118. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
1192. Embtel 1173.2 In conversation with Thuan yesterday, I brought up question of Madame Nhuʼs speech, following same substantive line as protest made by Trueheart March 13 but indicating also my personal disappointment and concern over statements and stressing problems created for my government in its efforts to help Viet Nam.
Thuan indicated, as he had to Trueheart, that he personally deplored speech and understood our position. He said that he had discussed protest with Nhu who had suggested he reply to the general effect that Madame Nhu was not speaking for GVN but as head of Womenʼs Solidarity Movement. We should also be aware that in interrogation of Lieutenant Quoc (one of pilots who bombed Palace February 27) it had been brought out that Quoc had stated that he was persuaded to undertake bombing by reading specific paragraphs of Time and Newsweek articles which were represented to him as showing that U.S. favored overthrow of regime. (I remarked that this showed Quoc was naive, but asked for specific citations of paragraphs in question.) With regard to references in speech to U.S. failure to support Civil Guard, Nhu had said, according to Thuan, that there might be two sides to question but GVN was being blamed for insecurity in countryside, and this was blame which must be shared. I replied in effect that question should be discussed privately, not in public speeches.[Page 253]
Turning to what could be done to prevent a recurrence, Thuan seemed to think only solution was some procedure for prior clearance of Mme Nhuʼs speeches. As matters stood, President Diemʼs speeches were reviewed by Ministers, Mme Nhuʼs were not. He suggested that I might speak to Diem about this.
I followed up on this with President Diem today. He took it in good part, seemed somewhat embarrassed, said that when he had read the speech after Mme Nhu made it he felt that, “while emotionally and perhaps intellectually understandable, it was politically stupid”. I said that I hoped very much, for the sake of our common objectives, there would be no repetition.
Mme Nhu has already told AP reporter Brown that her speech was aimed at U.S. press and not at U.S. Government. (According to Brown, she seemed in this interview to be genuinely upset at reaction to speech.) Moreover, as she is about to embark on extensive foreign tour which will reportedly keep her out of country for three or four months, I believe we should now let matter rest.