf were supposed to have been shot at, there had been
no defensive transactions. Hussein had called upon the Iraqi
people to aid the defence. The Kuwait gouvernment in excile had
called upon their citizens to aid the attack and the underground
resistance. All the world's leaders had reacted with horror at
president Bush' initiative to attack.
Outside, in the streets, a couple of hundred people were
demonstrating against the war. Most of them were youths; a large
amount of them was still carrying school bags, which filled
me with doubt as to their intentions for joining this
demonstration. "No war for oil" was one of the slogans readable
on some of the white sheets they were carrying with them.
They gathered on the market square. More came.
As it was thursday, I had to go to work as usual. I had problems
concentrating there. Each hour, I anxiously went to listen to
the radio with a couple of other colleagues, where I heard the
scarce bits of news about the Gulf War. The United States Navy
had been activated to liberate Kuwait. Their ships had bombarded
stretches of coast that were now used by special landing vessels
to ooze loads of marines on the land, where vicious combat was
held with Iraqi ground troops and artillery.
The first casualties of this war.
As the hours progressed, the mood of the news bulletin readers
seemed to become more and more dreary. In the afternoon, they
started to sound as if they had just returned from Baghdad
themselves where they had personally witnessed the direst of
possible sufferings. The pauses between the individual
announcements in one bulletin became longer and longer.
Then, in the four o'clock BBC news bulletin, it was said that
several oil wells had been hit - they were aflame sky-high, and
there was no holding the fire that spread from well to well in a
fearsome chain reaction. Eye witnesses spoke of huge bulks of
thick, black smoke, crouching upwards into the sky, on their way
to signal eternal devastation.
Black smoke. Enormous amounts.
My heart froze. A wild beating appeared in my throat; sweat on
my forehead. I felt a kind of fear I had never felt before; a
kind of desolate, desperate fear. The fear that tells you that
you're going to lose everything you've built up in your life. A
fear that tells you everybody is going to lose everything
they've built up.
No matter where you would go, no matter what you would do, it
would get you. There was no way out. Nowhere to run, nowhere to
I looked outside. The sky was clear blue and the bright sun
shone desperately, as if in an attempt to enchant the gloomy
faces of the people walking through the streets. Yet it did not
succeed in enchanting the faces, nor could it gladden any
It was the first cold week of the winter; it was to be the
longest of winters.
I decided to withdraw some money from the bank. Get some canned
food or something. Anything. Stuff my car trunk full with it and
then head home, head for Holland.
Would she have heard the news? Probably not, as she would have
called me at work immediately.
Why hadn't I called her yet myself?
Although it was very hard for me to resist getting out on the
double to get some canned food knowing that more people would
probably already have the same idea, I found myself dialling her
Nobody answered the phone, though, so I guessed she wasn't
home. Or maybe Holland was hit by the black smoke already? No.
That was a ridiculous assumption, and I quickly dismissed the
thought. She was probably still at her Faculty.
There were queues at the super market. Now already! It seemed as
if a hundred people were running around in it, desperately
seeking for whatever kind of storable food they could take home.
It was the kind of scene where one would expect children to be
trampled upon, but there didn't seem to be any.
Only just before, I had cherished the thought that everything
was just a bad dream. In a couple of minutes the alarm clock
would ring and I would wake up in a world without war. A world
without the threat of this toxic black fume.
But the lack of children's cries somehow made everything much
more real. I realised this was no nightmare. This was reality.
I got my hands on some canned meat and beans. It was remarkable
how self-centered people had suddenly become. The same men and
women that had but months earlier been celebrating Unification
Day together, now had eager looks in their eyes, scanning their
surroundings for things they could buy - or steal. It was not
important what the others could get their hands on. Only they
mattered. Survival of the fittest in its most savage form.
There didn't seem to be any more storable food left, so I
quickly queued up.
Two police officers suddenly entered the super market through
the rear entry. The flashing of their car's blue lights threw
disembodied shadows on the doorpost behind them of people
outside, scurrying along. Apparently, they had been summoned by
a personnel member to prevent people from looting - or worse.
