CHICAGO, AP -The third anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq drew tens of thousands of protesters — shouting chants of “Stop the War” and calling for the withdrawal of troops — in demonstrations across the globe.
More than 7,000 people marched through downtown Chicago in one of the nation’s largest protests, saying the war diverts money from domestic needs and demanding the U.S. pull out of Iraq. One sign read, “Bush is a category 5 disaster.”
“I’m against this war, I’m against the torture,” said protester Martha Conrad, 54. “We’re doing this for the people of Iraq.”
In Tokyo, anti-war rallies stretched into a second day, with about 800 protesters chanting “No War, Stop the War!” and banging drums as they marched peacefully Sunday through downtown Tokyo toward the U.S. Embassy. A day earlier, about 2,000 rallied in Tokyo.
“The Iraq war was President Bush’s big mistake and the whole world is against him,” said organizer Ayako Nishimura. “Iraq must decide its own affairs.”
Elsewhere Sunday, anti-war protesters demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia and at least 1,000 turned out in Seoul, South Korea, which has the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq after the U.S. and Britain.
Many of the demonstrations in Australia, Asia and Europe drew smaller than anticipated crowds. In London, police said 15,000 people joined a march from Parliament and Big Ben to a rally in Trafalgar Square. The anniversary last year attracted 45,000 protesters in the city.
“Every day you hear of new deaths,” said Rose Gentle, whose soldier son Gordon, 19, was killed by a roadside bomb last year in Basra, southern Iraq. “Tony Blair has actually made Iraq a worse place for the Iraqi people.”
Britain, the United States’ strongest supporter in the Iraq war, has about 8,000 troops in Iraq but plans to pull out 800 of them by May.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld answered critics of the war in a guest column in Sunday’s editions of The Washington Post, saying that turning away from Iraq would be “the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis.”
“It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because it was too hard or too tough or we didn’t have the patience to work with them as they built free countries,” he wrote.
Other U.S. cities where protesters gathered Saturday included Boston, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Trenton, N.J.
More than 1,000 people gathered Saturday in Times Square near a military recruiting station, which was guarded by police.
“We say enough hypocrisy, enough lies, our soldiers must come home now,” said Wael Musfar of the Arab Muslim American Federation, addressing the crowd from a parked flatbed truck. Participants chanted, “Stop the U.S. war machine, from Iraq to Korea to the Philippines.”
Many attendees emphasized that they support the troops. “I have friends in Iraq and I just want them to know that I may not be able to support them there, but I can here,” said Jose Avila, 36.
In Chicago, a bystander with a red, white and black Iraqi flag flung across his shoulders said he came to show he backed President Bush’s policies in Iraq. “I support freeing Iraqis from tyranny,” said 33-year-old Ryan Stiles of Chicago.