Hilary, I don''t think it's either 1 or 2
1) It isn't quite as optimistic as Mr Taheri states
2) There is a concerted effort to remove Bush from office.
I think that the truth is somewhere between the media reports on both sides.
I don't see that there is any great move to remove Bush. But news has to be exciting, especially here, so either things have to be peachy in Iraq right now, or a disaster. Not much middle ground, which I believe is the truth - like you, if I were there right now I'd be trying to improve things. I think the stresses and hardships are there for the people, but they are different.
Personally, I'd prefer the 'occupation' to the terror of a regime like SH's, even if I disliked the nation that was occupying. At least I'd feel I could sleep relatively well in my bed not dreading the arrival of the secret police. But then, I"m not there, and I'm sure that lots of poeple would disagree with me.
It does seem to me, though, that there is a general determination on the part of those who were antiwar and dislike Bush, to refuse to see that maybe, just maybe, things are better now for the Iraqi people than they were before. I think that's NM's point.
I can dislike Bush and be highly cynical about his motives for the war, but I can still ponder that maybe Iraq is better off now than it was, and that the hardships are different and not as terrible - and that there is now hope of an improvement.