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DA Killings Creating Mass Panic?

Assassinations put Texas county's DA office on edge

Two district attorneys in Kaufman County, Texas, have been murdered within two months of one another — and their slayings, assuming that they are linked, may constitute acts of terror and retribution by an organized group such as the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.

District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia were found shot to death inside their home last Saturday night. Their murders occurred just two months after Mark Hasse, an Assistant DA who worked under McLelland, was gunned down outside the county courthouse.

Over the last century, only 14 prosecutors have been killed in the U.S., according to the National District Attorneys Association, which means that the murder of two prosecutors in one county in Texas within 60 days is unprecedented.

The motive(s) of the murders remain a mystery.

“There’s always the revenge factor but the most likely [scenario] is it’s an ongoing investigation or an ongoing prosecution that may have triggered this,” said Buck Revell, a former special agent who ran the Dallas office of the FBI.

Authorities are currently looking into people who were involved with both prosecutors in trials, as well as people who thought they were wrongly convicted.

The FBI is aiding local investigators who are pursuing all leads and angles, including the possibility that the murders, if linked, were committed by county employees, members of organized crime or even white supremacists.

“The most likely [suspect] is organized [crime],” said Revell. “But it could be an individual [who is] hiring professional hit men.”

To read complete story go to CBS News Crimesider

Dr. Scott Bonn writes for CBS News Crimesider

Follow criminologist and media analyst and consultant Dr. Scott Bonn @DocBonn on Twitter and visit his website  Listen to Doc Bonn’s bi-weekly segment on Wednesdays at 11pm ET on  The Roth Show

Dr. Scott Bonn is located in Manhattan and is available for live on-air commentary, expert consultation and speaking engagements. More information about his experience and past media appearances can be found at his website, DocBonn.Com   Please call (843.808.0859) or email ( to discuss media opportunities

DA Killings Creating Mass Panic?

Doc Bonn Says, Julia Davis is an American Hero; We NEED Whistleblowers.

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn

Do you know the name Julia Davis?  She is the most important whistleblower you have probably never heard of.  After exposing serious problems in the processing of aliens from suspected terrorist countries, admitted into the U.S. without proper scrutiny, former Customs and Border Protection Officer Julia Davis became a target for the beleaguered agency.

She was falsely branded a Domestic Terrorist, accused of being a convicted murderer, maliciously prosecuted for alleged immigration violations and weapons charges.  Nevertheless, Davis ultimately prevailed over her accusers in the court of law.

The public needs whistleblowers. Why? Whistleblowers keep the system in check by telling the public about alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in a government department, a public or private organization, or a company. The alleged misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations, and corruption.

As Julia Davis found out the hard way, whistleblowers frequently face reprisal, sometimes at the hands of the organization or group which they have accused, sometimes from related organizations, and sometimes under state or federal law.

Unlike U.S. Army whistleblower, Private Bradley Manning, who has received an outpouring of support and has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize after being arrested on suspicion of passing classified documents to the whistleblowing website, WikiLeaks, the ordeal of Julia Davis has been largely absent from the media and public discourse.  That is about to change.

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc BonnJulia Davis is now seeking justice in the court of public opinion.  A documentary film “Top Priority: The Terror Within” about Julia Davis is finally breaking through the wall of cover-up and obstruction in the U.S. This incredible but true story exposes whistleblower retaliation of an unprecedented magnitude, unleashed by the Department of Homeland Security against one of its own law enforcement officials.  The film sheds the light on what is perhaps the most suppressed story of a prevailing whistleblower in U.S. history.

The Department of Homeland Security’s best kept secrets will be unveiled with the premiere of “Top Priority: The Terror Within” on May 16th, 2012 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, CA.

This is an important story and documentary film not to be missed.

