George Bush's assertion in his 2002 State of the Union address -- the same speech in which he wrongly claimed that Saddam Hussein had tried to import aluminium tubes from Niger -- was that "our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy [in Sarajevo]." Not only has the US government withdrawn that charge against the six Algerians, all of whom had taken citizenship or residence in Bosnia, but lawyers defending the Arabs -- who had already been acquitted of such a plot in a Sarajevo court -- have found that the US threatened to pull its troops out of the Nato peacekeeping force in Bosnia if the men were not handed over. According to testimony presented by the Bosnian Prime Minister, Alija Behman, the deputy US ambassador to Bosnia in 2001, Christopher Hoh, told him that if he did not hand the men to the Americans, "then let God protect Bosnia and Herzegovina".
That such a threat should be made -- and the international High Representative to Bosnia at the time, Wolfgang Petritsch, has also told lawyers it was -- shows for the first time just how ruthless and unprincipled US foreign policy had become in Mr Bush's "war on terror". By withdrawing their military and diplomatic support for the Bosnian peace process, the Americans would have backed out of the Dayton accord which they themselves had negotiated. Then the Bosnian government would have lost its legitimacy and the country might have collapsed back into a civil war which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of civilians and involved mass rape as well as massacre. The people of Bosnia might then have endured "terror" on a scale far greater than the attacks of al-Qa'ida against the United States.