Most people don’t expect to find the words “army interrogator,” “award-winning author” and “humanitarian” in the same sentence. People are even more surprised to find that those terms are being used to describe one person. But Paul Holton has never been conventional.
During his 35 years in the Army National Guard, Holton has been a Korean linguist and an interrogator in both Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in Iraq, he was responsible for interrogating 17 Iraqi generals who surrendered on the first day of the war. He then moved to Baghdad where he worked with Iraqi sources in tracking terrorists, weapons dealers and counterfeiters.
Holton’s experience in Iraq is told in his book Saving Babylon: The Heart of an Army Interrogator in Iraq. In the book, he provides a refreshing look at the war and the people who served there. He describes interrogation tactics based more in kindness and trust rather than in torture and toughness.
His concern for the Iraqi people, and particularly the children of Iraq, led him to create Operation Give (www.operationgive.org), a humanitarian organization which delivers toys, school supplies and medical assistance to the children and families of Iraq and other areas of the world devastated by war or natural disaster.
Holton describes his deployment as “magical.” In the midst of the war he was able to find a “spiritual oasis.” He found a purpose much higher than just conducting the war. He tried to make a difference in the lives of those he met at all levels of Iraqi society.
Saving Babylon (www.savingbabylon.com) is quickly becoming a favorite book, not just among traditional military readers, but also with women who find a heartwarming story of compassion and the goodness of America’s citizen soldiers.
The Military Writers Society of American recently awarded Saving Babylon the Reader’s Choice Award for Non-Fiction for 2005. In presenting the award, they noted, “there are very few books that capture the whole essence of the war going on in Iraq—with all the tribal, religious, historical and cultural divisions that plague the country. Saving Babylon will not only open your eyes and your mind but it will also open your heart.”
In addition to the book award, the Society recognized Holton with their Humanitarian Award for 2005. Holton’s efforts with Operation Give also earned him the FedEx Humanitarian Employee of the Year award.
But Holton is taking all the accolades in stride. He has already stepped up to provide relief and supplies for evacuees of hurricane Katrina. “At Operation Give we believe in miracles” Holton said. “Whenever there is a need, we see an incredible outpouring of support.”