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The Fight for the High Ground: The U.S. Army and Interrogation During Operation Iraqi Freedom, May 2003 - April 2004 Paperback – November 9, 2009


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The Fight for the High Ground: The U.S. Army and Interrogation During Operation Iraqi Freedom, May 2003 - April 2004 + G-2: Intelligence for Patton: (Schiffer Military History Book) + Potsdam Mission: Memoir of a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer in Communist East Germany
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: CGSC Foundation Press; 1st Edition edition (November 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615332749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615332741
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,144,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

In this well-written and thoroughly researched book, Pryer examines the shortcomings of U.S. Army interrogation doctrine, the deficiencies of its counterintelligence force structure, and the inadequate training that led to the promulgation of harsh interrogation policies and the abuse of detainees in Iraq during the first, crucial year of the conflict. Pryer, an active duty counterintelligence officer who served in Iraq during the conflict s first year, is well qualified to analyze these matters . . . His excellent study is an essential step along a journey of understanding to repair the damage to the U.S. Army and its core values and to ensure that such policies and practices that led to prisoner abuse in Iraq do not occur again . . . Pryer details the moral descent of the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2003 as frustration and casualties mounted . . . If uncorrected, Pryer writes, high operational tempo coupled with poor ethical training will once again fertilize the darkest embryo of the human soul, and one of the greatest armies in history will give birth to yet another Abu Ghraib or My Lai . . . His warning should be a wake-up call to the Army leadership. I highly recommend that every officer read this book for the lessons and warnings it offers. At the very minimum, The Fight for the High Ground should be part of professional military education curriculum. --Colonel (Retired) Peter R. Mansoor, Ph.D., Author of Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commanders War in Iraq and winner of the Distinguished Book Award of the Society of Military History

As I blimblam around the country, I've been spending my time on airplanes reading . . . a new history/memoir about U.S. Army interrogation approaches in Iraq during that strange, disconcerting first year of the war. Pretty specialized I know, and pretty damn depressing. But this book, The Fight for the High Ground, written by Maj. Douglas Pryer and published by the CGSC Foundation Press, actually has a bright spot in it, because it looks at why some units didn't abuse or torture prisoners. Pryer, who was there, concludes that the root cause of the abuses . . . was a failure in leadership . . . Unless the Army does a better job in ethical teaching and training of soldiers, Pryer warns, it is likely to repeat the mistakes of Iraq. Anyone listening? --Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco

Pryer’s account is valuable because it is informed and authentic. He was in Iraq when the interrogation debacle occurred . . . By contrast, many writings and pronouncements on the interrogation scandal have come from pundits and critics among the ranks of attorneys, journalists, politicians, and college professors, few (if any) of whom were there, and even fewer who possess professional knowledge of the interrogation discipline. In the end, Major Pryer’s contribution is valuable not only for the reasons described above, but because his account reminds us of something that most people purport to know, but many tend to forget. Enlightened, ethical leaders forge good organizations, which do smart things and positively contribute to mission accomplishment—witness the 1st Armored Division and its organic Military Intelligence Battalion. Conversely, where wise, ethical leadership is lacking, bad things can and will happen, particularly when the leadership failings begin at the White House and at the Department of Defense, and filter down to operating forces, be they a Military Intelligence or Military Police unit at Abu Ghraib, or a Joint Special Operations Task Force on the hunt for Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. -–Colonel (Retired) Stuart A. Herrington, author of Stalking the Vietcong and Traitors Among Us

It is not enough to say that Douglas Pryer's The Fight for the High Ground is a must-read for military officers. This book is the best treatise written to date of not only the problems that led to torture, but how to fix it. Pryer's arguments that the moral fight is the one we must win and his recommendations for getting us there are dead on. His careful analysis of the factors that led this great country to engage in a practice once abhorrent among Americans is the best I have read. Pryer has the guts and loyalty to speak the truth about torture and assert, correctly, that it was ultimately an unethical leadership decision. Yet, the real strength of The Fight for the High Ground is how we go about fixing the problem. Among those solutions, the two that Pryer recommends that the Army should implement immediately are revised leadership training and modification of its core values to include a commitment to our founding principles over our security. --Matthew Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq and Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious al Qaeda Terrorist

