2024 election, Bureaucrcy, The Wahr

Abandoning the Covenant

There’s a film still in theaters I think you should see. It’s called “The Covenant” and is a Guy Ritchie film, starring Jay Gillenhaal and Dar Salem, a small bomb disposal unit, bossed by Sgt Kinley (Gillenhaal) and his interpreter, Ahmed (played by Dar Salem).

The film doesn’t say what part of the Afghan War this story takes place, but it features a US military presence centered at Bagram AFB, and the Taliban pretty much having control of the rest of Afghanistan. Ahmed arrives as the replacement interpreter early in the film replacing a man who was blown up. His relationship with his boss, Sgt Kinley, is pretty cool, until Ahmed picks up on some misinformation in the back country.

The first covenant ensues when Kinley promises Ahmed to get he and his family the papers to be evac’d to the US since the Taliban has targeted them. Then, in the countryside Kinley is wounded and the two are separated from the rest of their unit. Ahmed must then patch Sgt Kinley up as best as possible and then place him in an old wooden cart and push it across several miles of dirt roads, while only receiving assistance from anti-Taliban tribesmen who provide pain killers, water and food.

Almost half the film portrays this struggle, while Sgt Kinley is lying hurt and exposed, wrapped in a blanket. Ahmed’s struggle is heroic. Finally they reach BagramAFB and Ahmed reminds Kinley of his promise to help his family, and then disappears into the Afghan woodwork. Kinley is sent back to the States to recuperate, and begins a long torturous series of efforts to get Army bureaucrats off their duffs and help these foreigners with their paperwork. It’s a natural law that bureaucrats have no empathy for their clients’ needs. And Kinley’s wife thinks he’s going after a fool’s errand.

By this time Kinley and Ahmed are the most wanted men in Taliban territories, who are shaking every village down where kinsmen to Ahmed might live. No wanted posters, but everyone knows their names, and foreigners, even with beards and shaggy hair, stand out.

Finally, Kinley gets some ranking military officers to pull some strings with the bureaucrats and State Department people still in Afghanistan, and they find a contact with Ahmed’s brother, who hides Kinley in a cargo truck, taking him to the village they are staying in. There he gathers up Ahmed, his wife and baby, and races to a rendezvous point where a military team will pick them up and fly them into the air base. But the Taliban gets there first, and the last 20 minutes of the film is another momentous fire fight along the rim of a giant dam. Of course this is where the US Air Force comes in to save the day, via the firepower of a giant AC-130H gunships, which blasts the exposed Taliban soldiers.

Thus closed the circle on the Covenant between Sgt Kinsey and interpreter Ahmed that began a year earlier, but did it end the covenant that began with the first Army troops that showed up on horseback in Afghanistan weeks after 9/11 in 2001, seeking to keep the Taliban out of people’s hair. That Covenant ended, just blithely dying away in 2021 when the US didn’t even bother to bring its vehicles home if it meant media coverage. Not even a second thought was given lend a helping hand to thousands of Afghans who’d lent their own hands for many many years. Thousands of them died at the hands of the Taliban.

Out of sight, out of mind.

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