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Sep-30-2008 07:00printcommentsVideo

Could Removal of U.S. Support Shift Iraq's Peaceful Balance? (VIDEO)

Inside Iraq: Lessons in what happens when a nation stops paying its former enemies.

Iraq war soldiers
Actual funding that will be delivered to Sons of Iraq
Photos and video report by Tim King

(ABU FADOOZ, Iraq) - On this September afternoon, I am back out on patrol with the Army's 101st Airborne out of Balad, Iraq.

Like every mission here, before these troops go outside the wire, they listen to a briefing from their platoon commander.

"If we get hit by an IED, far near side security, get security of the site first and see if we can get out of the kill zone. Secure the site. Gunners, positive ID, you have positive ID on the trigger man, kill 'em dead." The preparation for each patrol, laid out by Lt. Brian Reynolds, is extensive. No stones are left unturned and the soldiers feel prepared for what may come.

Today's patrol will lead us to a village called Abu Fadooz, an Iraqi community that has become more stable in recent months, thanks largely most agree, to the money the United States began providing for Iraqi militias, to conduct security checkpoints referred to here in Iraq as CLC's.

The Sons of Iraq, members of what is officially known as Iraq's Awakening Council, are local men recruited to defend their own communities by manning the CLC checkpoints while working closely with the U.S. Army and Marines.

The soldiers I was traveling with inquired about the local tribal leader and seek information on recent events. The close relations with the Sons of Iraq keeps U.S. forces dialed in on local activity.

1st Lt. Brian Reynolds was the commander of the platoon. He commented on the effectiveness of the Sons of Iraq.

"It's actually going pretty well, I can't complain, violence in this area has gone down pretty much, they do a good job, they really do."

Sgt Argenis Mendes-Rosario agreed, making this comment about the Sons of Iraq's effectiveness, "So far they show up on time, its like anything else; baby steps, but the program is doing better and they caught up to the work real quick."

It was announced just days ago that Iraq will begin to pick up the cost for 55,000 members of the Sons of Iraq, that amounts to a little over than half of this security group, but the move will still leave thousands of these men suddenly without their $300 a month income.

Closing down the Sons of Iraq's CLC checkpoints may be symbolic of the United States handing responsibility back to the Iraqi government, both fiscally and militarily, but the cost in the long run may carry an even higher pricetag, as the deterrents to violence are diminished.

As the bearers of this news, this platoon commander and his staff visited the home of a local sheik and explained that a checkpoint in their area was targeted for closure. The sheik's son insisted that the checkpoint should stay open, because closing it would open the door to the terrorists that are now kept at bay.

The Iraqi interpreter with the platoon translated the man's words, "He says the thing is... if they move that CLC, take out that CLC, they will go out and place IED's all of the time, it is not necessary."

Iraq says it will merge 20 percent of the Awakening Council members into the security forces, while other members may obtain jobs in civilian ministries, or in construction; rebuilding and repairing communities damaged in the war.

These members of the Sons of Iraq work at a CLC checkpoint
that is not on the closure list.

But members of the Awakening Council say it remains to be seen, whether or not they will get those jobs. American soldiers who work with the Sons of Iraq, say their loyalty is largely based on the payments which will soon go away. It could alienate many, and even lead to outright defiance toward the Iraqi government.

While these men have been told their checkpoint is on the closure list, these men have been told that theirs is not, bringing some relief at least for the time being. American soldiers working with the Sons of Iraq, say they have received reliable information that they in turn, have put to use.

Specialist Ben Munitz says the close relations with people here keeps the safety level high, "We come here often to check in with the local population, make sure everything is doing good, keeping the terrorists out."

But even with the payments, it is hard for these soldiers to get a real fix on the loyalty of all the members of the Sons of Iraq.

Sgt. Ryan Ahern says there are often many questions, "But like I said, it would be hard to actually get down to the heart of it to see who is behind the scenes, good 100 percent good, or working for the other side, so you really never know."

