282. Letter From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Cottrell) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Nolting)1
Dear Fritz: Ed Rice, having a very inquiring mind and conceiving it part of his job to question all operations in the area, has listed a number of questions which he says bother him. He asked me the other day what the answers were and I told him based on reports we have from the field. I do not have complete answers for all of them so I told him I would fire them out to you for complete answers. I hate to add to the burdens of your staff but if someone could dig out the replies it would serve the useful purpose.
The following are the questions asked by Ed:
- What has been the effect on the Governmentʼs base of support of aerial bombing and strafing of Viet Cong-occupied villages, and most especially of the use of napalm? (I have seen reports that the French are skill hated in areas of Laos where they used napalm bombs.)
- How closely is the arming of villagers being timed with their assumption of responsibility for their own local defense, as symbolized by the building of village defenses? (We have heard of cases in which they do not get guns until they have beaten off an attack without them—a test no sensible man would want to be put to.)
- In what per cent of cases are village electrons really free? We hear conflicting reports on this, and doubt that the villagers will really support men they do not choose themselves.
- Is it true that the poorest villagers, who must live primarily by wages, are bearing the brunt of unpaid work on village defenses?
- Does the Government have an inspection service adequate for identifying and dealing with official corruption in the Provinces?
- Is it wise or necessary forcibly to move villagers into new strategic hamlets to the extent that is being done?
- What more should be done to minimize extortion, stealing, rare, indiscriminate violence and other misbehavior by the ARVN and Civil Guards? (TDCS-3/520/576)2 Should the SDC, which is considered the worst of all, receive the same pay as the Civil Guards, in order to reduce its exactions on the people?
- To what extent do high crop rents skill create conditions favorable to the Viet Cong (TDCS 3/520/576) and inhibit full production? Would free distribution of fertilizer to the respective tenant farmers be an appropriate remedy? Are more basic reforms not needed?
- How can we best minimize the extent to which we give the impression we are replacing the French in their colonial role? Has the American presence reached a counter-productive level?
- To what extent is the GVN handicapped by Diemʼs use of northerners, Catholics and the Can Lao?
- Where is the trend of support for the GVN upward, where downward, and why?