Follow Julia Davis News Blog

For additional information about the documentary film “The Terror Within”, please visit the official website:

Official trailer for “The Terror Within” on the Internet Movie Database:
Additional information about Julia Davis and her case:

Dr. Scott Bonn,Mass Deception



Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Criminology at Drew University.  He is an expert in state crime and elite deviance.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq.”  Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter or email him directly at

What is Elite Deviance and Why is it Dangerous?


In 1956, the late, legendary U.S. sociologist C. Wright Mills observed that a small group of wealthy and powerful individuals controlled America’s dominant institutions (i.e., political, economic and military).  More specifically, the governing elite in the U.S. are comprised of:

1) the highest political leaders, including the president and a few key cabinet members and advisors,

2) major corporate owners and directors, and

3) the highest ranking military officers.

Mills called this group the power elite.  Interestingly, Mills was echoed in 1961 by President Eisenhower in his farewell address when he warned of the self-serving acts of the “military-industrial complex”—that is, his term for the power elite.

A central contradiction of the power elite is that they frequently violate the very laws they are sworn to uphold.  Why would individuals who are entrusted to occupy the top command posts of society break the laws they help to create?  Mills argued that bound by mutual interests, the power elite periodically commit acts of elite wrongdoing (e.g., dumping toxic waste) and enact policies (e.g., declaration of an unprovoked war) that are designed to perpetuate their power and preserve their control over society.  Mills stated that elite acts that cause either physical or social harm represent the higher immorality of the power elite.  Mills argued that not only crime per se, but also governmental deeds that cause social harm, regardless of their criminality in a legal sense, be included in the conceptual definition.  Another U.S. sociologist named David Simon in 1995 expanded upon Mills’ concept of the higher immorality to include immoral or unethical acts in his concept of “elite deviance.”  According to Simon, elite deviance is the deviant behavior of societal elites (the people who head governmental or corporate institutions) that makes them negative role models who encourage distrust, cynicism, and alienation among non-elites.

Acts of elite deviance take place in part because of the way corporate, political, and military intelligence institutions are structured: they are bureaucracies.  Significantly, bureaucratic organizations are structured in ways that regularize crime and deviance.  More specifically, bureaucracies are goal-oriented, amoral entities which exist to maximize profits and/or expand their own power.  These goals encourage an ends over means mentality among the top commanders of bureaucracies.  For example, the top executives of a public, for-profit corporation are well aware that the board of directors and shareholders are much more interested in meeting quarterly profit goals than they are in the actual decisions and actions required to meet those goals.

The higher immorality of the power elite is also possible because the elites do not have to win the moral consent of those over whom they hold power.  Instead, a passive U.S. society simply trusts that the elites will act on behalf of the so-called public interest.  C. Wright Mills argued that this condition is accompanied by a “fear of knowledge” and anti-intellectualism in modern society.  As noted by critical social theorists, an over reliance or dependency on television news “sound bites” and media disseminated elite rhetoric results in alienation among the masses, which can be exploited by the elites.  In fact, Mills foreshadowed the great Dr. Noam Chomsky when he stated that the manipulation of public opinion and uncontested decisions of power have replaced democratic authority in contemporary society.  Mills concluded that the higher immorality is a systematic feature of the American societal elite.  Its general acceptance by the public without critique is an essential feature of modern U.S. society.

Do you agree with this conclusion?  Doc Bonn wants to know.

Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq.”  Doc Bonn is currently researching and writing a book on the public’s fascination with serial homicide and psychopathic serial killers.  Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter and email him directly at


Doc Bonn Explains the Power Elite in the US and How They Influence Your Life.

Dr. Scott Bonn,Power Elite,Mass Deception

The late sociologist C.W. Mills in 1956 observed that a small group of wealthy and powerful individuals controlled America’s dominant institutions (i.e., political, economic and military).  More specifically, he noted that the governing elite in the U.S. are composed of: 1) the highest political leaders, including the president and a few key cabinet members and advisors, 2) major corporate owners and directors, and 3) the highest ranking military officers.  Mills called this group the power elite.

