Why Delaware? Because that state is home to Dover Air Force Base, where the bodies of US soldiers arrive for burial. The military is investing millions of dollars in the base, because they're expecting a lot of business.
In the past year, as the remains of 462 service members along with nearly 2,000 relatives have passed through Dover, the experience on the flight line has become as common as it is excruciating. Now, to meet the demand and to accommodate what Dover officials expect to be increasing casualties from Afghanistan, the military has embarked on a building surge at this main entry point for the nation's war dead.
In January, Dover opened the Center for the Families of the Fallen, a $1.6 million, 6,000-square-foot space of soft lighting and earth-toned furniture where parents, spouses, children, siblings and other relatives assemble before they are taken to the flight line. On May 1, there is to be a groundbreaking for a new $4.5 million hotel for families who need to spend the night. The same day, ground will also be broken on what Dover officials are calling a meditation center, a nondenominational space with an adjacent garden where relatives can pray or be alone.
The building boom is under way as the Iraq war is winding down — some 50,000 American troops are set to withdraw from the country between now and August — and as President Obama has set July 2011 for the start of withdrawals from Afghanistan. But most of the 30,000 extra troops Mr. Obama ordered to Afghanistan are still due to arrive this summer, bringing the total American force in that country to nearly 100,000. Heavy fighting is expected in the months ahead.
Here in Canada, the Harper Government continues to lay the groundwork for Canada's continued presence in Afghanistan past the 2011 planned and promised withdrawal date.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay on Saturday repeated the government's official line that the country's soldiers would be withdrawn from combat in Afghanistan next year, but he also suggested some Canadians might stay.
Canada is willing to continue mentoring Afghan police after the troop disengagement begins in summer 2011, MacKay said as he wrapped up a three-day trip to the Central Asian country.
Canada currently has 48 civilian police — RCMP and municipal officers — and 40 military police mentoring Afghan police officers in Kandahar. On Thursday, MacKay announced 90 more troops would be sent to help train local police and the national army, but at the time he said those new trainers would be brought home in 2011.
"After 2011, the military mission will end," MacKay said Saturday. "What we will do beyond that point in the area of training will predominantly be in the area of policing."
Call them soldiers or police. Pretend they're peacekeepers, pretend they are welcome. Call them nannies, why don't you, since those wild Afghan children can't be trusted on their own.
Dress them up in whatever costume you will. They will still be occupiers, they will still be unwelcome in Afghanistan, and so their lives will be at risk. Not because Afghanistan poses a threat to Canada's security. And certainly not because Canada is liberating women. (It's not, and the Harper Government clearly doesn't care about women's lives.)
Canadian lives - young people, people with futures, people with all their limbs and senses who deserve to grow old with their loved ones - will be at risk simply to do the US's bidding.
Canada Out Now.