For some people, the arrival of these law enforcement officers
merely increased their tension and fear.
But, curiously, all I could think of was Miranda. And the black
If this darkest of fumes would block the sunlight out, resulting
the earth to get cooled off too much, there would very likely
not be much time left. Every fibre in my body ached with a
desire, no, an obsession, to spend every precious minute left of
my life with her near me.
As I carried the goods to my car, I noticed myself looking up
in the air paranoiacally at each sound that could possibly be
interpreted to be made by some kind of fighter plane, or a
rocket. Yet there were no fighter planes in the air at all - nor
had their been any during all of the morning and afternoon. As a
matter of fact, I found the emptiness of the air eerily
discomforting - as I knew there was an active Royal Air Force
base close to Gütersloh.
German roads are notorious for their friday afternoon traffic
jams, but that early thursday evening it seemed as if everybody
wanted to enjoy a long weekend in Holland, as I got caught in
what can only be described as a mass exodus westward.
The sun set slowly, dipping the country in the darkness of the
night. Tomorrow, it would rise again in all its pale mid-winter
glory - but everybody in the traffic jam knew that the day on
which the sun may be setting for the final time was nearing.
It was deep at night when I finally arrived in my home town,
physically and mentally battered by the journey that had been
slow, long, and highly uncomfortable. The stream of cars on the
highway simply didn't seem to relent, and it kept on doing so
even during the very early morning hours, when I came home and
could finally hold my loved one in my arms.
We didn't bother watching any more news programs on the
television, and went to bed. There, we drifted off into the
proverbial deep, dreamless sleep.
Six weeks later...
Then the dark clouds came.
They seemed to have appeared overnight at the southeast horizon.
They were still far off, or they seemed so, yet their danger
seemed to be palpable even at this distance. As I saw the dark
masses, black and impenetrable, with the pale sun shining barely
above them, my heart froze again for a second - followed by my
pulse beating rapidly and my temples throbbing. Through the open
window we could already feel a chiller breeze. The air under the
clouds was black with rain.
This was it - science had not been able to avert this global
catastrophe that politics had caused. Even now, and for many
months to come, the flaming rage of the Middle East oil wells,
distant though it was, fed this ominous cloud of darkness that
would envelop the entire earth before long, plunging it into the
devastation of an ice age.
We beheld the dark clouds in resolved silence, holding each
other firmly as if we believed this could send the darkness back
to where it had come from, back to the womb of the earth, back
to the hell of the war that had sent it forth.
The wind could be seen tearing at their dark tops, sending
ahead narrow streaks of dark filth as if tempting us, playing
with our fear like a cat would with a dead bird.
The little square in front of our flat, normally filled with
children playing, was now completely empty except for a tattered
glove that someone must have lost. Windows were closed. No
bicycles or cars drove through the empty streets.
And the dark clouds just came nearer. There was no thunder or
lightning. Just dark clouds that rained acid. The way the clouds
came slowly closer was like seeing a car crash into you in slow
motion with the sound turned off.
For a while a rainbow appeared, fragile and beautiful under the
absolute darkness of the clouds.
It was getting very cold. We closed the window. The rainbow had
At just past noon, the rain became clearly audible. It lashed
at the houses on the other side of the highway that ran behind
the flats at the other side of the square, and they were
sometimes partly obscured from sight by the torrent.
We embraced each other even more tightly, but we both couldn't
help to shiver.
Then the sun disappeared.
Thorough is my realisation that this article has nothing to do
with the Atari ST nor with the Coding Convention or any other
likely subject ST NEWS normally tends to write about.
It is my firm belief, however, that people should be brought to
think about happenings like the Gulf War. It is therefore that I
have dramatized the bits after 'Desert Storm' - even though it
can be true.
If president Bush' aim of a new world order will be reached
(which he proclaimed in his 12 minute speech he held at 3:00
hours CET), I think he may then soon be heading for a Peace
Nobel Prize - though it is to be doubted whether he will reach
that aim, and in that case the last thing in the world he'll get
is this Prize.
