Vietnam War: The Documents - 9

Phone Conversation Between Ngo Dinh Diem and Henry Cabot Lodge, November 1,1963

With the coup that would topple his government and result in his death having begun, Ngo Dinh Diem calls U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and asks what the view of the U.S. government is. Instead of offering U.S. support, Lodge expresses concern for the physical safety of Diem, and implicitly urges him to accept safe passage out of the country. Diem had lost U.S. support because of repressive policies Washington felt made it impossible to rally the country against Communist agression.
DIEM: Some Units have made a rebellion and I want to know, what is the attitude of the U.S.?

LODGE: I do not feel well enough informed to be able to tell you. I have heard the shootings but with all the facts. Also, it is 4:30 A.M. in Washington and the U. S. Government cannot possibly have a view.

DIEM: But you must have some general ideas. After all, I am Chief of State. I have tried to do my duty. I want to do now what duty and good sense require. I believe in duty above all.

LODGE: You have certainly done your duty. As I told you only this morning, I admire your courage and your great contribution to your country. No one can take away from you the credit for all you have done. Now I am worried about your physical safety. I have a report that those in charge of the current activity offer you and your brother safe conduct out of the country if you resign. Had you heard this?

DIEM: No. (pause) You have my phone number.

LODGE: Yes. If I can do anything for your physical safety, please call me.

DIEM: I am trying to re-establish order (hangs up).

SOURCE: Sheehan and others (eds.), The Pentagon Papers, p.232.
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