A lot of the media concerning Iraq often involves Iraqi terrorists who are anxious to take the lives of as many American soldiers as they can. However, normal Iraqi citizens are challenging this stereotype by creating civilian-based militias that are routing out insurgents while actually saving hundreds of American soldiers.
In a recent press conference, Army Col. Martin Stanton, a prominent head for Multinational Corps Iraq, explained that these Concerned Local Citizens groups have completely turned around the casualty rate for U.S. soldiers. For example, shortly after these Sunni-lead organizations took over southern Baghdad, the 10th Mountain Division 2nd Brigade had to deal with just one death a month versus the previous casualty rate of 12.
The CLCs are continuing to grow, adding Sunnis and Shiites alike. Currently, CLCs contain 69,000 members. Of these participants a little more than half are paid to take up arms. The other members volunteer for free. For them their sole motivation is making their country safer from al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups that are indiscriminately claiming hundreds of lives.
Another advantage associated with the formation of CLCs is the ability for Sunnis and Shiites to network with one another. Before, these groups had incredibly high tensions. However, as they start to come together for a common cause, they are beginning to realize that a lot of their tensions were formed out of fear. This is not to say that on a community level, everyone is welcoming of the increased friendliness between these groups. Yet, hopefully, the new perceptions gained from individual Sunni and Shiite CLC members will be powerful and numerous enough to spread amongst the general population.