General Trinh is delivering papers
by: Walter Guest
Ahmed and Yasin Kurtsan were the youngest sons of a wealthy Kurdish tribal chief or Khan. They lived in a tribal village near Khaneh. Their home was built of quarried stone. It sat on a small hill that rose a hundred feet in the center of the village. The old Khan would brag that all the land that could be seen from it belonged to him. Except for the distant mountains which were in Iraq, his boast was true.
Ahmed was the eldest of the two by a year. They had three sisters and a brother. The brother, Jabar, was the first born and the pride of the old Khan.
In the villages that were ruled by the old Khan, stories were still told of 'the bright star of Kurdistan,' Jabar Kurtsan. He could out-ride, out-shoot, out-run, out-everything, anyone in Asia. Men sought him out to lead them on hunts or into battle. Women were helpless in his presence.
He was the most generous of all to friends and the most cruel of all to enemies. Under him, it was said, all Kurdistan would one day unite and become a great nation. Even the Russians, it was said, would have to free their portion of Kurdistan if such a man as Jabar Kurtsan were to lead all Kurds.
But Jabar Kurtsan was killed in his twenty fifth year. The hated Iranians had launched one of their periodic campaigns to subdue what was not theirs. Three Iranian divisions, armed with modern western weapons which had been given them for self defense, had advanced on the old Khan's land. Jabar Kurtsan could not bow to the inevitable. He was killed defending his homeland.
The hated Iranians occupied all of Kurdistan within their borders. They closed the Kurdish schools and brought in Iranian teachers who could not even speak Kurdish. The children in the new schools were taught the Iranian language, Farsi.
The old Khan sent for his two remaining sons, then aged twelve and thirteen. To their eyes, their father had aged ten years in just six months.
"Times are bad my sons," the old Khan said. "You have lost a brother blessed with greatness, I have lost a beloved son, and our enemies dwell among us."
"Allah has decreed it," Ahmed said.
"Praise Allah," Yasin said.
"It is my fault," the old Khan said. "I did not teach him temperance. I did not teach him to bend with the wind."
"Allah is just," the two boys said together.
"I have watched you two at play. I have watched you two on the hunt. I have watched you two at work. You are very close. Is that not true?"
"Closer than brothers, my father," Ahmed said. "We are as one."
"It is good," their father said. "It is as it should be. I want you to promise that it shall always be thus, even when apart."
"It shall always be thus," both boys said, "even when apart."
"There will never be another like your brother but the two of you together could do well. The Iranian dogs will not always be as strong as they are now, or we so weak. We must prepare for the day that we can rid our land of this plague. When that day comes, we must be ready.
"The most wise course dictates that you two must separate foe a while."
The two boys looked at each other stoically. If they had fear, neither would show it.
"The hated Iranians have been aided by the infidels. It is this that has allowed them to dwell among us who are their enemies. We must also learn the tricks of the infidel in order to help rid ourselves of the hated Iranians
"Ahmed. You are now my eldest son. It is you who will one day be Khan in my place. It is you who must go forth and live among the infidels. You must learn their ways. You must learn how they think. You must become so like them that they will forget that you are not like them. But you must never forget. You will always be a Kurd and the son of a Khan.
"Laugh with the infidels. Break bread with the infidels. Become as one with the infidels. But never trust the infidels. That is the thing which will give you your power. Always remember, it is the one who trusts the least who becomes the most powerful."
"It shall be as you command, my father," Ahmed said.
"Any you, Yasin, from this day forward will never leave my side. You will attend affairs of state, sit with me in judgments, travel with me when I visit other Khans, plan with me in the councils, and attend me in all things. You will, in time, become my right hand. Just as when I am gone, you will one day be the right hand of Ahmed. It is you that must insure an orderly transition to Ahmed when the day comes."
"It shall be as you command, my father," Yasin said.
The old Khan nodded and sat back. "Always together," he said, "even when apart. You are one. You have given your word."
"It shall be so," both boys said.
The old Khan was wise in the ways of men. He looked from one son to the other and wondered which would be the first to break his vow. It didn't matter. The strongest would survive, which was the way it should be. And until then...