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

2412. Literally eyes only for Rusk and McNamara from Lodge.

It would help here, and possibly in Laos and Thailand, if there were some screams from North Viet-Nam that they had been hit. They are really looking much too tall, particularly considering the military potential of both sides, which is so heavily in our favor. They are able to enjoy the great advantage of total silence which makes them look still bigger, whereas the U.S. looks as though we are talking a great deal without doing very much.
There must be a number of different ways to make them scream. Could rocket carrying planes, flying along the North Viet-Nam-Laos border, let something go on the pretext that they had been fired on and were firing back? Could something be done some night in North Viet-Nam, possibly using personnel and equipment which would be Vietnamese [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]; can Tchepone not be hit immediately?
We want a scream from them that they had been hit by something coming from our side. I would not object if they blamed us. They could prove nothing. We could either be totally silent, or challenge them to provide proof, or say we are looking into it.
In a situation such as is described above you don’t have to escalate if you don’t want to. Surely this kind of limited carefully modulated action does not require approval of Congress-especially when it is against North Vietnamese targets which are thoroughly illegal.
Not only would screams from the North have a very tonic effect and strengthen morale here; it is also vital to frighten Ho. Do not believe our 34A operations bother him much, if at all. If he is sufficiently frightened and could do so without losing face, he might cease his intrusion, save many lives and avoid the much greater cost to him and to us involved in the procedures discussed in Honolulu. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] should, above all, be able to hold out the prospect of the cessation of punishment and not just a shipment of rice and a verbal assurance that the Americans are really very angry.
In this part of the world and in this kind of situation, silence and action often the best ways to achieve results.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Nodis Received at 4:18 a.m.