The Fight for the High Ground documents the virtues of competence, sound judgment and ethical professional behavior. The strength of this book is its practical on-the-ground viewpoint, its detailed analysis and its documented completeness. The extensive footnotes alone are a researcher's dream . . . this book will be the primer for the study of detainee treatment . . . for use by historians and policy-makers alike. --Colonel (Retired) William George Eckhardt, Teaching Professor of Law University of Missouri-Kansas City; former Chief Prosecutor of the Ground Action in the My Lai Courts-Martial

A superb piece of professional scholarship in a very sensitive area. Without saying so directly, Pryer raises the issue of “Institutional Integrity.” An important read for all military leaders and an important subject to be debated as we examine the development of ethical leaders for the types of engagements we are executing for the Nation. --Lieutenant General (Retired) John E. Miller, Former Commandant, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

About the Author

Doug Pryer was born in Springfield, Missouri, and grew up in Mount Vernon, a small town west of Springfield. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Missouri State University and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1992. After attending Officer Candidate School in 1995, he commissioned in the military intelligence branch. Since then, he has had several combat deployments and received numerous awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge. Although he has always enjoyed reading and writing and other forms of fishing, he did not start publishing until 2009, when he began entering (and winning) military writing contests. Among his awards thus far are the 2009 Arter-Darby award, 2009 Birrer-Brooks Award, 2009 MacArthur Leadership Award, 2009 CGSC Ethics Symposium Top Essay, 2010 and 2011 General William E. DePuy contests, and the 2010 Center for the Army Profession and Ethic Writing Contest, Top Essay/Monograph. His book, "The Fight for the High Ground," is the first book to be published by the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College Foundation Press. He is currently assigned as the intelligence chief of a U.S. Task Force in Kabul, Afghanistan.

More About the Author

Doug Pryer was born in Springfield, Missouri, and grew up in Mount Vernon, a small town west of Springfield. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Missouri State University and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1992. After attending Officer Candidate School in 1995, he commissioned in the military intelligence branch. Since then, he has had several combat deployments and received numerous awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge. Although he has always enjoyed reading and writing and other forms of fishing, he did not start publishing until 2009, when he began entering (and winning) military writing contests. Among his awards thus far are the 2009 Arter-Darby award, 2009 Birrer-Brooks Award, 2009 MacArthur Leadership Award, 2009 CGSC Ethics Symposium Top Essay, 2010 and 2011 General William E. DePuy contests, and the 2010 Center for the Army Profession and Ethic Writing Contest, Top Essay/Monograph. His book, "The Fight for the High Ground," is the first book to be published by the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College Foundation Press. Doug is married to a lovely British Indian, Bhabinder. She and their two children, Leo and Brooke, accompany him most places he goes, one exception being Kabul, Afghanistan, from which he recently returned after a one-year deployment as the intelligence chief for a joint, interagency task force.

