104. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

1165. Re Embtel 1164 info Baguio unn.2 Mme. Nhuʼs address at Trung sisters ceremony made in her capacity as President-Founder of Vietnamese Womenʼs Solidarity Movement. Diplomatic Corps and GVN ministers present. Her remarks, which subsequently broadcast, are not surprising as reflection views of her and her husband vis-à-vis West, including US, since both Nhus have privately expressed opinions generally along these lines in past. Even President Diem has in private conversation attributed lack of security in countryside to alleged failure US to support Civil Guard at earlier stage.

What is new, however, is public expression these sentiments by leading personality of regime. Their vehemence indicates depth of feeling probably intensified by narrow escape of Nhus in recent palace bombing episode. While we have not seen complete range Western press reaction (including Time and Newsweek) to bombing, we believe that if stress is on unpopularity Diem government and/or Nhus, Ngo family feelings will be even further stirred up, and recurrence last Novemberʼs anti-American press campaign could be cranked up.

Believe therefore that I should promptly make oral protest to GVN. I would put protest in context that public statements of this sort make task of Western, and particularly American friends of Vietnam inordinately difficult. I would point out that Madame Nhuʼs public speech presents gravely unbalanced view of what Western democracies, particularly US, are doing with their immense assistance to help Vietnam in its mortal struggle against Communists. American public which is wholeheartedly supporting this struggle can only be discouraged by statements of this sort. Raking over past is not key to future cooperation. Even past has two sides, however, and further public presentation by GVN of one side only may compel US press present other side, with resultant public dispute which can only please Communists. Finally, I would protest implication of foreign incitement to murder, and stress that public figure, whether American or Vietnamese, must expect receive criticism as well as praise. I would propose make protest to Secretary of State for Presidency, Thuan.

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I recognize that démarche along these lines unlikely have any effect on attitude of Nhus and could well increase their anti-American sentiments. By privately indicating our concern, however, we may forestall anti-US press campaign which otherwise likely be stimulated by expected US press reaction to speech. Whether or not démarche has this result, my personal view is that United States on prestige grounds should not ignore public statement of this kind by figure as closely associated with GVN as Madame Nhu.

Ambassador Nolting may wish to comment.

Please instruct urgently.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/3-1162. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC for Polad, Baguio for Harriman and Nolting, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and Vientiane.
  2. Telegram 1164, March 11, transmitted a translation of Madame Nhuʼs speech. The speech dealt mainly with the provision of security in the countryside, complaining that training and equipping a paramilitary force to provide such security has been difficult for Vietnam, “especially when its allies refused to recognize the need for such forces.” (Ibid.)
  3. In telegrams 19 and 20, March 12, Harriman and Nolting responded in favor of a démarche by Trueheart. Upon receipt of these responses, the Department of State authorized Trueheart to make the proposed démarche in telegram 1091 to Saigon, March 12. (Ibid., 751K.00/3-1262)