As I watched Stephen Colbert's first show from Iraq Monday night, here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head and found their way onto a notepad:

We in the media don't cover the real war any more, but we will cover this fake news talkshow host going to Iraq like it's the second coming. Is this more of us amusing ourselves to death? Exhibit A: Newsweek doing a cover on Colbert When was the last cover written by a full time Newsweek staffer in Iraq about the real war?


With the golf club and all the jokes about being a coward in his opening monologue, Colbert's offering a post-post-post modern take on Bob Hope. But most of the jokes do not have a real point of view, because this gung-ho makebelieve character Colbert plays lacks a moral or emotional center. Are we ironic-izing (through a post-modern humor that is 99 percent irnony) ourselves into a kind of emotional death in which we can no longer feel the horror of war?

I wonder how bad Conan O'Brien's ratings are going to be this week -- up against the likes of this public relations juggernaut.

I will say this, the premise of this series of four shows that will air under the banner of "Operation Iraqi Stpehen: Going Commando" this week, is clever, if not brilliant. In his first verbal bit after the monologue, the gung-ho, cable-clown, talkshow character Colbert plays says he thought the war was over because he hasn't seen any stories on it recently.

"I thought the war was over, because I haven't seen any stories about it in a month," he says sitting at a desk made of sandbags and an American flag.

"So why isn't it over?" he asks his in-person audience, a  sea of servicewomen and servicemen sitting in a palace that belonged to the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. "Because it's not over until someone declares victory."

And that's what he proceeds to do: "I, Stephen Colbert, by the power invested in me by basic cable, declare that we won the war in Iraq."

Even though Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, will be on later as a guest to correct Colbert with a politically correct explanation of how we still have work to do in making the country more secure, the crowd whoops its approval at Colbert's declaration as it is made.

And I have to say that the "power invested in my by basic cable" line is wickedly dead-on and righteous satire, mocking the inflated self-importance of cable talkshow hosts like Fox's  Bill O'Reilly on the right (who Colbert is often described as a mock version of) and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on the left.

Still, such praise asisde, night one of Colbert's USO-sponsored tour left me troubled. Here are some notepad thoughts on that:

I am concerned about turning the palace of a former ruler who we conquered, captured and handed over for execution (no matter how odious he might have been) into what is essentially a comedy club on a cable TV channel. It seems arrogant and at odds with the kind of care we took with buildings and cultures in Europe after World War II. And in that case, we had stopped a real monster who had transgressed practically every border in the western world.

I am also concerened about President Barack Obama getting involved with the faux show and taping a message to Colbert and Odierno that was played on the show. In the message, Obama ordered Odierno to cut Colbert's hair. Does the president's involvement in the shtick not undercut the life and death seriousness of war? And is there any latenight show the president doesn't have time for?

I am troubled that so many websites and newspapers carried the "news" of Colbert's hair getting cut on Monday (the show was taped in Iraq on Sunday.) Like I said, we don't cover the war anymore, just a fake talkshow host making jokes about the war and getting his hair cut.

By the way, it did not appear to me that Odierno actually cut Colbert's hair. He passed an electric razor over it a couple of times as the show went to commercial, but the short cut that Colbert sported at the close of the show looked to be professionally done. It did, though, make a nice metaphor for a subservient press.

And why shouldn't a fake talkshow host have a fake on-air haircut? And why would anyone think it whouldn't be bigger news than the real life and death stories in Iraq? Silly me, for even raising asking the questions.