Of all the depressing statistics emanating from President Bush's invasion of Iraq, this obscure but important figure stands out: 60,000 marriages rent asunder by this war. The Marriage President, who proposed spending billions of federal dollars on a healthy-marriage initiative, may well be doing more to destroy formerly healthy marriages by sending hundreds of thousands of Americans off to war and then not properly counseling them on how to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they come home.
Stacy Bannerman writes in The Progressive magazine that her marriage dissolved when her husband returned home from Iraq an essentially stressed-out, paranoid shell of the man he was predeployment. She wrote, "He'd been back for almost two months, but he was still checking to see where his weapon was every time he got in a vehicle. He drove aggressively, talked aggressively, and sometimes I could swear that he was breathing aggressively. This was not the man I married, this hard-eyed, hypervigilant stranger who spent his nights watching the dozens of DVDs that he got from soldiers he served with in Iraq. He couldn't sleep, and missed the adrenaline surge of constant, imminent danger. The amateur videos of combat eased the ache of withdrawal from war but did nothing to heal my soldier's heart."
She blames the Pentagon's limp-wristed efforts at PTSD counseling for the breakdown of their marriage. The blogosphere already abounds with comments about the personal failings of couples like Stacy and her husband, rather than the trauma of war, being responsible for their marriage's failure.
And if history is any guide, some 50 percent of those marriages would have failed anyway, since that's roughly the rate of failed marriages in America these days.
Even so, it is beyond bizarre that this would be driven by the same president who proposed federal spending to promote marriage.
The New York Times reported last October, "In a little-noticed bill reauthorizing welfare reform this year, Congress earmarked $750 million over five years for programs to promote 'healthy marriages' and 'responsible fatherhood.' The administration is now sifting through more than 2,000 proposals and in September will award $100 million to nonprofit groups, churches, and local agencies around the country for marriage programs and $50 million for related fatherhood programs."
Why not just call off the war? That'd probably save more marriages than the healthy-marriage initiative, which seems to be more of a sneaky plot to divert taxpayers' dollars to church groups than anything else. Oh, but then, that would make good sense, a definite nonstarter in Washington these days.