The occupation of Iraq in 2003 involved a wide-ranging set of interventions in the structures of the state, interventions that provoked a debate about whether the law of occupation should recognize a category of ‘transformative’ occupation. The occupation’s administration involved a diffusion of power among international institutions as well as ratification by the Security Council through Resolution 1483. This article argues that the transformation of norms and practices elsewhere in the international order underwrote the idea that it was the law of occupation that was problematic. The orders of the occupying were infused in both form and substance with ideas of ‘normal governance’ traceable to myriad projects, policies and practices of other international institutions. Iraq then might be a revealing case with which to consider the character and locations of contemporary imperialism, as well as the role of international law and international institutions in its unfolding.