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Recent polls reveal that 70 percent of Americans honestly believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11 – a powerful testimony to Karl Rove and the neoconservative propaganda machine.

Connecting the dots where there aren’t any in order to pin the rap on Saddam is about as bent as ignoring Saudi Arabia’s very real involvement in 9-11. But that linkage just might inconvenience a bunch of crooked oil barons doing “bidnezz” with their porker pals in Washington.

The cold facts are that the destruction of the twin towers was carefully planned by the al-Qaida gang led by Osama bin Laden, a Saudi fundamentalist Muslim who would probably sooner form some sort of alliance with the state of Israel than join forces with Saddam, whom he’s always considered as corrupt an infidel as the rest of us. Count on it – no fingerprints from former top Iraqi leadership will ever be found tying Baghdad to 9-11.

Several years before that sad, calamitous September day, my wife and I moved from New York City to Connecticut. As a contributing editor for Newsweek who’s spent a fair amount of my life studying terrorism and insurgency, I could see a tsunami-grade terrorist attack coming as clearly as the cityscapes of the towers we used to seek out during early morning constitutionals. That is, until my fears finally convinced my wife that we should move to safer ground.

As I pumped grunt sources, read thousands of reports and slowly put the terrible puzzle together, all the arrows pointed toward our being whacked – just as the fall of Saigon seemed inevitable to me after comparing that bloody reality to the Nixon-Kissinger spin on how well the phony “peace with honor” Vietnamization program was going.

And as in Vietnam in 1971, I began sounding the alarm about this imminent new terrorist threat during well-attended speeches across America, as a talking head on hundreds of television and radio shows and in this column. I even did a major piece for Maxim’s August 2000 issue called “World War III: Terrorism,” which outlined five possible scenarios Osama’s boys might use in five U.S. cities – including the Big Apple.

The general underwhelming reaction was: “Well, Hackworth’s finally lost it, and he should fade away.”

Instead, I held my position and kept putting out the word while Eilhys and I built our house of bricks at a careful distance from what’s now known as ground zero.

On the two-year anniversary of 9-11, both the hardliners within the administration and the chicken hawks on the airwaves are stubbornly continuing to blame the strikes on Saddam, painting his tyrannical regime as a major player in the Islamic fundamentalist jihad to maintain support for our gigantic misadventure in Iraq. The same sort of scare tactics the manipulators used during the Vietnam War when they kept asserting that a defeat there would be the key domino falling and we’d soon be defending the beaches of the West Coast from invading commies.

Once again, most Americans – including a lot of red-faced lawmakers – have fallen for the old Hitler trick: Tell a lie often enough and the people will believe it.

The losers are our soldiers still stuck in the sand, the scores of fallen warriors who were quietly buried from “sea to shining sea,” the hundreds of maimed who are maxing out our military hospitals, and the American taxpayers who’ll be laying out big bucks for a war against terrorism that has struck the wrong target.

And we’re talking another big win for Osama, who’s out there somewhere sucking the sweet Pakistani mountain air as he plots yet more genocide against an America whose homeland defenses – despite the billions of dollars blown – are perhaps only marginally better than pre-9-11.

The Bush administration has a responsibility to tell the American people the truth, not feed us more self-serving lies – now more than ever, since so many good folks are too busy looking for jobs to separate the cow mounds from the grass.

And the buck doesn’t stop there: We the people need to understand that if we aren’t vigilant and insistent on the truth, then we are one with the liars who got us into this mess in the first place.

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