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Dutch still wincing at Bush-era 'Invasion of The Hague Act'

Though largely symbolic, the law could be having lasting implications.

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Target of invasion? At the International Criminal Court, shown here in January, the so-called Hague Invasion Act, passed by the US Congress in 2002, is seen as a 'bizarre symbol.'

Michael Kooren/AP

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In 2002, Congress passed a law enabling United States forces to unilaterally storm into peaceful Holland to liberate American soldiers held for war crimes.

Coming in the early days of the war on terrorists, and as the International Criminal Court was being formed here, the measure provoked controversy and seemed to the Dutch – stout US allies – an absurd example of America's "with us or against us" foreign policy.

The law is still on the books.

Formally titled the American Service Members Protection Act, the measure is widely and derisively known here as the Invasion of The Hague Act.

Odd as it may seem, the law allows the US to constitutionally send jack-booted commandos to fly over fields of innocent tulips, swoop into the land of wooden shoes, tread past threatening windmills and sleepy milk cows into the Dutch capital – into a city synonymous with international law – and pry loose any US troops.

Today, the Dutch mostly treat the issue as a joke, a cowboy American moment. But it is widely felt that if President Barack Obama's foreign policy team wants to achieve a symbolic break with the previous White House, it could rescind the invasion law.

As a Dutch Ministry of Justice official put it, "I wouldn't overstate how seriously we take this any more, but it does seem a bizarre symbol."

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