What are some White House telephones

■ The phone wires are hot in the White House Common Office / thousands of calls daily on the Gulf War INTERVIEW

Out of anger and desperation about their own feeling of helplessness, thousands of people have taken to the streets against the Gulf War in recent days. Others call the White House to personally give the US President their opinion, "because after all you have to try everything," as a Berliner, member of a church peace group, put it. Whoever calls there will - as the taz was able to test for itself - treated with exquisite courtesy, as if it were about the recovery wishes for First Lady Barbara and her broken leg, and not about a devastating war.

After a long dial tone, a strained, polite-sounding woman's voice answers:

Hello, this is the White House Common Office. Can I help you?

I'm calling from Berlin and I would like to say something to your President ...

You can do that.

I am absolutely appalled by the situation in the Gulf and wonder why the President did not take the proposal of French President Mitterrand a little more to heart.

Oh, he's thought about it a lot, but Mr. Hussein flatly refused. But I very much appreciate that you are taking the time to call here and give your opinion.

What happens to my opinion now?

We write that down and bring it down to him. He watches this every day. We get a couple of thousand calls every day.

And what is the opinion of the people?

Some are for and some are against the war. It is not yet possible to say which weighs more. But you can be sure that no one in the world will burst into great cheers.

If you see him every day, you may also know whether Mr. Bush is really aware of the consequences of such a war. For people and for the environment ...

Unfortunately, I can't tell you anything about that. But I like to write that down. Would you like to say something else ...

Yes, I would like to know howyou think about this madness!

I'm sorry, but I'm just sitting here to write down the calls. I am not authorized to speak my mind.

Recently, Mr. Bush was seen walking alone across the White House lawn and the announcer said he was okay with himself. Perhaps you can tell him that the rest of the world is not at all at peace, but is falling out of joint.

But of course I can pass that on. Thank you for taking the time to call. I'll tell him he got a call from Berlin and that you don't see any need for war.

The conversation breaks off.

Conversation: Andrea Böhm

White House phone number: 1-202-456-1111