Although the power elite constitute a close-knit group, these individuals are not part of a grand conspiracy that secretly manipulates world events in order to pursue their own diabolical self interests.  It is not a dictatorship and it does not rely on the physical torture of fellow citizens in order to maintain its dominant position in society.  Quite significantly, the power elite do not have to.  Because of their control over the key institutions in U.S.society, the power elite need not resort to harsh physical coercion in order to maintain their interests and achieve their goals.

Membership in the power elite, despite its relatively small size, is not closed to outsiders, although some of its members gain their status due at least in part to being born into prominent families.  An example of this is former president George W. Bush, the son of a wealthy oilman and also former U.S. president.  Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, leveraged family wealth and social connections to achieve elite status through business entrepreneurship.  Another prominent, contemporary member of the power elite group is Dick Cheney.  He has held key positions in the federal government, including White House Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford, Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush and Vice President under G.W. Bush.  Cheney has also held key corporate positions, including Chairman of Halliburton, a leading U.S. military contractor heavily involved in the Iraq war.

Regardless of personal history, Mills argued that membership in the power elite is limited to those few individuals who effectively control the political, economic and military institutions in society.  Interestingly, Mills was echoed in 1961 by President Eisenhower in his farewell address when he warned of the self-serving acts of the “military-industrial complex”—that is, his term for the power elite.

What really binds the power elite to one another are their mutual interests, social networks, and the adoption of elite ideology and values.  The importance of social networks cannot be overstated for it is in these powerful, yet informal, networks that bonds are formed, elite values learned and heritage shared.  Although diversity is increasing in the U.S., the majority of the power elite are still white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant males.  Members of the power elite attend the same private schools and universities, join the same clubs and fraternities, belong to the same churches and charities, and live in the same neighborhoods.  They work and play together, and they employ one another.  White elites enjoy broad-based, informal social networks that provide access to information and referrals that result in preferential employment opportunities.

Once inside of organizations, privileged, white males are sponsored to the top of the hierarchy by other (older) white, male mentors.  This phenomenon, known as “homosocial reproduction,” refers to the tendency of a homogenaic organization to reproduce itself by continuously promoting the same types of individuals.  This process tends to exclude women and minorities while protecting the white, male status quo in the U.S.  The consequences of homosocial reproduction are profound because elite, white, social networks ensure that the concentration of power and control over the key institutions of society remain in the privileged hands of the few.

In sociology, we define “power” as the ability of an individual or group to exert its will on others despite the latter’s resistance.  The power elites’ control over the dominant institutions in the US (i.e., political, economic and military) enables them to exert their will over society and achieve their goals without the need for harsh physical coercion.  The power elite maintain their dominance by controlling the very institutions that define the US and enable the nation to function on a day-to-day basis.  Moreover, they define who/what is good and evil in society and, as a result, determine who should be rewarded and who should be punished.

Dr. Scott Bonn,Mass Deception

How does the concentration of power in the hands of the few power elite make you feel?  I’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Please submit your comments below or email me directly at  Follow me @DocBonn on Twitter.

  Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq” and is currently writing a book about the public’s fascination with serial killers.


Doc Bonn explains Moral Panic and Why it is Dangerous

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,Mass Deception

Moral panic has been defined as a condition or situation in which public fears and state interventions greatly exceed the objective threat posed to society by a particular group who are claimed to be responsible for the condition.  The moral panic concept is popular among scholars studying social problems, crime, media and collective behavior.  Introduced by Dr. Jock Young in 1971, the moral panic concept was developed and popularized by South African criminologist Dr. Stanley Cohen when he described the public reaction to disturbances by youths called “mods and rockers” at seaside resorts in Brighton, England, during the 1960s.  Cohen’s work illustrated how those reactions influenced the enforcement and formation of social policy, law, and societal perceptions of threat posed by the youth groups.  Since Cohen’s ground breaking analysis, the moral panic concept has been applied to a wide range of social problems by researchers including but not limited to youth gangs, school violence, child abuse, Satanism, wilding, flag burning, the war on drugs, illegal immigration, and the war on terror.

