123. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1
2033. CINCPAC for POLAD.
- General Minh, on the occasion of Secretary Rusk’s call,2 exclaimed to me that he never saw me anymore. When I said that I would gladly come whenever he would see me, he said he did not wish to summon me, but hoped he could see me nonetheless. Accordingly, I called on him late Monday afternoon3 at his home.
- He says the Buddhists are turning against Khanh. The newspaper Tin Sang, which he suspects is backed and managed by the Buddhist clergy, has openly attacked him in two editions in a row on the ground that Khanh is appointing “bad Diemists”.
- Khanh is making the same errors as Diem. He puts people at the head of key posts because he trusts them rather than because they are capable people.
- The man who is now chief of military security, Col. Phuoc, was a key member of Nhu’s secret service and had arrested many Buddhist professors and students.
- Khanh badly needs to win more confidence than he has. Minh had gone to the movies incognito the other night, and when Khanh’s picture came on the screen, he could discern the discontent. He felt Khanh was unpopular throughout the country. When I asked him what he meant by unpopular in a country where there is really no public as we know it, he meant the businessmen, intellectuals, and the professional classes in the big towns.
- Khanh sees Minh as a rival. When I asked why Minh didn’t go around the country making public appearances and shaking hands, Minh said: “I withdraw voluntarily because I don’t think he wants me to be active.”
- I said that if he made a public appearance somewhere, I would be delighted to go with him, and that I intended to say to General Khanh that it was a pity that General Minh was not out making public appearances. The job of getting the Vietnamese Government before the people was bigger than any one man.
- Minh said that Khanh had made the fallacious declaration that General Minh is not Chief of State because of not being elected and that he is only “carrying out the duties of Chief of State”.
- Minh had a low opinion of Khanh’s advisers. He said there were 17 advisers talked of in the press, but he only knew of 2. One was Tuoc, Khanh’s brother-in-law whom Minh described as a “bandit”. The other was Hong, the Secretary to the Presidency who is a dishonest lawyer.
- Vice Prime Minister Hoan is insisting on government employees joining the Dai Viet Party.
- Khanh promised elections too soon before the people were ready for them.
- There should be no public spectacle about Ngo Dinh Can. The national interest does not require his death.4 The whole matter could be indefinitely postponed. There are 1,600,000 Catholics in the country who could easily become upset.
- Apparently irrelevantly, he then said it is not yet time to put outside people in the saddle. By this he meant the Vietnamese of real merit who are in Europe and in the United States, and who should at some time be brought back.
- When I asked what I could do about all of what he had said, he said that I could do nothing, that it was all an internal matter.
Comment: I really do not take any of this very seriously in a country where the people are so firmly committed to the ideal of every man for himself and devil take the hindmost. I cannot imagine any head of government who would get anything less than this in the way of criticism.
I do intend, however, to continue to try to get Minh out on the stump because I am sure it would help the effort against the Viet Cong.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC.↩
- Apparent reference to a courtesy call on Minh by Rusk when he was in Saigon, April 1 7–19.↩
- April 20.↩
- Ngo Dinh Can, the brother of the late President of South Vietnam Ngo Dinh Diem, was the unofficial governor of Central Vietnam during the Diem years, although he held no government position. In the coup of November 1, 1963, Can unsuccessfully sought refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Hue, and was taken into custody by coup forces. Lodge received assurances from Minh that Can’s physical safety would be assured and he would receive a fair trial; see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. IV, pp. 427 ff. Can was found guilty of murder, extortion, and misuse of power by a revolutionary tribunal on April 22, 1964, and was sentenced to death.↩