153. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

605. Pass to USIA for Murrow.

I propose that immediate study be made to ascertain the feasibility of VOA broadcasting a series of utterances in Vietnamese to South Viet-Nam at regular intervals, said utterances being well edited and well presented statements of basic American ideals such as free speech, free press, habeas corpus, due process, dignity of the individual, pursuit of happiness, all men created equal, government is the servant of the people, etc. At present virtually all these principles are being flagrantly violated in Viet-Nam. In fact, I have just received well authenticated report of the police knocking on doors in the middle of the night and taking the women in the family off to jail for interrogation.
Purpose of this proposal should be to arouse Vietnamese people to a point which would worry Diem and Nhu to the point where they would complain to me and thus provide leverage to U.S. foreign policy objectives.
My belief that this might be effective is based on Diem’s complaint to me against Armed Forces Radio broadcasts here which mentioned free speech, and no arrest without trial. This material came from the American Heritage series and was used to fill the space which had been used by the commercial when the main program had been broadcast in the U.S. AFRS was told “palace was upset”. If such things disturb Diem and are regarded by him as a threat to his power structure, they might give us leverage with him.
Surely it is much better for U.S. influence to be asserted through the force of our ideals rather than through our money or our power plays, necessary though these sometimes are. The Viet Cong, for example, do a good deal with very mediocre equipment and this is due at least in part to the appeal of their ideals, although terrorism also plays a large role.
It might just be that in the present tense time this would cause more anxiety than withholding of commercial import funds is doing.
Would it not be a splendid thing for our world-wide reputation for us to get hard things done in Viet-Nam through the power of American ideas?
All of the above is based on my belief that VOA has large audience in Viet-Nam.
Mecklin concurs.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, INF 8 US. Top Secret. Received at 2:53 p.m. A handwritten note on the source text indicates it was passed to the White House.