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Editor’s note: Eilhys England contributed to this column.

You’d think a Hollywood screenwriter scripted the “Saving Private Jessica Lynch” spectacle the Pentagon produced last year. But that five-sided propaganda factory with its battalions of well-trained deceivers came up with this particular fairytale – about how a Special Ops unit snatched a beautiful blonde American heroine from Iraqi fiends – all on their own.

Why? In late March of 2003, the invasion wasn’t going according to plan. Guerrillas were popping out of the desert like sand flies, gumming up the U.S. attack, and Gen. Tommy Franks – having gone in far too light and without the right force mix – was in trouble. So the spinners came up with a scheme to distract an easily gulled American press corps and divert public attention.

First the real story behind Lynch’s rescue: A daring Special Forces team out of Fort Campbell, Ky. – operating deep behind enemy lines – learned from an Iraqi source that an American soldier was being held in a nearby hospital. They quickly sent the Iraqi back with a concealed camera to determine how the hospital was secured, critical information that was then flashed to the team’s command element.

On April 1, Special Ops guys conducted a flawless raid – taped by Pentagon flacks for the entire world to watch as it unfolded in all its live-fire, heart-pounding ultimate reality show glory – against no resistance whatsoever, since the Iraqi defenders were long gone.

Lynch, it turns out, wasn’t wounded in action, she was badly banged up in a vehicle accident, which occurred while she and her mates were trying to escape a guerrilla ambush. She not only never fought with her rifle and trench knife as the Pentagon had leaked, she never even got off a shot – because she was out cold from the time of the collision until she woke up in the hospital, where the Iraqi docs couldn’t wait to transfer their well-cared for but terrified patient to Special Ops control.

Because the Iraqi lawyer Mohammed Odeh Rehaeif – who became famous for saving Lynch – was considered unreliable by the Green Berets, his info was never used and the true hero of the rescue was the unsung Special Forces source, who pocketed his modest pay and disappeared.

Not that the truth mattered. Rehaeif was flown to the States, given a lofty position with a White House-connected Washington law firm, signed to a six-figure book deal and, as with Lynch, spun into legend.

Lynch garnered a Bronze Star for her “heroics,” the Purple Heart for “wounds received in action,” a mega-buck book deal – and millions of proud Americans got to view her “gallantry and sacrifice” in an NBC TV docudrama. To keep the press bamboozled, she was locked up under tight control in Army hospitals with a convenient bout of amnesia.

In its micro way, the Lynch scam symbolizes the miasma of deception surrounding the invasion and the ugly unsolvable occupation already causing the direst consequences to our national security.

From post 9-11 to the present, the war, too, has been based on lies fanned by the same Pentagon propaganda machine busy doing everything possible – including the censorship of our troops in Iraq for “national security purposes” – to convince the American people that, as we sadly heard for eight bloody years in Vietnam, there’s “light at the end of the tunnel.”

We went to war because we were told Iraq had WMD that threatened our country’s security and that Saddam was a key player behind 9-11. Both have been proven to be super whoppers.

We were also told that liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk with few U.S. casualties and would cost no more than a billion bucks – which would quickly be repaid by Iraqi oil. Yet more duplicity.

So far I count 1,050 American dead, 7,750 combat wounded and about 30,000 non-battle casualties. And our war costs are already close to a cool $200 billion.

Meanwhile, superflack James Wilkinson, the reported Spielberg of the Lynch saga, has recently been shifted from desert duties to advising National Security Adviser Rice on how to further deceive the American people.

Like Vietnam, the cover-ups and distortions will continue until the press and the people wake up. Hopefully that will be before the count is 3,000 or 4,000 dead American soldiers.

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