Vietnam War: The Documents - 20

Repressive Actions of Diem Regime Undermine U.S. Domestic Support for War

In its attempt to prevent a Communist takeover in South Vietnam, the Kennedy administration — like the Johnson and Nixon administrations after it — had to fight a two-front battle. Not only did it have to fight Communist soldiers in Vietnam, it had to fight domestic critics of the war effort. And those domestic critics were powerfully aided by the repressive policies of the Diem government.

This unclassified, undated cable, sent in early September 1963 to the American Embassy in Saigon, provides two examples of how the actions of the South Vietnamese government were undermining support for the war effort. Had Kennedy wished to withdraw from Vietnam, these repressive actions would have provided the perfect cover. But as another telegram shows, Kennedy pressured the Diem government, and was willing to accept a coup to end the repression.

OUTGOING TELEGRAM Department of State



Following is Senate Floor statement Sept 5 by Senator Frank Lausche, (D. Ohio), Chairman Far East Subcommittee of Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

QTE: Mr. President, this morning a closed meeting was held by the Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee which is dealing with South Viet-nam. The situation in that country is critical; and I understand the gravity of the problem in regard to South Viet-nam which confronts the President.

I concur in what the President said in his statement a few days ago, that there must be a change of policy by the South Vietnamese and possibly a change of personnel. I concur in that remark, and I concur with the President that the oppressive measures chosen by the South Vietnamese Government against the Buddhists do not contribute to the solution of the problem in South Vietnam. It was a grave mistake of policy, that policy will not help South Vietnam, and it will not help our country. I make that statement to reveal my concurrence with the President's thinking on that item. UNQTE.

Following is from CBS News report, 8:00a.m. September 6:

QTE: In Congress, Democratic Senator Frank Church said yesterday he may move to cut off all foreign aid to South Viet-Nam unless the Diem Government begins drastic reforms, and Republican Frank Carlson of Kansas said he would support such a move.

SOURCE: John F. Kennedy Library Presidential Papers: National Security Files - 1961-1963: Country Files: Vietnam, 9/1/63 - 9/10-63, State Cables Part 2 , (Box 198-199).
Thanks to David Fuhrmann for supplying this document.
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