Vietnam War: The Documents - 19

Dean Rusk Laments Policies of the Government of South Vietnam

This telegram, transmitted immediately after a companion telegram instructing Ambassador Lodge on dealing with the Diem government, laments the way in which the policies of the government of South Vietnam were harming the war effort both in South Vietnam, and internationally.

Rusk claims that the issues he raises are "not merely an emotional reaction to two individuals." But the telegram appears to be precisely that — an expression of frustration on the part of U.S. officials who are finding their efforts to help South Vietnam undermined by the actions of the people they are trying to help.


Aug 31 10:49 PM '63

ACTION: Amembassy SAIGON Emergency 295
INFO: CINCPAC POLAD - Exclusive for Admiral Felt


It seems to me that we must keep our eyes fixed on the main purpose of our presence in South Viet-nam and everyone on the US side needs to review the bidding on this elementary purpose: why we are there, why are we asking our fellows to be killed and what is getting in the way of accomplishing our purpose. The actions of the GVN and the Nhus have eroded this purpose inside Viet-nam and internationally and they have also eroded our capacity to provide political leadership in the US necessary to support the effort in Viet-nam. To raise these questions is not merely an emotional reaction to two individuals. They involve the fundamental requirements of political leadership in Viet-nam which is necessary to coalesce the Vietnamese people in a war effort which we can support. Diem must realize that his obligation of political leadership runs to the solidarity of his people which may require conciliatory actions which are distasteful to him personally. He must make a systematic effort to improve his international position, and a demonstration to the American people that we are not asking Americans to be killed to support Madame Nhu's desire to barbecue bonzes.



[Document has handwritten notation "President read"]

SOURCE: John F. Kennedy Library Presidential Papers: National Security Files (NSF), 1961- 1963: Vietnam: State Department Cables, August 24-31, 1963. (Box 198-199)
Thanks to David Fuhrmann for supplying this document.
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