It has been argued that moral panics arise when distorted mass media campaigns are used to create fear, reinforce stereotypes and exacerbate pre-existing divisions in the world, often based on race, ethnicity and class. Moral panics have three distinguishing characteristics.  First, there is a focused attention on the behavior (either real or imagined) of certain groups, who are in turn transformed into “folk devils” by the mass media and stripped of all positive characteristics and imparted with exclusively negative ones.  Second, there is a gap between the concern over a condition and the objective threat it poses.  Typically, the objective threat is far less than popularly perceived and as presented by authorities.  Third, there is a great deal of fluctuation over time in the level of concern over a condition.  The typical pattern begins with the discovery of the threat, followed by a rapid rise and then peak in public concern, and subsequently (and often abruptly) concern subsides.  Perhaps most importantly, public hysteria over a perceived problem often results in the passing of legislation that is highly punitive, unnecessary, and serves to justify the agendas of those in positions of power and authority.

As originally explained by Stanley Cohen, at least five sets of social actors are involved in a moral panic.  These include: 1) folk devils, 2) rule or law enforcers, 3) the media, 4) politicians, and 5) the public.  First, in the lexicon of moral panic scholars, folk devils are those individuals who are socially defined (alleged) to be responsible for creating a threat to society.  Unlike some deviants or criminals, the folk devils are unambiguously unfavorable symbols.  They are the embodiment of evil and the antagonists in a moral panic drama.  Second, law enforcers such as the police, prosecutors or the military are vital to a moral panic as they are charged with upholding and enforcing the codes of conduct and official laws of the state.  These agents of the state are expected to detect, apprehend and punish the folk devils.  In addition, law enforcers present themselves as the protectors of society, without whom, chaos might well ensue.    Law enforcers must work to establish their legitimacy and justify their existence in society.  Third, the media are perhaps the most influential actor in the creation of a moral panic.  Typically, news media coverage of certain events involving the folk devils is distorted or exaggerated.  Such exaggerations make the folk devils appear to be much more threatening to society than they really are.  As a result, public concern and anxiety is heightened through journalistic hyperbole.  Fourth, politicians are also vital actors in a moral panic drama.  As elected officials, who must operate in the court of public opinion, politicians must present themselves as the protectors of the moral high ground.  They often fuel a moral panic by aligning themselves with the news media and law enforcers in a moral crusade against the evils introduced by the folk devils.  The fifth set of actors, the public, is perhaps the most important in a moral panic.  Public agitation or concern over the folk devils is the central element of a moral panic.  In fact, the success of politicians, law enforcers and the media in precipitating and sustaining a moral panic is ultimately contingent upon how successfully these sets of actors fuel public concern and outrage toward the folk devils.               

Significantly, there are actually two models of moral panic: 1) elite engineered, and 2) grass-roots. First, the elite engineered model of moral panic argues that an elite group deliberately and consciously undertakes a campaign to generate and sustain concern, fear, and panic on the part of the public over an issue that they recognize not to be terribly harmful to the society as a whole.  Often times, such a campaign is intended to divert public attention away from other objective or real problems in society, whose solution might jeopardize or undermine the interests of the elite group.  It has been argued, for example, that the U.S. war on drugs in the 1980s which had widespread public support resulted from a moral panic engineered by the administration of President Reagan.  However, this does not mean that the drug issue did not exist objectively or that illegal drugs did not represent a serious problem in certain isolated neighborhoods in the U.S.  Rather, it has been argued that the punitive position adopted by President Reagan toward illegal drug users exaggerated the threat of drugs to the general population, and that the news media reinforced the punitive and exaggerated rhetoric of the president.

