‘War isn’t entertainment’ say Nobel Peace Prize Laureates to NBC TV producers

Lys Anzia – WNN Features

U.S. Marine soldier in wheelchair
Showing the real casualties of war this wounded U.S. Marine soldier sits in his wheelchair waiting to join in with the Marines sponsored Wounded Warrior Wheelchair Basketball Team in April 2010. “War isn’t entertainment,” says ten Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in a strong letter sent to NBC producers of the new reality show “Stars Earn Stripes” as the first episode of the reality show is seen on television by millions last Monday. Critics of the show highlight that global military conflict and violence in reality creates much suffering on all sides. Image: U.S. Marine Corps

(WNN) Ottowa, CANADA: Sending a strong message in support of ‘peace among nations,’ ten Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have spoken out against a new U.S. reality television show produced by NBC that premiered on Monday night in front of 5.1 million viewers. The show called “Stars Earn Stripes” hosted by retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, brings celebrities like Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street, as well as the husband of former U.S. presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Todd Palin, among others, to a remote NBC simulation of a military training location to reenact what anti-war activists say ‘glorifies’ the machinations and violence of war.

Many who know the real outcome of military conflict worldwide are not happy to see this kind of entertainment venue. In addition to an organized protest in front of NBC studio headquarters in Rockefeller Center in New York City supported by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates as well military veterans and international peace advocates have raised a public outcry for the show to immediately cease the production of “Stars Earn Stripes” televised ‘military inspired missions.’

In an open letter to Robert Greenblatt Chairman of NBC Entertainment, along with Ret. General Wesley Clark, NBC Producer Mark Burnett and others involved in “Stars Earn Stripes,” the Nobel Laureates have called for those involved with the show to step away now.

“War isn’t entertainment,” says the Peace Prize Laureates which include South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, anti-landmine Campaign Ambassador Jody Williams, first female judge in Iran and human rights defender Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Costa Rican humanitarian and current President Oscar Arias Sanchez, and Burmese pro-democracy leader and newly elected Myanmar parliamentarian Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, President Jose Ramos-Horta, Muhammad Yunus and Betty Williams.

“It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence,” said the Nobel Laureates in their recent public statement as they voiced their opinion about NBC’s new reality show. “Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining,” they continued.

Many advocates for peace feel that the topic of war should not be handled lightly. “While women remain a minority of combatants and perpetrators of war, they increasingly suffer the greatest harm.  In contemporary conflicts, as much as 90 percent of casualties are among civilians, most of whom are women and children. Women in war-torn societies can face specific and devastating forms of sexual violence, which are sometimes deployed systematically to achieve military or political objectives. Moreover, women continue to be poorly represented in formal peace processes, although they contribute in many informal ways to conflict resolution,” said the United Nations on ‘Women, Peace and Security.”

Veterans are speaking out cautiously against the show too, as the recent Huffington Post Live Streaming Network with host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin outlines. To date 2,326 people have added their personal comments to the Huffpost page about the new TV show on NBC. Army war veteran, woman’s advocate and Purple Heart recipient Jennifer Hunt weighed in also with her perceptions of “Stars Earn Stripes” in a live stream video interview with Shihab-Eldin.

Afghan child burned and injured from contact with an improvised explosive device
This November 2008 photo image shows the impacts of war on children in Afghanistan. This child was burned by a bomb known as an IED – Improvised Explosive Device. These devices are usually placed underneath pathways and roadways. As forces inside the country battle each other, those who are the most innocent are often placed in the path of danger.

“…It’s just the next brick in the long wall of the bad coverage of the war and its impact on humanity, its impact on soldiers and their families,” Hunt said after she watched the first episode of the show. “I’m trying to keep a balanced perspective, but the more I watched the more I was just kind of not liking it,” added Hunt. “…I think there’s a way to show the real sacrifices and the real hardships of battle that maybe isn’t so exploitative and maybe that can’t take place on camera,” outlined Hunt. “…maybe these celebrities, if they wanted to make a difference, should be going to a Fisher house or to a V.A. [Veteran Administration] hospital on their own dime, in their own time.”

While NBC and the producers hope for a successful and prosperous season with “Stars Earn Stripes,” there’s something they definitely aren’t showing the American public. According to the U.S. Pentagon, military officials distributed $688,000 in condolence payments to Afghan civilians who have suffered casualties during the first half of the fiscal year for the war in Afghanistan in 2011. This doesn’t include the 6.8 million dollars allotted by the military for battle repair funds for the same first half of the year.

“According to the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department spent more than $30 million in Iraq and Afghanistan in condolence and compensation for grief payments in 2003-06, mostly in Iraq,” said staff writer John Ryan for the Army Times in January 2012.

Presenting a reality TV version of military combat as a competitive athletic event, “Stars Earn Stripes” gives its celebrity participants a chance to win $10,000, that will be donated to a soldiers charity of their choice. The act may seem like a humanitarian gesture but the media message surrounding the donation is directly connected to the goal of destroying people, property and life.

“This show is not a glorification of war, but a glorification of service,” said NBC in a public rebuttal statement made to the Associated Press on Monday. But the Nobel Laureates disagree.

“Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public,” outlined the Nobel Peace Laureates in their letter to NBC.

“As people who have seen too many faces of armed conflict and violence and who have worked for decades to try to stop the seemingly unending march toward the increased militarization of societies and the desensitization of people to the realities and consequences of war, we add our voices and our support to those protesting ‘Stars Earn Stripes,’ continued the Nobel Laureates. “We too call upon NBC to stop airing this program that pays homage to no one, and is a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent.”


Showing the real impacts of war on women in Afghanistan, this production follows the work of Afghan landmine survivor Ms. Farzana Nafiza. “Women are still vulnerable here,” says Nafiza outlining the effects of the conflict in Afghanistan on the people who are living inside Afghanistan today. Farzana is now part of ‘Medicine for Hope’ in Kabul where she works as the head of the prosthetics department at the Allahabad Orthopedic Center which is run by the ICRC – International Committee of the Red Cross. This is the same Center where at the age of fourteen  Farzana was originally treated for her injuries, which included the loss of her leg after stepping on a landmine. Sixteen years after she became an amputee, Farzana became head of the same department that helped her learn to walk again through a prosthetic. “I tell them not to be depressed, but to accept reality,” said Farzana describing her work with Afghan patients who have been brought to the Center. “As long as I can work her my future will be brighter, but only God knows what future lies ahead of us. I just hope that better days are coming for myself, my family, my country and for the people of Afghanistan,” she outlined. This 6:34 min video is a production of Euronews and was posted on Youtube by UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund in Afghanistan on April 9, 2012.


See the complete letter that was signed by ten Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and submitted to NBC Universal Television Group HERE

Learn more about this topic from the Nobel Women’s Initiative – MEDIA ROOM


Human rights journalist Lys Anzia works every day to bring current news and developments about global women to the public. She is also the Editor-at-Large for WNN – Women News Network.


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