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Do I dare wonder if that crowd of blood-drenched men marching toward Karbala or Najaf can somehow be friendly to America after we leave Iraq?

It's obvious they're not going to be all that friendly while we're there, but they might be better off if America hangs around until all the busted crockery and buildings with tank shell holes get fixed.

America would like to see a democracy in Iraq similar to its own, where it is possible for competing or opposing or rival religions to leave each other alone and conduct the business of running towns, cities and states outside the place of worship.

This may not be possible with the Shiites, who evidently believe that if they have 60 percent of the vote, they will run things from here on out.

If it goes that way, then you can expect a Balkanized Iraq, complete with ethnic cleansing and ending up in at least three mini states, all squabbling about the oil.

There is some hint that the Shiite clerics in Iraq may be the kind who believe the religion should be separated from the state. That would be refreshing good news, but don't count on it.

We freed the Iraqi people, and now they're making the most of it.

Saddam, no. U.S.A., no. Hey... maybe these guys have more in common with the French than we thought. It wasn't the oil dollars, it was the anti-American simpatico.

Let's see how this works out, and see if an Arab country anywhere can have both a democracy and a society that doesn't repress the minority.

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