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A salute for Stephen Colbert

The TV comedian's show in Baghdad brought the forgotten war home.

June 13, 2009

A tip of the hat to comedian Stephen Colbert for his four-day tour in Baghdad to entertain U.S. troops and draw attention to the forgotten war, all the while trying to bridge the culture war at home. USO veteran Bob Hope must have turned in his grave when he heard that Colbert's faux conservative character was headed for the front, but once the show started, he surely rolled with a good belly laugh. Colbert was funny, swinging a golf club in tribute to Hope and sporting a desert camouflage business suit.

A wag of the finger to the shrinking media for minimal coverage of the Iraq war in year seven. Colbert said he figured it was over and declared victory on the first night of "Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando." Hey, it's a mistake even President Bush made once, but the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, set Colbert straight before giving him a buzz cut.

A tip of the hat to President Obama and various former presidents, vice presidents and wanted-to-bes who put aside political partisanship to play along with Colbert. And to Colbert for a rigorous debate with his hawkish alter-ego over gays in the military that highlighted this country's demeaning "don't ask, don't tell" policy. All's fair in love and war.

A wag of the finger to Colbert for putting his own mug on the cover of the Newsweek edition that he guest-edited. Let's see, that's Newsweek promoting Colbert promoting Newsweek. Or is it the reverse? Oh well, at least Colbert succeeded in bringing together Comedy Central's largely liberal audience, the military, media and conservative politicians to focus attention on the 130,000-plus American troops still fighting a war we started. For that, and for the smart, generous humor they displayed in the Iraq shows, both the comedian and his character can declare victory.

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