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My topic is legality and legitimacy after the Iraq war. I will start by problematizing the question. First, it is too limited. Why should the question be defined in terms of "after the Iraq war;' not after some other event such as the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where some four million people have died and where the health consequences of HIV/ AIDS will continue for generations? Events, even catastrophic events, from which powerful actors have remained aloof, have little visibility as key incidents in the evolution of international law. They are not deemed the "moments of crisis" of which our discipline is so fond and which shape the debates and mould state practice. Yet the war in the DRC has at least been subject to international legal adjudication, a scrutiny that more powerful states have resisted with respect to their interventions. Second, why is Iraq cast as a definitive moment for assessing legality and legitimacy rather than being seen in conjunction with other events-Darfur, the Middle East, nuclear proliferation, the "war on terror;' the US-backed use of force by Ethiopia in Somalia-which along with many others intersect and interact in complex ways with the Iraqi situation? Third is the import of the word "after": what constitutes "after the war" in Iraq? After the end of "major combat operations" declared by President Bush from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003; or after the formal occupation; or after the time when the ongoing violence and attacks finally come to a halt?


This material was originally published in Legality and Legitimacy in Global Affairs, edited by Richard Falk, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Vesselin Popovski and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. For permission to reuse this material, please visit