166. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)1
- Buu Hoi Visit
After our long and useful discussion with Buu Hoi in my office this morning, I had a short, private tete-a-tete with him. I wanted to be sure that he understood that we have wanted to be helpful to him on the procedure he is floating in New York (which is described as he described it in our reporting cable to Stevenson),2 but that we could not be caught in the role of an apologist for the Viet Nam Government on the substance of the matter, as long as most of the world is convinced that the GVN has been persecuting Buddhists.
I took the occasion also to ask, in the politest and most Oriental fashion you can imagine, whether steps were being taken to tone down Madame Nhu's public utterances, at least on this particular subject, while she is in the United States. Buu Hoia said quite frankly that in his judgment she had done much damage with her statements. He agreed that the word “barbeque” had been especially damaging; he complained that she did not even know the word, which would not be as colorful in the French language, but had picked it up from “an English language publication in Saigon”, by which I suppose he means the American edited Times of Viet Nam.
Buu Hoia went on to say that he had fully reported the nature of the damage since his arrival here; he had sent in five reports just on this subject, he said. Instructions had already gone to Madame Nhu to quiet down but in view of the interest of the U.S. press he did not see what practical effect they would have. He said, a little wistfully, that he did not suppose it would be possible to persuade the press to take no interest in her.
Finally, he made a practical suggestion that we could perhaps help them do what he has been trying to do, without too much success, in talking with representatives of the U.S. press. He has been trying to emphasize, he said, that he himself has been especially sent to the UN to handle this question, that he and what he says represents [Page 336]the Government of Viet Nam, and that Madame Nhu is traveling in a private capacity and is not speaking for the Government. He conceded that this was a hard sale, but asked that we do our best.
It does seem to me that we can be a little bit helpful in this by emphasizing to editors and correspondents—particularly the editors and particularly in New York—that Buu Hoia is the man who is talking responsibly for the Government of Viet Nam and that his responsible and sophisticated attempts to deal with the situation should not be interfered with by press magnification of quotable comments by a lady who is unfortunately too beautiful to ignore. I passed this suggestion along to Governor Stevenson. You will know best what to do with it on this end.