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07 July 2006


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Mr. Sale and jonst,

You both appear to have overlooked an important event in Vietnam, the Diem-ordered and US-backed cancellation of the 1956 country-wide elections as stipulated in the 1954 Geneva conference. That ended the fiction of a peaceful settlement to the issue for the Vietnamese people. The US wanted to save at least part of Vietnam from communism, Diem wanted power, and Ho Chi Minh, and probably most Vietnamese, wanted an independent and united Vietnam. All three parties misjudged the consequences of their actions as played out politically and culturally. Not surprising, they were all fighting for different visions of the future.



I will comment on you reply to me. Give me a bit of time. Working with clients at present. And John, you could have bet that one thing I would have gotten to quickly was Diem's role in, not only the 1956 elections (canceling them)but his 98% victory margin in the 1955 election against the Bao Dai. Diem has only been topped by Saddam.


Never post a comment when you are on a conference call. Sorry. Terrible spelling on my part!



My reply to you will be in my next comment. Its hard to reply at length and hook up the formating issues correctly.

I posted some of your comments,in quotation marks. I put mine in italics. Which, may or may not show up in this format. In any event I hope you will be able to discern my replies. I aplogize in advance for any confusion my formatting skills cause. And, in any event, I wish to thank you, and our host, for this chance to exchange views. For even if we strongly disagree, and evidently, we do, it is a challange to wrestle with these issues from the past, and speculate about their possible influence on the present.


Richard writes;
“I find your reply to my posting truly baffling. Regarding our use of Diem as our chief pillar of policy in SV, a reliance which I think showed America’s ignorance of South Vietnam and its population, you say: “What if our desired end in South Vietnam was not in the interests of South Vietnam?” You allege that: “while we may have wished (the South Vietnamese) no particular harm” that we had “interests that differed from theirs.
You then claim that the best way for the U.S to advance its interests and military goals in SV was to pick for its chief policy instrument an unprincipled politician, Diem, who because he was willing to sell out the interests of his people, made it easier for us to accomplish our goals. Yet having a Saigon government popular with the SV people was not only important to our goals, it was basic. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said as early as 1959 that it would be “hopeless to build a South Vietnamese Army” without there being a “reasonably strong, stable civil government in control.”

JonSt responds:
If I accept your version of events I have to believe the following. The entire US Military and Intelligence Communities were blissfully ignorant of the basic demographics of Vietnam. Diem represented a tiny minority of the population. Further, his actions were almost universally hostile to the majority sectarian group, the Buddhists. He ‘won’ the 1955 election btwn himself and Emperor Bao Dai election in 1954 claiming he had won 98.2 percent of the vote. A figure, as I noted in a previous comment, surpassed only by, I believe Saddam Hussein. He refused to participate in the agreed upon 1956 elections between himself and Ho. His sister and he made war on the Cholon drug dealers so he, and family,( and his backers?) could run the trade themselves. All the above was widely known PRIOR to really beginning to put the full backing of the US behind him. This was our man.
So, while never knowing exactly what people mean when they say they desire a “strong, stable, govt in control, (think of Gens Franco and Stressor) it was nothing like Diem’s govt was, or ever could have been.. And we handpicked Diem. Which both you and I agree, ultimately was mistake. You proffer that such a choice was based on ignorance(and attribute I suggest that often contains a certain amount of innocence.)My explanation is, admittedly, less benign. I suggest the decision, the gamble, to back the tiny, but aggressive minority represented by Diem was based on divide and conquer theory long embraced by colonial powers.

Then you write….
“The JCS made clear over and over that the abiding U.S. interest in SV was to have the Vietnamese people see us not as foreigners, but as liberators and allies. Diem’s corruption and unpopularity worked to undermine the U.S. military and other efforts. The money-grubbing and plundering of the bulk of his population made Diem’s government a chief Vietcong recruitment tool in the areas outside the cities. The Joint Chiefs of Staff also saw that losing support among the Buddhists and other SV sects would act to undermine U.S. counterinsurgency and military programs.”