This man's Sons of Iraq CLC checkpoint is set to close

"Do you worry that some of that money goes back into the insurgency?" I asked.

"Oh, most definitely, I don't think it is ever going to stop. These people, I don't know numbers, I can't tell you numbers. I'm here on the ground with my guys making sure there aren't people here on the ground harassing people in this country, but some of the money probably goes back into supplying the few around here who are doing that stuff."

The "stuff" Ahern refers to, often comes in the form of mortar and rocket attacks on nearby Camp Anaconda at Balad.

Locals can earn two hundred dollars for lobbing a mortar at the American Air Base, and that is a lot of money for people here who are otherwise unemployed.

As their patrol makes its rounds, questions fill the minds of these soldiers. There are always questions about how dangerous some of these local men actually could be. While agreeing that the Sons of Iraq program has helped, Ahern believes it is a good time for Iraq to begin dealing with the programs the United States is funding.

"I don't know it is always hard for us to tell who us good and who is bad, but we have to start giving it back, at the lower level with these CLC checkpoints, we need to give them the power back, letting them establish their own government you know."

Tim King poses with some of the local kids. Photo by Ryan Ahern

"I know they are downsizing the CLC checkpoints soon and they are trying to find jobs for the guys that are going to be losing jobs with the Sons of Iraq, but we have to slowly let it be up to them whether they have corrupt IP's, (Iraqi Police) or corrupt CLC's, it's really going to be up to how much they want their country to operate. It's up to them and if its up to them, then we can't be here forever."

The lieutenant leading this platoon says he believes the information he receives from the local sheik's son is solid, and that means a great deal to everyone involved.

"He's a pretty good friend of mine, he gives me information about what's going on in town, he's a pretty good guy. Conversations, he's the kind of guy you can have a conversation with and he will give you his honest opinion and that is what I really like. I like to know what they really think; not what I want to hear."

The children in this village seem fascinated by the Americans and a television camera instantly draws their attention. They are the innocent today and the future of this country.

They're full of life, but limited in terms of opportunity, and those limitations span this nation, affecting all age groups. Many say and that the Sons of Iraq are one of the only things, along with U.S. financial support, that has worked to bring a level of peace here, and that security could vanish quickly with the increasing elimination of the U.S. support.


Produced by Tim King


Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 82 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address:

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Anonymous October 7, 2008 2:37 pm (Pacific time)

And the final bit of news. On September 7, 2008, The Washington Times posted a verbal slip that was made on 'This Week' with George Stephanapoulos. Obama on talking about his religion said, 'My Muslim faith'. When questioned, 'he make a mistake'. Some mistake! Gee, how come you guys didn't report this story? It is amazing how much folks employed by the media, strive to report a nuetral view often somehow don't. Somehow, your view must be the correct view, just because it is your view and your company. I am not saying I am right here, I am saying this is my opinion. However, one must be careful when reporting the "truth" to be unbias, am I right?

Henry Ruark October 7, 2008 7:58 am (Pacific time)

WV, Vic et al: Right on Vic. Continuing contacts from active days tell me this is now a part of the ongoing GOP

Denise October 7, 2008 11:02 am (Pacific time)

Two things: Vic, either I'm right or you are. If your "opnion" is truth, then I have nothing to loose. However, no one should be killed just for thier beliefs(or lack of) in any country. Agreed? It is also my "opinon" that church and state thing was created to protect the church against the state. Remember the Pilgrams? Also,site the Dec of Independence. I work for an accounting firm and am privy to alot of financial information. It doesn't mean I know everything but I'd rather get my "opinion" from an expert. It is my "opinion" that we are in a financial crisis because of poor lending practices and greed of corporate America, and people falling into the credit trap and living beyond thier means. Isn't that what the bailout is for? Grasshopper mentality. Why should taxpayers have to pay for this? So we pass the bill and it still didn't work!!! The war is being funded by taxpayers, I agree but I'd rather my dollar go to that then some greedy banker or individual who has to have more than they will work for.

