The Moments When Sounds Of Gunfire Meant No More War WAR IN THE GULF

March 10, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Doug Struck, The Sun's national correspondent, has traveled in Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait covering the war.

It is difficult to fit the realities of war into the lives of people caught in it. They are such different scales.

Baghdad was a weird calm in the days before the war. There seemed an inexplicable faith war would not come, and a resignation that it might. No one I talked to wanted it; there was no passion against Americans, Kuwaitis or anyone else to fuel a fever of war.

"War is something the politicians bring," said a sweet-faced grocer at a Baghdad fruit stall. "We do not want war."

As the clock ticked ominously toward Jan. 15, the people I saw in Baghdad were average people worried about their families. They asked me often if I expected war. Some bundled their children in cars and slipped quietly out of town at night.

I hustled to Israel on the eve of the war, and found a nation in hysteria. Everyone was convinced a chemical cloud was about to blanket the country. It seemed only when the Scuds arrived did the resolution of the Israelis show. Those bombed were the calmest.

I will not forget Olga Ezra, 63, scratching in the dark through the debris of her Tel Aviv home of 35 years, as firemen still played water hoses on fires. Her only concern was hospitality: "I wish I could offer you some tea," she fretted.

Two days after the cessation of war, I drove north with a British convoy in the night to relieve my colleagues in Kuwait City. The trip was as surreal as Baghdad's calm had been. We picked our way carefully around the craters of bombs and remnants of armament. Men were killed here.

South of Kuwait City, the sky began to rise blood-red in the night. As I neared, I could see this was the glow of hundreds of fires, oil wells lit in sheer malice by the Iraqis. Saddam Hussein had fulfilled his vow to set the desert on fire, and I began to see why sometimes men must die to stop a greater evil.

we entered the outskirts of the city, I was startled by the sharp crackle of gunfire. I soon came upon a honking, noisy traffic jam, a celebration of Kuwaitis at the return of their home. The gunfire was an incongruous marriage of the tools of war and the joy of peace. For once the gunfire was welcome.

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