Moral Panic,Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,Mass Deception

The second approach—that is, the grass-roots model of moral panic—states that panics originate with the general public; the concern about a particular threat is a widespread, genuinely felt—if mistaken—concern.  Unlike the elite-engineered model of moral panic (i.e., a top-down approach in which elites orchestrate the panic from above), the grass-roots model stipulates that the expression of concern in other spheres, including the media and polity, are really expressions of more widespread concern from the masses.  The grass-roots model of moral panic argues that political elites and the news media cannot fabricate public concern where none existed initially.  Thus, the grass-roots model of moral panic is a “bottom-up” approach.  The Salem witchcraft trials of the 1600s in Massachusetts have been cited as an example of a grass-roots moral panic.

In summary, moral panics, whether elite engineered or grass-roots, pose a considerable threat to society, although the folk devils targeted in such panics are not the real sources of the problem.  Generally, the objective threat posed by the folk devils is either exaggerated or even nonexistent.  The real danger lies in the irrational mass fear caused by the moral panic, and in the punitive formal action taken against the alleged folk devils who pose no serious threat to society.

My question is: How does society’s susceptibility to the seduction and manipulation of moral panics make you feel?  I’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Please submit your comments below or email me directly at  Follow me @DocBonn on Twitter.

  Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq” and is currently writing a book about the public’s fascination with serial killers.

How the Managers of the State and News Media Influence the Public Agenda.

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,Mass Deception
It has been argued that the media may not be successful in telling people what to think, but they are stunningly successful in telling people what to think about. This premise is central to a theory developed by communications researchers McCombs and Shaw that the press has a significant agenda-setting function. By studying news media content during the 1968 presidential campaign and comparing it to voters’ perceptions of the key political issues, McCombs and Shaw identified a strong, positive correlation between the emphasis placed on campaign issues by the media and the perceived importance of those topics to voters. The core mechanism operating in the agenda-setting process involves the transfer of salience (i.e., issue importance) from the press to the public. Thus, agenda-setting theory postulates that the news media set the agenda for public discourse (or the public agenda) by specifying which issues are important to consider or think about based on their coverage of particular issues and neglect of others.

Closely related to agenda-setting are the concepts of framing and priming. Framing refers to the way an issue is presented to the public (or “angle” it is given) by the news media. More specifically, framing involves calling attention to certain aspects of an issue while ignoring or obscuring other elements. Significantly, an audience may react very differently to an issue or topic depending on how it is framed by the news media. In contrast, priming is a psychological process whereby the news media emphasis on a particular issue not only increases the salience of the issue on the public agenda, but also activates in people’s memories previously acquired information about that issue. Priming is thus an individual-level factor that can have great variability within a society given past events and news coverage. An example of priming would be the triggering of individual responses such as fear, anger or outrage by Americans to televised images of the 2005 subway terrorist attacks in London, based on the U.S. news media’s prior framing of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

It should come as no surprise that politicians and law enforcement officials (collectively referred to here as state managers) also participate in the agenda-setting process in society. A key way that they do so is through political rhetoric. Webster’s College Dictionary (1997, p. 1114) defines rhetoric as “the art of effectively using language to communicate, including the use of figures of speech.” Political rhetoric involves the effective use of language, including figures of speech, by state managers for mass dissemination. In contemporary communication studies on political rhetoric, researchers often explore the processes through which state managers attempt to influence public opinion to their advantage. In order to explain the public’s attitude change on a policy issue under discussion by state managers, communication researchers frequently analyze how the issue is framed by them and how the frame then interacts with an individual’s memory to prime certain considerations and preferences.
Significantly, state managers attempt to mobilize public opinion to their advantage by framing issues in terms that prime considerations that will move public opinion in the direction they desire. By defining and overly simplifying a complex issue through framing, state managers can manipulate the set of considerations that citizens will use in formulating their preferences and attitudes regarding that issue. The set of considerations established by the frame are usually those that will move public opinion in the direction desired by the framers. At the individual level, the frame then interacts with an individual’s memory so as to prime or make some considerations more accessible than others and, therefore, more likely to be used in formulating a policy preference. By successfully framing a policy issue according to their interests, state managers participate in the social construction of reality by restricting the perspectives available for public understanding of an issue. This, in turn, primes the particular aspects of an issue in an individual’s memory that are most likely to guide opinion formation in the direction desired by political elites.