JonSt responds
If that was truly the goal of JCS, then it is your best evidence for your ‘oh they were truly ignorant’ argument. It is indeed a daunting task to convince people of another nation that we are not foreigners. As to the rest of your paragraph, look at my previous answer. All these accurate allegations that you and apparently, the JCS, hurl at Diem were known in the mid 50s. We picked him. It’s a fact. And we stuck with him. Till it became him or us. Why? You say it was ignorance of cultural. I don’t buy it. Despite the good words of JCS who hold somewhat less credibility with me than they do with you. And in any event the JCS was often kept in the dark regarding our plans and intentions in Vietnam. See, among other things, Chapter 5, From Distrust to Deceit, in Dereliction of Duty by McMaster.

Next you go on to say….
“for it is true, as you say, we had interests in SV that differed from” the SV people, then we intervened there under false pretenses, for our policy statements incessantly proclaimed to the American people and the world that our purpose for bring in south Vietnam was to stop that country from being a victim of communist aggression. So if you are correct, we lied to the whole world.”

Jonst responds
Yes. Exactly. We are in complete harmony here. However, had I written the last sentence I might have added, ‘and most of all, ourselves. i.e ’ See, et al, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Next, you write…..
“Regarding your assertion that the United States knew of tensions between Russia and China at the time of our SV involvement but ignored them in order to feed the needs of the U.S. military industrial complex, that assertion is absolutely contradicted by fact. As early as 1949, British intelligence told us there were nationalist differences between Moscow and Peking, which portended a serious weakness to be exploited, but when the Brits told the CIA officials, the CIA refused to listen. CIA operative Joseph E. Smith said knew of the rifts, but said there were hold-outs in the agency that saw the bilateral tensions as “a mammoth deception operation designed to catch us off guard.” One of the chief critics of this view of communist rifts was James Angleton. Smith in his memoirs, Portrait of a Cold Warrior, notes that the dispute over the Mosow-China rift was STILL going on as late as 1960 and that even then it was not accepted as fact by the top echelons of the agency. I verified this dispute in 1982 during several interviews I had with Angleton, who was still defensive about his role in negating any U.S. action based on it, saying lamely that in his judgment the intel “was inconclusive” and got very testy when I pressed him it. He of course was totally wrong.”

Jonst responds
I assume then you would have me believe that we NEEDED the Brits, or anyone else, to tell us of the centuries (millennium?) old enmity between the tribes that inhabited what we call China today. And the tribes that inhabited what we call Vietnam today? And the same thing can be said regarding the then Soviet Union and China. I’m sorry. I don’t buy it. I knew it by the time I had graduated from 8th grade thanks to a sober and challenging history teacher. He loaned me a few books to read.
Whose good? That’s question I ask myself. Who benefited from spreading this obvious simplistic falsehood? And I look around and see a group of people who were desperately, trying to persuade the nation to adopt their, professed, world view of ‘monolith on the march’. As for James Jesus, I’m sorry. My guess is the man was certifiably insane. I don’t really have any comment on him. Other than to suggest that; I doubt ‘Jesus’ was, at any time after the late 1940s, able to tell fact from fantasy.

Finally, you wrote….
“ Your concluding remark that the U.S. military complex wanted a war in Southeast Asia no matter what the pretenses sounds like a line right out of Marx. And is just as dated and just as incorrect. “

JonSt responds
I must admit you surprise me here Richard. I did not write, or hint that we wanted war in Southeast Asia . I don’t think we wanted war. I think it was the next to last thing we wanted. However the last thing we wanted was to fail in our efforts at flanking the Chinese and establishing a presence in what was then called French Indo China. After all, we saw how things turned out in Korea. I think we wanted control. That is an entirely different matter. That said, if war was the only way to get it, then war it would be. I believe the war was a result of the failure of our surrogate policy. We did not start out wanting war. Ike was too smart for that. But make no mistake…we were going for control one way or the other. And I fully believe, that we fully believed that such control would lead to good for us and world. It was serendipitous how that worked out in our own minds.
And since I did not write that we wanted war, and you attempt to brand me with an association with Marx; I can only say you make me slightly nostalgic. It’s been a while since someone tried to Red-bait me. In fact I was not sure this kind of thing went on in the 21st Century. It’s like discovering a man wearing spats. He looks a bit silly in them, and they don’t fit the shoes he is trying to wear, but, by god, it’s nice to see the old ways not totally forgotten.

Bill D

Why Diem? Biem had the backing of a few very influential anti-communist American catholics. Washington alway listens to their important friends, not to the low level area experts who might have some idea what is going on.

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