Blood, bone and nerve

Acts of extreme violence must be countered with acts of extreme violence but the military must move with actionable intelligence, which targets strategically and in an ethical manner

Blood, bone and nerve

The military men loaded into their assigned vehicles and prepared to travel in convoy from their military compound in the town of Bannu for a trip, which headed west toward the North Waziristan tribal region. Those of us who have worn the cloth of our nation understand the concept of a convoy. Once assigned to a vehicle, it remains your assignment until arrival at the destination point. The vehicle is assigned its own numerical allotment in the convoy. The designated driver must neither lag behind, nor pull ahead of other troop transports within the convoy. This configuration can allow for safe passage of troops but, in the case of an attack against the military, it allows for expediting a quick account of assets available and assets that are lost.

Blood — the convoy allowed for an accounting of blood when the Taliban attacked. The vehicle that was targeted was not part of a military fleet. It was a civilian consignment procured by the Frontier Corps. Blood. Twenty soldiers have lost their lives. An additional 30 have sustained wounds from the blast of a device hidden within the vehicle. Once the blood is cleaned up and the survivors are ferried to the nearest available medical facility, it becomes the duty of commanding officers to officially notify the families of the deceased regarding their loss — 20 professional notifications and 30 additional notifications to the families of the injured.

For those injured in the blast, the injuries will range from minor to severe and life-threatening. It all depends upon the blast radius and their proximity to a mechanised ‘angel of death’. Primary blast injuries are caused by the blast wave of an explosive device and affect the air-filled cavities and organs of the bodies such as the sinuses, ears, lungs and abdomen. Blast waves magnify in intensity within closed spaces. So a blast within a building will create a greater magnitude of human misery than a blast that is placed in an open square. Pulmonary barotrauma can range from alveolar hemorrhage all the way to a pneumothorax. Enteric injury will produce intraperitoneal free air. The luckier of the survivors of a bomb blast will merely have to deal with their burst eardrums and painful teeth.

Bone — secondary blast injuries occur due to the actual components of a device that serve as the debris field, which creates penetrating blunt trauma. Tertiary blast trauma occurs when a blast wave hits a victim, and lifts and throws the victim through the air. The result is skull fractures and broken limbs.

Nerve — Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif has made a wise leadership choice. Now is not the time to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Blood has been shed. It is military blood. When the blood of the backbone of a nation is targeted, the infrastructure has been targeted. An attack on the military is an attack on national infrastructure. An attack on infrastructure requires a response from the nerve centre. The PM must coordinate with agencies for a nerve centre response. The nerve centre must quickly synapse with the backbone to provide the intelligence needed for strategic retaliatory responses against the responsible organisation. This is not the time to maintain a traditional stance that the one who holds the secrets retains the power. Secrets must find their way from the nerve roots to the backbone. Acts of extreme violence must be countered with acts of extreme violence but the military must move with actionable intelligence, which targets strategically and in an ethical manner. This calls for a laser, not a meat cleaver.

Perhaps my own thoughts run within a strong current of sentiment because this past weekend I went to the cinema. ‘Lone Survivor’ is a re-enactment of the story of four Navy Seals in Afghanistan. Their difficult decision not to harm three goat herders led to a harsh firefight when the Taliban were alerted to their presence. High in the Hindu Kush mountains blood was shed. The mismatch of firepower against the Navy Seals was 25 to one. They scarcely stood a chance. In spite of an abdominal wound, Lieutenant Michael Murphy continued to lead his team. He laid down his life for his brothers after he climbed to an area of open elevation to send out a distress signal on a satellite telephone for extraction. His vulnerability became his act of sacrifice for my nation. On that day, eight additional Navy Seals and eight elite Night Stalkers lost their lives when their Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. It was the largest single-day loss in the history of naval special warfare history. My guys, my branch of service.

After watching the movie, I pulled out three separate DVDs of the christening of the USS Michael Murphy DDG 112, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. It was christened on Lietenant Michael Murphy’s date of birth. A military friend spoke at the event. I savoured his words. The parents of Lieutenant Michael Murphy spoke about their son and his sacrifice. The father was calm and shared his prepared remarks with dignity. His mother exposed the corners of a broken heart. I clung to the words of the Navy chaplain as he prayed. His words were eloquent but one thing struck a deep chord. He spoke of a day of future hope when “swords will be beaten into plowshares”. However, he reminded the audience that, until others are willing to do the same, the military retains the burden of their duty to defend and protect.

The blood of your military has been shed. This is not a time for swords to be beaten into plowshares. It is not the time to envision an elusive peace. Blood for blood, aggression for aggression and a backbone that receives proper signals and impulses from the nerve centre is the standing order of the day. Follow the lead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Stand in rank as a nation. Do not waver, falter nor fail.

Blood, bone and nerve Pakistan.


The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at