The consequences of elite framing of issues are powerful because the framing of issues by politicians, law enforcement and the media set the national agenda. Collectively, state managers and the media define social problems such as crime and terrorism, and also label the individuals or groups who are allegedly responsible for those problems. Moreover, state managers and the media establish the definitions of good and evil in society and, as a result, determine who should either be rewarded or punished. How does such power in the hands of state managers and the media to set the national agenda make you feel? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please submit your comments below or email me directly at Follow me @DocBonn on Twitter.

Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University and a media expert. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq” and is currently writing a book about the public’s fascination with serial killers.

Doc Bonn Explains: The Difference Between a Sociopath and a Psychopath

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,Psychopaths

The study of criminal behavior includes an examination of mental disorders that can contribute to deviant behavior. Sociopathy and psychopathy are terms used in psychology and criminology to refer to two separate groups of people with antisocial personality traits.  Significantly, these conditions are not classified as mental illnesses and they are not official diagnostic terms.  In the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) both sociopathy and psychopathy are listed under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Many psychiatrists and criminologists use the terms interchangeably. I believe there are important distinctions between them, including their causes or etiology.

Sociopathy and psychopathy share many traits, which is the main source of confusion for differentiating them in psychology and criminology. Traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include:

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior and emotional outbursts

Although there is no consensus among professionals on exactly what differentiates sociopaths from psychopaths, among those who believe each is a separate disorder, there is a list of significant differences. First, sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. Second, they are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place. Some sociopaths form attachments to an individual or group, although they have no regard for society in general. In the eyes of others, sociopaths appear clearly disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath tend to be disorganized and spontaneous. Miguel Rivera (“Charlie Chop-off”) is a classic example of a sociopathic and disorganized serial killer, as is Jack the Ripper.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, often have charming and disarming personalities.  They are manipulative and can easily gain people’s trust. They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them, and will appear normal to other unsuspecting people. Psychopaths are often educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature.  An example of such an individual is the serial killer Dennis Rader (“Bind, Torture, Kill”) who had a family, career, civic life and avoided detection for 30 years.

When committing crimes, psychopaths carefully plan out every detail and often have contingency plans in place. Because of the marked difference between the method of crimes committed by sociopaths and psychopaths, the distinction between these disorders is perhaps even more important to criminology than it is to psychology.  That is because psychopathic criminals, unlike sociopathic criminals, commit highly organized crimes often after meticulous planning.  Ted Bundy is a classic example of the psychopathic and organized serial killer.

It is also appears that the etiology of psychopathy and sociopathy is quite different.  It is likely that psychopathy is the result of “nature” (genetics) while sociopathy is the result of “nurture” (environment).  According to the late David Lykken, a behavioral geneticist known for his studies on twins, psychopathy is related to a physiological defect that results in the underdevelopment of the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and emotions. Sociopathy, on the other hand, is more the product of childhood traumas and abuse.

Based on this model, sociopaths are capable of empathy or emotional connection with others but only to specific individuals, such as a family member or friend, and only in specific contexts.  Psychopaths, on the other hand, are simply incapable of empathy and are unable to form real emotional bonds with anyone.  It is the ability of psychopaths to effectively mimic empathy and emotional connection that make them particularly dangerous, unassuming and often highly successful criminals.

Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq” and is currently writing a book about the public’s fascination with serial killers. Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter.

No one is Above International Law. Punish War Criminals!