Customer Reviews

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Stuart A. Herrington writes that Maj.
Arnold Isaacs
As these leaders reached into the unknown, Pryer rightly surmises why maintaining a climate of clear moral and ethical leadership is so very crucial.
Craig A. Martin
I would definitely recommend this book for my former soldiers, and as a commander I would make it required reading for young officers.
Kevin Bell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K2 on February 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Fight for the High Ground is a well written account of not just the detainee abuse situation that occurred in the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but a first account testament that many of us involved in interrogation operations did not waiver from our rectitude during the conduct of our interrogation operations. Finally a book that doesn't label all Army interrogators as blood thirsty vigilantes bent on taking advantage of a nation in flux. If the only information that you as a possible reader of this book have on detainee abuse in Iraq is from the media at home then you need to read this book so you can finally get the whole truth and not just the part that makes for good news headlines. Though there were definite issues in interrogation practices in Iraq during this time of the war, many of us did not succumb to the logic that "the gloves needed to come off" and held ourselves to the highest professional standards in our interrogation practices. I am proud of my 21 years of service as a US Army Interrogator as are my family and the friends that I served with. I only wish more Americans would understand what we who did stand the moral high ground went through and would stand by us proudly as well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Craig A. Martin on March 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
Major Doug Pryer's "The Fight for the High Ground" is more than just a compelling read for its detailed historiographical content (which is quite good and well annotated). This book is definitive in portraying the efficacy of strong ethical leadership and the failures that result when we compromise our values and allow desired ends to justify the means. As General George S. Patton suggested, "Compared to war all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance." In war professional soldiers are charged with the controlled application of violence to achieve a military end-state which then achieves the political and strategic objectives of the nation which has so charged these soldiers to apply said violence. In the United States Army we are indeed professionals but we are also citizen soldiers, a reflection of the highest morals and values of our nation. In war, we must consistently strive to apply violence (as soldiers do) with the constant consideration of our actions as they are reflected in our own nations moral base. As clearly portrayed in the Abu Ghuraib fiasco, it takes only the poor judgment of a select few to cause great upheaval to the much greater efforts of the United States military and our nation in general. Major Pryer's efforts thus serve as a critical metaphor for leaders young and old. Values matter. High standards matter. A positive moral compass matters. Army leaders are charged in combat with a depth and breadth of responsibility unknown to any other profession. This responsibility is one which can never be taken lightly nor lack in the application of an effort girded by the highest moral and ethical standards. Ethical leadership comes down to placing others above yourself.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on March 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Major Douglas A. Pryer is an active duty U.S. Army military intelligence officer with extensive "real world" professional experience, not merely some sheltered academic professor or noisy journalist whose writings can be dismissed as overly idealistic and impractical. Thus, when he argues in "Taking the High Ground: The U.S. Army and Interrogation During Operation Iraqi Freedom May 2003 - April 2004" that the application of "enhanced interrogation techniques" (the popular clinical euphemism for prisoner treatment at least bordering on outright torture) was a serious error in violation of our deepest held traditions as well as being against good professional intelligence practice, we owe it to ourselves to listen carefully to what he has to say.

Pryer's book originated as a Masters thesis for the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; as such, it is a work by a military intelligence professional aimed primarily at other military professionals. But it is a work also to be read and taken to heart by a wider audience who wishes to understand what went wrong (and what sometimes went right) during those months after the quick conquest of the Iraqi conventional forces. At times, the alphabet soup of Armyspeak acronyms can be something of a barrier to the nonmilitary reader, but there is nothing that cannot be overcome by diligence and occasional reference to the appended Glossary.

"Taking the High Ground" is a slender but deep-delving organizational history, not a dramatic firsthand personal account of military action (although Pryer's experiences as an Assistant MI Battalion Operations Officer and as an MI Company commander during OFI I certainly illuminate many portions of his analysis).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matt Semel on March 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Fight for the High Ground is a must read if you care about the American military, history, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and/or the torture question. Policy makers can benefit from this book as well. It is a clearly and insightfully written analysis of the pressures that drove some American military interrogators in Iraq to torture. Major Pryer's systematic analysis of interrogations provides both an in depth accounting of what the best interrogators do and a primer on the ethical treatment of detainees. Well researched and clearly written, Pryer focuses on why some intelligence units resorted to torture and concludes that it was a lack of leadership at the highest levels. Unlike some writing about this topic, Pryer actually speaks to interrogators and is a decorated counterintelligence officer himself who speaks with authority. Pryer is not just concerned with how this happened. He also suggests how to avoid such lapses in our ethical standards in future conflicts and reminds us of the price we pay when we fail to uphold the principles for which we fight. Buy this book.

- Matt Semel, Assistant Visting Professor of Criminal Justice
St Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill, NY
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