WASHINGTON - From New York's Times Square to a lawn outside an old government building in Hawaii, American anti-war activists prepared to mark the 2,000th US military death in Iraq with prayer, candlelight and protest.
In more than 300 events set for Wednesday, one day after the milestone number was reported, those who oppose the war in Iraq plan to gather at war memorials, federal buildings and in New York, on a city street corner - as well as at such landmarks as Rockefeller Plaza and a recruiting station in Times Square.
The death of an army sergeant pushed the US military death toll in Iraq to the landmark figure of 2,000, but President George W. Bush warned more sacrifices were needed before US troops could come home.
The news cast a shadow over the final results of the Iraqi referendum, which showed that voters had ratified a new constitution, despite bitter opposition in Sunni Arab areas where insurgents are battling to topple the Baghdad government.
The Pentagon said Staff Sergeant George Alexander, 34, died on Saturday of injuries sustained eight days ago when a roadside bomb blew up near his vehicle in the town of Samarra.
The US army said the 2,000 American dead was an artificial mark, not a milestone.
"It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives," said U.S army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Steven A. Boylan.
In Washington, the US Senate paused for a moment of silence after news that the death toll had reached 2,000.
More than 15,000 US troops also have been wounded in action.
"It is time to end the destruction, and rebuild war-torn Iraq and hurricane-ravaged communities in the US," wrote the organizer of an anti-war event at the Montana state capitol building in the city of Helena.
In Lihue, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, another organizer invited activists to a prayer vigil on the lawn of the old county building: "Bring prayers and songs to share." Another vigil, by candlelight, was planned for the sidewalk outside the White House in Washington D.C., the site of a noisy demonstration and numerous arrests in September.
The featured speaker at that earlier event, military mother Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, said she plans to speak at this one, and then tie herself to the White House fence to protest the war. Sheehan's son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed on April 4, 2004.
"To me, every single member since Number One has been tragic and needless and unnecessary," Sheehan said in a telephone interview. "My son was somewhere around 615, and I've been working so hard for peace since my son was killed and now almost 1,400 more soldiers have been killed since Casey died." Vigils were also expected in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In Houston, a weeklong observance to honor those killed in Iraq, including US military and Iraqi casualties, was to begin October 29 at the memorial to the Second World War in that city.
Peace activists in Oklahoma City scheduled a candlelight vigil in Memorial Park.
The peace group American Friends Service Committee, which helped co-ordinate some of these events online at www.afsc.org, urged the US Congress to halt funding for the Iraqi war.
"As parents, citizens and compassionate people, we have to demand that the funding of this exhausted war stops now, before one more death occurs or one more dollar is spent," Lila Lipscomb, whose son Sgt. Michael Pederson was killed in Iraq in 2003, said in a statement announcing the campaign.
Lipscomb was set to speak at an anti-war event in Lansing, Michigan on Wednesday.