But no matter what: War is beyond good or bad. Although you may
have interpreted otherwise from the above, I think it is not
possible for people like you and me to judge matters like
"having a war or not". There's many things involved in a
decision like this, most of which are beyond the scope of my
perception - and, indeed, beyond the scope of most people's
perception which is the reason why people like Bush need
advisors and stuff like that.
Personally, I think every person demonstrating for or against
this war is someone who is obviously keen on demonstrating how
limited his/her scope of vision is. War is bad because many
people may die, but this war is good, too, because there will
otherwise be nobody to stop fanatic religious nutcases like
Hussein from using force (which may even be nuclear in the none
too far future) against any countries who happen to shelter
contraversial writers, or who happen to tell something bad about
Hussein, his mother, Allah, or whatever.
I have nothing against fanatic religions: May they forever
believe firmly in what they believe in! But as soon as others
suffer for religious causes (which also happened in mediaeval
Europe 'for the sake of Christianity', so I realise we've been
wrong, too), things are heading the wrong way.
The reason why I wrote this bit was, simply, because I am scared
that some kind of crazy conflict somewhere far away may even
cause a global catastrophe of some sort. We are in the age of
democracy and freedom in Eastern Europe, the age of Perestroika.
Global peace has never been as close as it is now. The cold war
has defrosted and the East-West conflict has been healed.
And then this happens.
Why can't things just continue to go the right way?
I would thus like to dedicate this entire issue of ST NEWS to
the people who suffer as I write this (which is the first day of
the Gulf War, January 17th 1991): The people of Kuwait, all
soldiers fighting in the conflict (including the Iraqi ones, who
can't do anything about the fact that they're blinded by this
madman), and all Iraqi citizens.
May this war quickly end.
HOLY WARS... ...THE PUNISHMENT DUE
"Brother will kill brother
Spilling blood across the land
Killing for religion
Something I don't understand
Fools like me, who cross the sea
And come to foreign lands
Ask the sheep, for their beliefs
Do you kill on God's command?
A country that's divided
Surely will not stand
My past erased, no more disgrace
No foolish naive stand
The end is near, it's crystal clear
Part of the master plan
Don't look now to Israel
It might be your homeland
Upon my podium, as the
Know it all scholar
Down in my seat of judgement
Gavel's bang, uphold the law
Up on my soapbox, a leader
Out to change the world
Down in my pulpit as the holier
Than-thou-could-be-messenger of God."
Wage the war on organized crime
Sneak attacks, repel down the rocks
Behind the lines
Some people risk to employ me
Some people live to destroy me
Either way they die
They killed my wife and my baby
With hopes to enslave me
First mistake...last mistake!
Paid by the alliance, to slay all the giants
Next mistake...no more mistakes!
Fill the cracks in, with judical granite
Because I don't say it, don't mean I ain't
Next thing you know, they'll take my thoughts away
I know what I said, now I must screan of the overdose
And the lack of mercy killings.
SUFFER THE CHILDREN
"Your unflappable conceptions
Never open to criticism
Your overpowering ruse
Promises of sanctuary
In eternal bliss
With starry eyes and cash in hand
Pledge all to the master plan
Just face the truth or fund the farce
At one with your god
Your sole intent
Your treasured place assured
For a substantial rent
Death threats for supposed blasphemy
No room for free thought
All non believers punished to the floor
Supposed saints for the cause
Judgement through force
Faith a fuel for pointless wars
When all is done
Who shall benefit? Who is the one?
Not those who pass on
But those dictators divine waving their deceitful wands."
Hoping, dear reader, that you will understand my concern and
the reasons behind me writing this rather un-ST NEWS-ian
article, I sign off. I hope I'll be able to sign off in the
future as well.
P.S. This article was written during the beginning of the Gulf
War, and in the mean time it it already over (thank whoever roams
Up There). I still wanted to get it published in ST NEWS, though.
Sorry for that, folx.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.