Henry Ruark October 7, 2008 7:58 am (Pacific time)

WV, Vic et al: Right on Vic. Continuing contacts from active days tell me this is now a part of the ongoing GOP "noise machine" reported here for past years. Recent content analysis on the WV comments indicates professional tone, choice of words, phrases, et al, et al. Note also careful continuance of WV-synonym and denial of any opportunity for own Op Ed. The intent is same as their major preceding campaigns: Disinformation to shape the public reaction, as per the preemptive attack on Iraq that began this whole mess. Which now is consequential in the worldwide economic crisis caused largely by moronic expenditures for "war" to build U.S. hegemony rather than for internal U.S. needs. So we want "moreofsame" in next pivotal vote-choice ??!!

Vic October 6, 2008 3:45 pm (Pacific time)

Well I absolutely understand why I oppose the war and apecifically this war..and I have posted many times my reasons and logic behind them. But in order to be a religious zealot and a hatemonger, one has to stop all listening and rational thought. Ive been there-done that...hated it. As for the "whats in it for me" factor....there is nothing "in this for me" other than the feeling that I am working towards good and resisting evil. I was raised to believe that I HAVE to do that. I doubt you have ever read the Koran you loosely quote, but tell me...have you read the Bible? In Revelations, what happens to those who do not convert to Christianity? They not only die, but they burn in Hell forever. And as far as America being a "Christian nation" .theres that pesky "separation of church and state" thing. Thomas Jefferson took it even further... "There is not one redeeming feature in our superstition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites" (Notes on the State of Virginia) 1823 Nuff said !!!

Denise, USN Veteran, Also Veteran of October 6, 2008 10:54 am (Pacific time)

Wow, it seems those that oppose the war don't even understand why they oppose the war. They really don't care about what is right or wrong so it is futile to convice them otherwise. All they care about is "what is in it for them". Anyone who does not agree with them, they see as a loser and throw insults thier way. Grasshopper mentality, cuz it really is all about them now isn't it. They could care less about humanity as a whole. Truly, they don't care about our men and women over there risking thier lives who did not choose to go to war, they chose to serve. From the moment they are sworn in (upon thier own free will), they are only obligaged to obey under the Military Code of Conduct. (War stinks, I agree but should we just do away with our military altogether and keep our county and the rest of the world at peace and protected by tyranny with soft words and meaningful intentions. (Yeah right.) Which means, when Congress and our Commander in Chief say go to war, you as an American soldier do it. Be reminded that Congress (a liberal majority acting on the cries of America) approved the war, for whatever reason, whether it be Weps of Mass destruction, or the fact that Sadam Huessain was the most evil man on the face of the earth. Remember folks, Iraq is Ancient Babylon. Check the history. It is either thier way (Islam) or death to those who do not agree. Check the Koran. They preach death to Jews and Christians. America is a Christian nation, not an Islamic nation. This country was not at war when we were attacked on our own soil. God help us if we ever embrace the teaching of Islam. Another name for Alah is Deciever. Check it out yourselves.

Vic October 4, 2008 4:21 am (Pacific time)

Actually, "War Veteran" ( I doubt you are a veteran at all) it isnt a "war against radical Islam", as anyone with half a mind knows by now. It was supposed to be a war to get the WMD's, remember? But even Bush regime officials have admitted that it is about OIl.(Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Franks, to name a few) I have heard that the DOD has hired people to write op-ed pieces and get online and spread "we are winning" propoganda.I suspect you are one of those. How much do you get paid for your anonymous "expertise"? How much do you get paid to betray your country?

War Veteran October 3, 2008 8:31 am (Pacific time)

The potentates on the Potomac have been so busy ranting about an imminent financial "catastrophe," dissecting Sarah Palin's debate debut and prognosticating John McCain's political demise that other news -- particularly about the war being waged against radical Islam -- has been hard to find. Here are some facts about the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan that haven't captured the attention of our so-called mainstream media:

First, and most importantly, the campaign in Mesopotamia is all but won. This week, the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines arrived in Anbar province -- once the bloodiest place on the planet -- to assume the mission of honing the skills of Iraqi forces, who are now responsible for security in the largest of Iraq's 18 provinces. Iraqis -- instead of Americans -- now are conducting most combat operations against al-Qaida remnants and Shiite militias throughout the country.

