279. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1
- Military Control Organization
Today’s situation report on Viet-Nam politics noted a report that the generals have written a “Charter” for their planned Supreme Military Committee. The purpose of the committee is clear: to maintain military control over the government after the election.2[Page 690]
It is, in effect, a scheme for “guided democracy” in which a half dozen generals would decide finally what was good and bad for the country.
Our text of the alleged “Charter” (22 pages)3 came from a usually reliable source in the Vietnamese military. CIA is checking on the authenticity of the document. They are also checking on whether it is merely a draft, or whether it has actually been adopted by the generals (including Thieu and Ky).
Ambassador Bunker notes that this plan is “completely at variance with Ky’s statement to me on August 11 that any report of an intention to set up an inner military group to run the government could be flatly denied.”4
The Ambassador is clearly riled. He has said that if the report is verified, “I will plan to take this matter up in an appropriate way with Ky, since we cannot continue a relationship of confidence with him in such circumstances.”
It is understandable that the military leaders should want a continuing role of importance in the affairs of their government and their country. It is quite another for them to plan to send down the drain much of the patient and constructive work of the past year and a half in the development of representative government. It is also shocking, if true, for the Prime Minister to lie to our Ambassador in this fashion.
I believe Bunker is in a mood to meet this one head-on and that he will do so in an appropriate way. We shall be following this closely.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1G(2). Secret. The notation “L” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. In an attached message to Rostow, August 14, Taylor noted that an August 3 editorial in The New York Times was based on the CIA report which was probably leaked to the Times. Taylor warned that the newspaper might publish a leaked copy of the document “at some dramatic moment when it can do the most damage.”↩
- The “Charter” set up a mode for the operation of a military committee after the election. In a memorandum to Rusk, August 15, Hughes reported that the committee would include Ky as chairman, with Thieu, Linh Quang Vien, Cao Van Vien, and the Corps commanders as members. The group’s organizational structure was intended to be extended throughout the government as a covert means of military control of the new regime. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 VIET S)↩
- The “Charter” was disseminated in an Intelligence Information Cable, TDCS DB–315/03208–67, August 13. (Ibid.; also in Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1G(2))↩
- As quoted in telegram 3046 from Saigon, August 14. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 VIET S)↩