The 'Sons of Iraq' Keep the Peace

Throughout Iraq, one of the good news stories has been the so-called Sunni Awakening, in which groups of primarily Sunni citizens have been joining up with U.S. military forces to fight against Shiite militias and the Sunni terrorist group known as al Qaeda in Iraq. They tip off U.S. troops to arms caches and guard their neighborhoods from Shiite militia activity.

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Throughout Iraq, one of the good news stories has been the so-called Sunni Awakening, in which groups of primarily Sunni citizens have been joining up with U.S. military forces to fight against Shiite militias and the Sunni terrorist group known as al Qaeda in Iraq. They tip off U.S. troops to arms caches and guard their neighborhoods from Shiite militia activity.

But just what to call these groups has been another matter. For months, they have been refered to as volunteer security workers, neighborhood watch, or "Concerned Local Citizens" (that's CLCs if you're on a forward operating base). True, they are not official government security forces—they often wear the sorts of orange vests that you might see during an intramural sports club practice. The problem with those monikers, though, is that they tend to obscure the fact that these groups are also armed militia on the U.S. payroll. An estimated 80,000 of them are paid $10 a day (or $300 a month) by the U.S. military—a good wage in Iraq these days.

While journalists are trying to settle on just what to call these groups, the U.S. military has offered up a new contender: Yesterday in a briefing, Col. Wayne Grigsby, the commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, referred to the "Sons of Iraq" in a video briefing from Baghdad. It was a new term for many Pentagon reporters. "So can I infer that you will no longer be calling the local Iraqis who assist U.S. forces 'concerned local citizens'?" asked one journalist.

"That's correct," Grigsby answered, explaining that in his area of operation, they are now called the Sons of Iraq. "This term, Sons of Iraq, I think, came from the government of Iraq. And it just shows—from my perspective, it just shows that these individuals who are providing security, that are standing up for their country, are exactly what the government of Iraq wants for their country."

—Anna Mulrine