Second, despite predictions that "it couldn't be done," the al-Maliki government has announced plans for provincial elections before year's end. The Iraqis also are completing an oil-revenue-sharing plan and quietly are concluding a status of forces agreement with the U.S. on the disposition of American troops. Though Iranian interference in Iraq's internal affairs continues, U.S. and Iraqi special operations forces quietly have been rolling up terror networks set up by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, demurs from describing the current situation a "victory" because bloodshed still occurs. This week, Sunni suicide bombers in Salahuddin province and Baghdad killed 28 and wounded more than 30 Shiite worshipers celebrating Eid al-Fitr -- the end of their Ramadan fast. Rather than pushing the country toward "civil war," events such as these increasingly have alienated insurgent groups from the civilian population. Despite these attacks, violence is at a four-year low. Though widely unreported, U.S. military and diplomatic officials express quiet confidence that Iraq is well on its way to becoming our closest ally in a part of the world where we need reliable friends.


 Editor: The individual submitting this comment seemed familiar, so I checked the log on his/her IP and discovered that he or she has used a number of different names in recent months in an apparent effort to make it appear that his/her points, generally racist and intolerant in nature, are supported.  This is the list of names:

Dylan Duke, JB Stallworth, Deb Myerson, War Veteran, Rich Millison, WV, Percy, Delaware, Del, Carlson, Real Democrat, Retired Military, Sourced, LH, Going Broke, Len Hannoford, Oregon Veteran, Telford, Humos, Eternal Optimist, Scazry Times, Capitalist, Ronan, Brian, Wonder, Steve, Gomer, Casse, Ben Jammin', Jason Burbach, Kevin, JB, Kilroy, Carol Ann, Sgt. Rock, Abdul Farqua, Wally, Change, Micro/Macro, Booker T Washington, Stewart, Kyle, Pragmatic, Teacher Veteran, ex-government employee, Ayers Weatherman, Fido, Real Combat Vet, Mary Stennis, Proud Schwab Investor, Bullfrog, Hopefully, Update, Fed Up

 I almost feel like I should apologize for this going on so long, and now those of us who spend time around  here know that the number of people who voice extreme positions regarding right wing politics on are not as strong in number as they appear.  This individual who uses male and female names to launch frequently ridiculous attacks on myself, Henry Ruark, Professor Stephen Zunes, Dr. Phillip Leveque, etc., is nothing more than a disturbed poser who writes comments, then writes back to herself or himself, representing several people instead of just one.  I would write off anything ever posted here under those names, or by anyone who resembles the ramblings left by this individual.

Tim King


El Toro October 2, 2008 9:33 am (Pacific time)

The Iraqi government needs to step up to the plate and take over the payments to these people or face the very real threat of violence from them. The whole country is an armed camp with a long history of tribal violence. Sunni vs. Shiite is not a game we want to referee. There aren’t any winners or innocent bystanders. AK47s are not baseball bats. The 101st has an outstanding military record, but can’t play peacemaker between the locals and the central government forever. Our government needs to put more pressure on the Iraqi government to fund the checkpoints and do the other things that are keeping the peace. The alternative is unacceptable.

CIC October 1, 2008 5:46 pm (Pacific time)

what is this? I knew we were paying our would-be enemies to be on our side, that's kind of a no-brainer, but why are we stopping? we still have soldiers there and won't this put them at more risk? what am I missing?

Matt Johnson September 30, 2008 6:29 pm (Pacific time)

That was interesting to see the Iraqi reaction to taking down a check point. Funding these Sons of Iraq to continue keeping the peace sounds like a smart way to go.

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