Mass Deception,War Crimes, Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn


Listen to my discussion with Burl Barer and Howard Lapides on True Crime Uncensored:

If he truly believes in justice for all, President Obama must align the U.S. with the world community in recognizing the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC was established under United Nations authority in 2002 in The Hague, Netherlands, for the prosecution of the most serious war crimes (i.e., crimes against humanity) in the world.

Despite the fact that 108 nations, including most of Western Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan recognize the ICC, the United States has criticized the court and has refused to permit the ICC to have jurisdiction over its citizens.  This places the U.S. at odds with almost all of its staunchest international allies. Ironically, however, it puts the U.S. in alignment with China, a nation that the U.S. has frequently accused of human rights violations.  Similarly, Iran, Iraq and North Korea do not recognize the court’s authority.  The refusal to recognize the ICC thus aligns the U.S. with George W. Bush’s so-called axis of evil in rejecting international consensus on war crimes.

The G.W. Bush administration justified its refusal to recognize the ICC by claiming that the court could be used to pursue politically motivated prosecutions.  In fact, the Bush administration refused to recognize the ICC precisely because the court would make it accountable for illegally invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein from power.  The Bush administration’s rejection of the ICC in 2002 foreshadowed the actions of individuals who would seek to avoid prosecution for war crimes.  As argued by Michel Foucault, nothing is inherently political.  On the contrary, everything can be politicized.

The Bush administration violated both the Nuremberg Charter and the U.N. Charter and committed war crimes when it launched an unprovoked invasion of Iraq.  Throughout its two terms, the Bush administration steadfastly maintained that the invasion was justified on the basis of the Bush doctrine of preemptive self-defense.  However, the Bush doctrine went far beyond any reasonable interpretation of preemptive self-defense which would require that an actual attack was certain.  The Bush doctrine was based on a much broader position that the U.S. was entitled to use force to eliminate any possible future threat to its national security, whether or not a threat was objective or imminent.

The Bush administration sought to preserve self-defense protection for invading Iraq under the U.N. Charter by falsely claiming that Iraq possessed WMD and that it was linked to al Qaeda and involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  Even if Iraq had possessed WMD as claimed, without an actual attack or an immediate threat to use them against the U.S., there would still have been no justification for invading Iraq under the U.N. Charter.

Also, the killing, torture and inhumane treatment of Iraqi citizens and prisoners, particularly at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, and the wanton destruction of property resulting from the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq constitute war crimes as defined by the Geneva Conventions.  As a measure of the carnage, the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies places the Iraqi death toll in excess of one million, including several hundred thousand civilians, while countless other have been maimed or injured.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely for several reasons that the Bush administration will ever be charged by the international community for its war crimes.  First, no state has ever voluntarily agreed to subject itself to international prosecution, and President Obama notoriously decided not to investigate the Bush administration for war crimes. Moreover, Obama has perpetuated the war crimes of the Bush administration and initiated his own (e.g., drone launched missile attacks in Pakistan).  Second, unless a referral is made by the U.N. Security Council, the ICC can exercise jurisdiction over international crimes only if they were committed on the territory of a state party or if they were committed by a state party.  As mentioned above, neither the U.S. nor Iraq recognizes the jurisdiction of the ICC.  Third, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. has the ability to veto any move by the Council to punish its illegal behavior.  Thus, it is unlikely that the Bush administration will ever be charged with war crimes by the ICC in The Hague because it enjoys both political and bureaucratic exemptions from prosecution under international law.

President Obama promised a new, more inclusive U.S. foreign policy—one freed from President Bush’s aggressive and simplistic us-versus-them ideology.  By recognizing the ICC, President Obama can send a powerful signal to the world that the U.S. is not above international law.  Can the U.S. move beyond the hegemonic policies and actions of the Bush administration and make itself, including its leaders, accountable for war crimes?  Yes, and for the sake of humanity it must!

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,Mass DeceptionScott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq.”  Order from Amazon:


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