With every war, there is collateral damage, and then there is wartime propaganda. In today's wonderfully alliterative editorial, New York Post comes out swinging against AM New York and Metro, pointing its fingers squarely at the free dailies for tragedies that may or may not occur sometime in the future. Because they are a major -not the only, or even the most significant- cause of subway floods and fires.

We agree that, if nothing else, careless distribution of the papers adds to the litter and find the First Amendment rationale to be specious. Though to be honest, Post seems more peeved that it has to play by the rules and the other guys don't.

The Post and all its paid competitors are limited in how and where they can sell their papers on the subways. The freebies alone shouldn't be given a free pass to ignore those laws.

But we're taking our eyes off the real issue, that the only way to keep the public safe from a future imagined catastrophe is to get the free papers out of subway stations.

Especially when doing so creates a threat than can endanger the lives of thousands of straphangers. Now that the MTA has identified the problem, it's up to the agency to work out how to solve it.

And it's up to the NYPD to enforce the laws evenly and protect the public - before there's a real tragedy in the subways.