96. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

2736. Statement attributed Thich Ho Giac, reported by UPI, pledging Buddhist struggle “to last drop of blood, to last breath” to achieve four-point program,2 including replacement present government, has been noted at highest levels.3 We must find way to make Buddhists understand that, with profound US involvement in defense their country against Viet Cong take-over, to say nothing of deep commitment their own government and armed forces, this is not the time to overturn everything and set back efforts now beginning to show results. Furthermore US, as well as Ky Government, has also pledged itself to economic and social progress which Buddhists are also insisting upon but these things cannot be achieved overnight and certainly would not be achieved at all if the Viet Cong were to win out. Moreover, their achievement can only be delayed, not hastened, by starting over again with a new government. Buddhists [Page 287]must be told in fact that our possibilities of continuing to help the Vietnamese to defend themselves and develop their country depends heavily on their readiness also to put aside differences among themselves and work together.

In your discretion you are authorized to convey or have conveyed to Thich Tri Quang and such other Buddhist Institute and lay leaders as you consider desirable the Presidentʼs considered view that, if they persist in their present irresponsible and destructive course, not only will they lose the US public and official sympathy that they have heretofore had, but they may well bring about a situation of chaos and anarchy in which USG support to Viet-Nam could no longer be effective. The President hopes that they will most deeply reflect on this, not only as patriotic Vietnamese interested in the future of their country but also as religious leaders interested in the future of their believers and the religious tenets for which they stand.

Rusk
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Unger and U. Alexis Johnson, cleared by Moyers, and approved by U. Alexis Johnson.
  2. See Document 94.
  3. UPI-80, March 16, reporting Thich Ho Giacʼs statement, was forwarded to Rusk by Read the same day under cover of a memorandum stating that Moyers had advised Unger “that the President would like to hear from you by the end of the day concerning the attached ticker.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S)