The militarization of mass incapacitation and torture during the sunni insurgency and American occupation of Iraq

John L. Hagan*, Anna Hanson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


While scholars and journalists have focused important attention on the recent militarization of intensive policing and imprisonment policies in the United States, there is little reciprocal recognition of how militarized versions of these policies were also exported for use in the occupation of Iraq. Intensive policing and imprisonment enabled the American-led and Shia-dominated Iraq Ministries of Defense and Interior along with U.S. forces to play significant roles in the ethnic cleansing and displacement of Arab Sunnis from Baghdad neighborhoods, and in their disproportionate detention in military- and militia-operated facilities, of which the Abu Ghraib prison is only the best known. The failure of American authorities alone and working with Iraq's government to intervene in stopping the use of police and prisons as places of torture is a violation of U.N.-invoked and U.S.-ratified treaties, and thereby subject to prosecution. Such prosecutions have imported into international law the concept of "joint criminal enterprise" anticipated by the criminologist Donald Cressey and incorporated in the American Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes used to convict organized criminals. We elaborate how the concept of joint criminal enterprise can be used to understand and possibly prosecute a chain of command responsibility for the use of policing and prisons as sites of torture in Iraq. We analyze the previously neglected international consequences of U.S. policing, prison, and mass incapacitation strategies with links to American criminology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number78
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016


  • Crime
  • Population
  • Violence
  • sWar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The militarization of mass incapacitation and torture during the sunni insurgency and American occupation of Iraq'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this