A reader writes:

The discussion on your site about occupation seems, to me, to miss the point.  "Occupation" is a precise term under international law.  It is clearly defined and has strict parameters that are based on Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations.  The International Committee of the Red Cross has a good FAQ page on what is an occupation here.  And you can find a pretty good overall analysis of the issue as it applies to Iraq here.

The most relevant point is when an occupation comes to an end (from the ICRC FAQ page):

The normal way for an occupation to end is for the occupying power to withdraw from the occupied territory or be driven out of it. However, the continued presence of foreign troops does not necessarily mean that occupation continues.

A transfer of authority to a local government re-establishing the full and free exercise of sovereignty will normally end the state of occupation, if the government agrees to the continued presence of foreign troops on its territory. However, the law of occupation may become applicable again if the situation on the ground changes, that is to say, if the territory again becomes "actually placed under the authority of the hostile army" (H R, art. 42) – in other words, under the control of foreign troops without the consent of the local authorities.

If we follow these guidelines, then the United States was an occupying power during the Coalition Provisional Authority period, but ceased to be so when a "local government re-establishing the full and free exercise of sovereignty" came into existence.  We can debate whether the Maliki government actually exercises its sovereignty fully and freely, but given the fact that the UN Security Council recognized a formal end to the occupation as of 30 June 2004, "occupation" is the wrong word here.

To be clear, I oppose the war and would like the troops to come home soon.  I also think that the growing opposition in Iraq to the Status of Forces Agreement represents the strongest possible evidence that the Iraqis want us to leave, and that we should take the hint sooner rather than later.  But it's important that we use terms precisely, and "occupation" as defined in international law just doesn't fit.

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