A veteran journalist's engrossing take on the Kurds, a people who pose a constant difficulty for governments throughout the Middle East and the largest ethnic group in the world (25 million) without its own country. Before focusing on the latter-day misfortunes of the Kurds, Washington Post foreign correspondent Randal offers background information that helps put them in clearer perspective. An Indo- European people whose traditional homeland (Kurdistan) encompasses roughly 200,000 square miles in the mountains of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, the Kurds have been history's victims since time out of mind. Conquered over the centuries by Arabs, Mongols, and Turks, they slipped from notice until the Ottoman Empire's breakup. Randal offers first-hand reportage on how the US-led coalition left Kurdish forces in the lurch after its Gulf War triumph. Doubling back, he sorts out how Israel, the UK, the USSR, and other powers have used Kurds for their own geopolitical purposes. Covered as well are Saddam Hussein's genocidal assaults on Iraqi Kurds, the shah's perfidy (which was abetted by the Nixon administration's Henry Kissinger), Turkey's far from benign treatment of its sizable Kurdish minority, and the flawed chieftains (Mullah Mustafa Barzani, Abdullah Ocalan, Jalal Talabani, et al.) who lead, or have led, significant Kurdish factions. By the author's vivid account, Kurds have made a name for themselves as outside agitators. While one can support their cause (self-determination and regional autonomy, if not independence) and deplore the betrayals they have suffered, he makes clear that the Kurds are far from endearing. Indeed, Randal asserts, they're quarrelsome, typically factional, frequently duplicitous, and all too apt to lose at the bargaining table what their fighters have won on the battlefield. An effective, affecting portrait of a resilient, dispossessed people who continue to believe that they shall overcome some day.