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U.S. message leaves Iraqis confused

"It changed for them," said Najah Abdul Rahman, a bookseller on Baghdad's storied Mutanabi Street, referring to the Americans. "It's finished because of their unexpected losses in lives and in money."

On the railing of a staircase in his bookstore hang the pictures of Rahman's own losses, a brother and nephew killed in a 2007 bombing on this street, named for a famous Iraqi poet and known as the street of books.

"They entered for nothing. They removed the regime but created conflict from the many different parties they brought, and now they take their troops out," he said. "We don't know what we want. We are afraid that if they withdraw, the sectarian killing will return, but at the same time we know the killings started while the Americans were here. We're confused."

Iraqi newspapers published commentaries Thursday questioning the Americans' departure. In one, a writer using the pen name Abdullah al-Sikooti (Abdullah the Silenced) asked why they didn't take the "cancer" they had brought with them as they left. Why don't they return the "beautiful nights and minds" before they leave? he asked.

A political cartoon in another Arabic newspaper depicted Uncle Sam flanked by two men, "the situation in Afghanistan" and "the situation in Iraq." Iraq had no arms, Afghanistan had no legs, and Uncle Sam had his arms around the pair as he flashed the victory sign.

Back on Mutanabi Street, Rahman sat in his bookstore on a plastic chair.

"We don't know what happened, what is happening or what will happen," he said. "But Iraq is a country that never forgets."

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