What can be determined from the latest atrocity visited on mostly Iraqi civilians, in a war that the Iraq Body Count website estimates has claimed more than 100,000 civilian lives?
All that can be conclusively said is that Iraq remains a very violent place. Militant groups remain potent and have enough support and discipline to conduct attacks in almost every corner of the country. And they're very hard to stop.
This isn't surprising. In his July report on the state of Iraq, Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, had this to say: "Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work. It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago." Bowen writes that Iraq is still struggling to protect judges and officials from assassination and that the security "situation continues to deteriorate."
News coverage has included the by now obligatory-hand wringing over whether Iraqi security forces are up to the job. The New York Times says that "the violence raised significant questions about the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces." The Washington Post writes "they also raise questions about the Iraqi government’s ability to maintain security as American troops prepare to leave the country by December."