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Iraq: In the bunker

A wave of bombs, a dark anniversary, and a war that won't go away.

“If the checkpoint was there and the police were doing their jobs this wouldn’t have happened,” said a bus driver looking at the wreckage of what used to be his bus. Some blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq and former Baathists for the attack. But mostly they blamed their own police for letting it happen.

After the active nightmare of the bombing, by evening the street had the feel of a bad dream – amid the groups of curious young men, a ministry employee walked with blood seeping through the bandage on his head. An anguished mother stumbling over her shoes asked everyone if they’d seen her missing daughter.

For the U.S., part of the price of withdrawing from Baghdad was giving up some of the intelligence gathering on insurgents that goes along with having 25,000 soldiers on the ground – a point acknowledged by General Odierno this week.

“It’s not the same but that’s part of our way ahead. We have to allow the Iraqis to do this,” he said, describing a spike in attacks last month as insurgents "testing the waters."

On Wednesday evening, with the death count nearing 100 and the wounded five times more, the Baghdad security spokesman took the nearly unprecedented step of saying that Iraqi security forces were to blame for allowing the attacks to happen. Just days from the start of what is normally the festive month of Ramadan, when the midnight to 5 a.m. curfew was about to be lifted, Prime Minister Maliki said he would "re-evaluate" security – almost certainly the prelude to a crackdown.

On the street outside the foreign ministry, the mini-bus driver examining his wrecked vehicle fell back to the Iraqi default setting of skepticism.

“It doesn’t make any difference if the Americans are here or not – this will never stop.”