Anti-war protesters in more than a dozen cities across the United States called for an end to the U.S. military deployment in the Middle East Saturday, taking to the streets to demand a diplomatic resolution to the Persian Gulf crisis. The largest demonstration was in New York, where police said up to 4,000 people rallied at Columbus Circle and then marched down Broadway to Times Square, chanting: "Hell no, we won't go; we won't fight for Texaco!" Organizers claimed 15,000 participated.
In Washington, about 200 demonstrators picketed the White House and then sat down across Pennsylvania Avenue, forcing District of Columbia police to close off the street for nearly two hours. The four-hour rally came to an end in the late afternoon as police arrested more than a dozen demonstrators, including veteran peace activist Daniel Ellsberg.
Protest rallies also were held in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles, as well as in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Albuquerque, Birmingham, Houston, Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle and Olympia, Wash.
In Atlanta, anti-war demonstrators labeled President Bush "the son of Reaganstein" and called for U.S. withdrawal from the gulf. Watching the 100 protesters march in Woodruff Park were about 10 members of the Desert Shield Family Support Group holding a demonstration of their own, flags and all.
"We do not need another Vietnam War," said Carrie Morris, president of the Atlanta chapter of the All People's Congress. "I don't believe in no damn red, white and blue flag. It ain't nothing but a piece of rag. Liberty and justice are for the rich folks."
Rallies were held in other nations, including Australia, Canada, England, Italy and Panama, said organizers from the New York-based Coalition Against the U.S. Intervention in the Middle East.
The rallies were the first nationally coordinated anti-war demonstrations since Bush sent more than 200,000 U.S. troops to the gulf to protect Saudi Arabia after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2.
Many of Saturday's protesters were young people with long hair, some wearing army fatigues reminiscent of the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of a generation ago. But there also were older people and minorities, who demanded jobs and greater spending on domestic programs at the same time they pressed for peace in the gulf.
The demonstrators who gathered Saturday were followed much of the afternoon by a dozen young people who supported the president's gulf policies. One carried a sign that read: "Kill Peaceniks, Hippies, Not Kuwaitis." A second wore a Saddam Hussein mask and carried a sign reading: "Thank You American Leftists." A third youth wore a "Nuke Iraq" T-shirt.
Ellsberg told the anti-war protesters that despite their relatively small numbers, "this is larger than at a comparable point in the Vietnam War. And it will get a lot larger as we continue to organize _ and especially if the body bags start coming home."
Iraqis try seized U.S.
Iraqi military forces are beginning to learn how to operate sophisticated U.S. Hawk anti-aircraft missiles and radars that were captured in Kuwait and brought back to the Baghdad area, U.S. officials and government analysts said.
The development has raised concern because Iraq captured about 150 of the highly accurate missiles, which, in the hands of properly trained military technicians, could pose a serious threat to U.S. and allied warplanes if they attacked Iraqi military targets.
Many U.S. warplanes in the region have no ready means of protection against the Hawk system, the officials said last week.
They said U.S. concerns stemming from the initial Aug. 2 capture of the Hawks were intensified last week, when electronic intelligence operations in the region detected the first characteristic signs of Hawk radar operation at a special test site for air-defense equipment near Baghdad.
The radar emanations indicated Iraq is "playing around" with the weapons, as one official put it, but still remains weeks to months away from deploying them.
While U.S. officials two weeks ago dismissed any possibility the Iraqis could operate the complex weapons, a senior U.S. analyst who asked not to be identified said last week that "in a while, the Iraqis will know how" to use them and that many U.S. aircraft are not equipped to defeat the systems.
Poll: U.S. should wait
for sanctions to work
Seventy-three percent of Americans think President Bush should wait to see if sanctions force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait before taking military action, according to a poll released Saturday.
The poll conducted by the Gallup Organization found 69 percent of those questioned felt Bush should pay more attention to finding a diplomatic solution.
But 59 percent of the respondents said Bush should insist on an Iraqi withdrawal with no concessions, despite reports Baghdad would pull out in exchange for either disputed oil fields or a strategic offshore island.
Forty-three percent of the respondents said even if Iraq pulls out of Kuwait, the United States should take military action. Forty-seven percent think the United States should not act.
The telephone poll of 775 adults was conducted Oct. 18-19. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
"Isolated industries may have to go out of business. But you have to put it in perspective. They are living better than they did during the Iran-Iraq war. There will be more discomfort, more pain, of course. But this is a country with a very high pain threshold." _ a diplomat in Baghdad speaking of the effect of the embargo on Iraq.
"Oh, the good times are over. It was exciting to land all that equipment over there and watch the buildup, but now that they are there and nothing is happening and we didn't scare Saddam and we may now have to fight him, and then the Israelis got into the middle _ well, we are all starting to become a little anxious. It means we may soon face the hideous choice of pull out or go in, and George Bush has not really prepared the American public for this choice." _ Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y.
"The American Embassy in Amman will probably burn." _ a U.S. official, on the wave of anti-American terrorism expected to accompany a war.
_ Information from the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsday, the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.