I never wrote a post on Iraq on my blog, and rarely ever mentioned Iraq in other posts about general ideas of foreign policy, or general lunacy of the extremists currently in charge of this country. I just feel I do not know enough to have a useful opinion - there are others who do, and I have linked to some of their posts. I have been strongly opposed to the war ever since the first hint of it was voiced a couple of days after 9/11. After the first bomb fell, I shut up, switched off the TV and hoped for the best.
But, and with a big caveat that I have no idea if I am right about this, I just want to point out a parallel I see between the way the US media covers Iraq and the way it covered the Balkans, as well as huge disparity between the media coverage of Balkans and the reality on the ground in the Balkans. So, perhaps, there is a similar disparity between US reporting and the reality in the case of Iraq, too.
Both countries (Yugoslavia and Iraq) had about 50 years of thoroughly secular regimes, where organized religion was not exactly outlawed, but was sneered at. In both countries, new generations grew up entirely secular, often being religious only in a cultural way, following some customs, celebrating holidays, self-identifying as religious in the national census, but not really giving it much thought. The majority of the population is, thus, thoroughly secular (just as it is in the USA), but, once the country encountered a crisis (e.g., destruction of Yugoslavia by Milosevic, Izetbegovic and Tudjman, aided by the West; and dethroning of Saddam Hussein by direct action of the West), the small-in-numbers, but very vocal and aggressive religious groups raised their heads and started the struggles against each other and against the foreign powers meddling in the country. In the case of Serbia, as soon as the West stopped meddling, the opposition finally managed to get rid of Milosevic and get started on a slow and painful recovery. Perhaps as soon as the West leaves Iraq, they'll be able to take care of their country, too.
The US media heavily focuses on the loud voices of the aggressive religious leaders and misses the predominantly modern and secular outlook of the majority of the population. I have a feeling (aided by some of the reports I heard on the Sunday election in Iraq) that our focus on the Shia/Sunni/Kurd division and the religious leaders of each of the three factions is vastly overblown. Apparently, many people, when interviewed as they were leaving the polls, were unhappy with the question about their religious and ethnic affiliation: "I am an Iraqi!".
This gives me a small dose of optimism. It may take some time, but Iraq may yet get it right by itself, as soon as the US leaves. It is the most ancient Civilization on the planet, after all. There are millenia of statehood wisdom accumulated there. 20 or 50 years are nothing compared to 12000 years of the nation's history. Saddam's rule was a blink of an eye, the US invasion imperceptibly short and unimportant in the long term and in the biggest context of history. Iraq is also, unlike what CNN cameras like to show, a developed modern country. It is not all poor people, wearing funny clothes, living in muddy shacks (that's what they did in Yugoslavia, too) - why don't they show us the shiny University campus and people dressed better than you and I, speaking more grammatically correct English than mine or yours? Is that a part of propaganda about our superiority so we can more easily go there and kill them? Anyway, I feel that the elections are a good first step and that a complete pullout of US troups would be not dangerous, but actually the best thing for Iraq.