Americans show they too oppose Iraq war

Thousands of American protesters have denounced the illegal invasion of Iraq as the conflict entered its fifth year. They raised their voices against internationally unpopular U.S. foreign policy and marched to the Pentagon in the footsteps of an epic demonstration four decades ago against the equally divisive Vietnam war.

Small counter protests were staged, too, on a Saturday of duelling signs and sentiments such as Illegal Combat and Peace Through Strength and songs like The Battle Hymn of the Republic and War (What's It Good For?).

Thousands crossed the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial to rally loudly but peacefully near the Pentagon. "We're here in the shadow of the war machine," said anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. "It's like being in the shadow of the death star. They take their death and destruction and they export it around the world. We need to shut it down."

Smaller protests were held in other U.S. cities, stretching to Tuesday's four-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion. In Los Angeles, Vietnam veteran Ed Ellis, 59, hoped the demonstrations would be the "tipping point" against a war that has killed more than 3,200 U.S. troops, at least 100,000 Iraqis and engulfed an oil-rich middle-eastern country in a deadly cycle of violence.

"It's all moving in our direction, it's happening," he predicted at the Hollywood rally. "The administration, their get-out-of-jail-free card, they don't get one any more."

Other protests and counter-demonstrations were held in San Francisco, San Diego and Hartford, Connecticut., where more than 1,000 rallied at the Old State House.

Elsewhere in the world, tens of thousands marched in Madrid as Spaniards called not only for the U.S. to get out of Iraq but to close the prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and withdraw from Afghanistan. Smaller protests were staged in Greece and Turkey.

Speakers at the Pentagon rally criticised U.S. President George W. Bush's administration at every turn but also blamed the Democrats, who in November won control of the American parliament known as Congress, for spinelessly refusing to cut off money for the war.

"This is a bipartisan war," New York City labour activist Michael Letwin told the crowd. "The Democratic party cannot be trusted to end it."